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Upside Down: A Primer for the Looking-Glass World

4.36  ·  Rating details ·  2,369 ratings  ·  140 reviews
In a series of mock lesson plans and a "program of study" Galeano provides an eloquent, passionate, funny and shocking exposé of First World privileges and assumptions. From a master class in "The Impunity of Power" to a seminar on "The Sacred Car"—with tips along the way on "How to Resist Useless Vices" and a declaration of the "The Right to Rave"—he surveys a world ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published October 5th 2001 by Picador (first published January 1st 1992)
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Glenn Russell
Apr 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite-books

Eduardo Galeano’s Open Veins of Latin America, describing 500 years of brutalization and exploitation of the peoples, lands and resources of Latin America by Europeans and North Americans makes for tough reading. Upside Down, A Primer for the Looking-Glass World, on the other hand, takes hard-to-swallow subjects such as racism, sexism, corporate manipulation, government betrayal, workplace dehumanization, brainwashing of children, environmental poisoning, systematic jailing, torture and murder
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
This goes on and on and on and on about what is wrong with the world today, and yesterday, and its grim prospects tomorrow, the seeming hopelessness of the future so that there was a point where I felt I couldn't take it anymore, shocked that I live in this planet, and looked at my two children as mistakes. I felt my whole being weakening, like I was in an onset of a fatal food poisoning that will lead to my death in a couple of hours.

A world turned upside down. A relentless, cruel oration
As other reviewers have noted, Galeano doesn't provide footnotes to back up his assertions, which makes this book a rant and not a treatise. It is a breathtaking rant, though, with language as beautiful as the world it describes is ugly. Plus, Galeano does provide a list of sources at the end, if the reader needs further convincing that Galeano's description of the "Looking-Glass world" is spot-on.

Here are some of Galeano's own words:

The "killer instinct" is an essential ingredient for getting
Nov 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: translation
Journalist, historian, poet, author — there is no other writer whose style is comparable to that of Eduardo Galeano. The Uruguayan penner, best known for his acclaimed Memory of Fire trilogy, further indicts our culture of privilege in Upside Down. Comprised of a series of illuminating vignettes, Galeano, with his trademark wit, sarcasm, and adroit phrasings, turns his unerring critique onto the vapidity and shallowness of our modern world. Whether decrying violence, consumerism, ecological ...more
This is definitely good if you want a reminder of how unjust and brutal the world is, with the focus on Latin America. Money and power rule, and woe to those that get in the way, or even woe to those that don't "add value." I thought perhaps this would be a good quicker substitution for his Open Veins, and perhaps it is, but the loose format and rant-style is not what I prefer. It's a bit depressing, too, and he doesn't present many specific causal facts, just the more broad descriptives of a ...more
Marce Matamoros
Feb 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Galeano offers us this devastating reflection of how today's world seems to be constructed from an upside down perspective, where people's main nurture comes from fear and how the system manipulates masses into thinking there is no other way around, as this is how "it has always been", in terms of injustice, consumption, predation of nature, racism, male domineering, dependence to machines and mass media power.

Anyone who prides himself/herself on having critical thought, has to read this book.
Steev Hise
Oct 15, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: politics
"Open Veins of Latin America" is better. Galeano is still brilliant but quite a bit too strident in this book, with all these unsupported, radical assertions (which i fully believe, but skeptics will just scoff) about the horrors the powerful exert on the poor.

Strangely enough I have a used copy once owned by at least 1 student - I frankly am baffled as to why a professor would assign this book for some class full of clueless college sophomores. Much better to start with "Open Veins" or
Jun 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everybody who lives in this planet.
A very good reminder and teacher of many realities that we ignore.

As a new generation, we were born with this world already "fixed" in the current conditions. Which makes us believe that everything is the way it is, because evolution has meant to take this path.

In his book, Galeano exposes many truths about our reality. I haven't verified the sources, but from other people and stories I had knowledge from, I know most, if not, all of what he states in his book, is true.

