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One Day of Life

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  562 ratings  ·  70 reviews
Awesome for the authenticity of its vernacular style and the incandescence of its lyricism, One Day of Life depicts a typical day in the life of a peasant family caught up in the terror and corruption of civil war in El Salvador.

5:30 A.M. in Chalate, a small rural town: Lupe, the grandmother of the Guardado family and the central figure of the novel, is up and about doing
Paperback, 224 pages
Published January 9th 1991 by Vintage (first published 1980)
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Oct 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The stories of horror plus the very acceptable way in which they are told... It is realism truly too real to escape or ignore.

The title in English "One day of life" refers/alludes to one day that's very different, supposedly, from your (the reader's) own. This translation evokes that Otherness. Even the title is mistranslated! However, the legitimate and extremely 100% correct way of translating the book in Spanish, "One Day in the Life" properly places the tale as an everyman parable. But in
From the unassailable heights of the MORAL HIGH GROUND, the author manipulates the reader from the very first sentence. Though I have no doubt that atrocities were committed in El Salvador, it seems entirely probable that this happened on both sides, a complication that this book never even contemplates. I despise this kind of agitprop masquerading as literature, wherein the reader is manipulated to feel badly for not having the appropriate reaction to the author's button-pushing.

If you enjoy
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Seriously folks ; this was in every Used Bookshop there for a while. Absolutely everywhere. So of course I took no interest in it. Then I picked up a free copy and looked at the gr=data :: 428 Ratings · 57 Reviews. Lesson not necessarily learned given that it's probably not a very good novel. We'll see.
We did see and it's not a bad novel(la) at all. You can read it in an afternoon. A topical piece about the kinds of violence our policy makers supported back in the '80s, this one set in El
Karlo Mikhail
Mar 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
El Salvador in the 1980s. Written in the simple and direct language of the ordinary people, this powerful novel describes one day in the life of a peasant family that is at once oppressed by the US-sponsored military dictatorship and ready to resist these very forces that have kept them in the dark.
Written in 1980, One Day of Life takes place sometime in the mid-70s in El Salvador, and details the unrest of the rural communities which preceded that country's civil war. The book's primary voice, Guadalupe Guardado, speaks about her day, beginning in the predawn, and continuing throughout the day. At first there is a sense of being alive, but as the day goes on, more and more of the injustice and horror that she experiences is revealed.

Interspersed between the description of Lupe's day are
Linda Abhors the New GR Design
A simple story, a simple style. Poignant and charming, even though the events recounted are harrowing. In spite of them, there are moments of humor, just as there is in real life. A short read, books like this are books that people in this country might try reading, to walk a mile in the others shoes. ...more
Pam Giarrizzo
Jan 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: the-booktrekker
First published in 1980, One Day of Life, by Manlio Argueta, details the brutal repression of working people in El Salvador, which led to the country’s civil war. The book is told from many points of view, but mainly it follows the life of Lupe Guardado, a grandmother whose family members are at risk because of their opposition to the authoritarian regime and the rich landowners who seek to exploit them.

Lupe’s son has already been murdered by security forces, and her husband has been hiding out
Daniel Polansky
12 hours in the lives of a brutalized peasant family during the civil war in El Salvador. It’s always a dangerous thing for an educated person to write from an uneducated person’s perspective, it’s a very fine line to hit, and I’m not 100% certain I felt Argueta did it here. There’s a bit of a whip lash in the heroine’s internal monologue from earthy, personal concerns to too-precise summations of the political circumstances afflicting her and her family. I appreciated this more frankly for the ...more
Dec 25, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: historians, activists, the-strong-willed
This book with its lyrical, raw, angry and jubilant writing style follows the extended family and community of an El Salvadorian town which has been repressed by the state and helped by the church during El Salvador's brutal civil war, made famous by figures such as Archbishop Romero.

In the story the peasants of El Salvador have organized into the National Federation of Christian Cooperatives (F.N.C.C.) and in doing so they have become regularly terrorized by the Salvadorian National Guard who
Jan 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
I was not expecting to like this as much as I did. One Day of Life is not the sort of political piece I was expecting, but that's not to say it isn't deeply political. Argueta tells his story almost exclusively from the point of view of poor, largely uneducated women, touching on a lot of issues of racial discrimination (poor Indians versus foreigners), as well as the way in which war uniquely hurts women (rape and violence featuring not insignificantly). The politics are constantly present, but ...more
Daniel Klawitter
Apr 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
"Kindness should not be confused with submission."

I first read this book over 20 