Its a must, because
Louella Mahabir
Apr 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
Not because I loved it. Upside down was not nice at all. It's like taking all journalists' cynicism and rolling it up in a giant ball then rolling it towards the reader. Eduardo is a very intelligent writer from Uruguay who "LOVES" politics and was so very disgusted with the world when this was written. The sentiments spread after having read it.

Scary good. Read at your own peril...
Apr 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
A real reflect of the world where we are living...
Jul 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
“Forgetting, the powerful say, is the price of peace, and they impose on us a peace based on accepting injustice as an everyday norm. They’ve gotten us used to a peace in which life is scorned and remembering prohibited. The present paints the future as a repetition of itself; tomorrow is just another word for today. The unequal organization of the world, which beggars the human condition, is part of eternity, and the injustice is a fact of life we have no choice but to accept.”


Marilyn Sue Michel
Jun 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book was first published in 1998, English translation 2000. It is somewhat dated, especially the hope that television won't be so important in the future. Now we are all glued to our screens! South America has so many problems, but instead of being solved, they more likely have spread north to Mexico, the United States, and Canada. Galeano tries to be more hopeful at the end of the book, but it is wispy hope compared to the solid bricks of despair.
Abbie Chem
Jul 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Searing indictment of our global systems of oppressions. He’s our Tiresias, our truth teller, and it’s hard to look at all the truths he’s giving us. Ends on a note of hope and a promise that history is not static, we just need to take good action.
Ivo Adams
Jan 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful book. There is a sentence written before all the palm search and information apps that summed up the book: “We are told everything and we know nothing”
Mar 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Well written book filled with insight.
Michael Sedor
Nov 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
2017 really isnt that much different than the year, 1998, this book was published, at least from the perspective of Galeano's South
Juliana Cáceres.
Worth it!
Nov 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: capitalism
I picked this book up for a dollar at a used book sale, not really knowing what to expect. I really loved this book, and it made me want to add a lot of other books about Latin American history to my reading list. For a book that discusses such awful events and persistent inequality there were some very darkly funny moments I wasn't expecting.
May 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Galeano's Upside Down evokes as many emotions as there are problems in the world. The cleverly written book at times can make the reader pull out one's hair in frustration and cry in the hopelessness of the world we live in. He doesn't write what many people already don't know but he states what many of us fear to acknowledge and fear is the primary theme of the book. We live in a fearful society that fears everything including "foreigners," neighbours, food, water, air, economy, wealth or lack ...more
Air Knight
Jan 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
In Classic Galeano style, wave after wave of facts supported by a healthy dose of passionate arguments, Patas arriba makes an effort to explain what is wrong with the world, how can be possible that evolved and civilized human beings passively tolerate the extremely unfair conditions of the current system and why, despite the absurd amount of negative effects the system has it continues to be viewed as the best choice in pretty much the whole world. It covers a wide range of topics: Sexism, ...more
Praveen Kumar Mohan
Jan 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
I haven't read Eduardo Galeano's books before but I should say I was impressed when I read this, that too in the first few pages itself. The ideas discussed are completely thought provoking especially for someone like me who has harbored capitalists views for long. Its disheartening for me to note that I have lived with such ignorance about the outrages and injustices that continue to happen in our society. And this in particular to a specific set of people as the author might call 'the ones ...more
Cynthia L'Hirondelle
RIP Eduardo Galeano. Upside Down, too good to review. Will simply add a quote from a middle chapter.

The Sacred Car: "Human rights pale beside the rights of machines. In more and more cities, especially in the giant metropolises of the South, people have been banned. Automobiles usurp human space, poison the air, and frequently murder the interlopers who invade their conquered territory - and no one lifts a finger to stop them. Is there a difference between violence that kills by car and that
Dec 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
Wow! Talk about opening my eyes to how our society sets our youth up for failure!! I still refer to this book from time to time for solid examples of abuse of power and twisted ethics. Example: have you ever seen a billboard in the wealthy neighborhoods advertising expensive sneakers or must-have gadgets? Not likely to see billboards at ALL in wealthy neighborhoods yet, they can afford it and most likely already have it. How twisted that when you drive through the low-income neighborhoods there ...more
Carly Drake
Feb 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
I read a review in which this book was described as a rant, and I'd have to agree - an eloquent, feisty, brilliant rant. I have only encountered Galeano in bits and pieces across my academic life, so it was nice to sit down with him and get to know him a little better. I feel like he and Naomi Klein could be friends; this work brings together ideas about so many different aspects of modern life (economics, politics, food, culture) and I appreciated his astute and uncompromising insights. My ...more
Jun 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
My brother gave me this book as a present. It took me awhile to get through it because I kept setting it down for long periods. This also means I don't remember a lot of what the author said in the first half, but I remember really liking it! Its the kind of book that is easy to read in sections. A lot of the information he presented was not super surprising for me (although I can see how the book was eye-opening for my brother) but it was a good reminder that I know nothing about the US's ...more
May 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
A rereading. Galeano is always worth a second or third look. This book in particular rises from the preachy, infuriated side of the liberal/socialist universe, but shows in plain view the harsh, brutally selfish and divided world we have become from the capitalism propped up by the police/military/political establishment and our own complacency. Nothing really shocking for anyone willing to delve deeper below the surface. Images of "City of God" kept running through my mind in the sections on ...more
Jul 21, 2008 rated it liked it
One could conceive of this book as Galeano's reporting and reflecting on neoliberal capitalism (it was originally published in 1998). While much of the analysis may well seem trite today, the book is a thoroughly satisfying quick read: conceived as a series of satirical lesson plans, these pages of punchy prose evince Galeano's moving skills at ripping away the fetish of bourgeois ideology and representing the suffering of human beings without succuming to either pornographic exploitation or ...more
May 15, 2015 rated it liked it
What an interesting and an eye opening book, you learn something knew about the unjust craziness of this world on every page and with a very simple, straight to the point and witty style. I found myself marking to remember almost every page. The book was published in 1998, and as "upside down" as the world was then its exponentially worse now (in my humble opinion). It would have much more value if the book was continued to reflect the millennium events, though the book anticipates them.note ...more
Karlo Mikhail
Aug 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, history
This is a crushing satirical expose of the glaring inequalities and injustices of a world turned upside down that many has come to be desensitized as “normal.” Here is one my favorite lines from Galeano’s mock lesson plans: “The worst violators of nature and human rights never go to jail. They hold the keys… the countries that guard the peace also make and sell the most weapons. The most prestigious banks launder the most drug money and harbor the most stolen cash. The most successful industries ...more
Jun 05, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: on-hold
Now, if you like your history clearly written from a particular point of view, Galeano is the man. I don't know how he maintains such a consistent sense of outrage and injustice, but I admire him for it, and I find his books - while not necessarily comforting or enjoyable - always thought-provoking. This is more lyrical and less historical, more biting social commentary than literature, but so far, so good.
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Eduardo Galeano was a Uruguayan journalist, writer and novelist. His best known works are Memoria del fuego (Memory of Fire Trilogy, 1986) and Las venas abiertas de América Latina (Open Veins of Latin America, 1971) which have been translated into twenty languages and transcend orthodox genres: combining fiction, journalism, political analysis, and history.

The author himself has proclaimed his
“Si Eva hubiera escrito el Génesis, ¿cómo sería la primera noche de amor
del género humano? Eva hubiera empezado por aclarar que ella no nació de
ninguna costilla, ni conoció a ninguna serpiente, ni ofreció manzanas a nadie,
y que Dios nunca le dijo que parirás con dolor y tu marido te dominará. Que
todas esas historias son puras mentiras que Adán contó a la prensa.”
“Human rights pale beside the rights of machines. In more and more cities, especially in the great metropolises of the South, people have been banned. Automobiles usurp human space, poison the air, and frequently murder the interlopers who invade their conquered territory -and no one lifts a finger to stop them. Is there a difference between violence that kills by car and that which kills by knife or bullet?" (p.231)” 13 likes
More quotes…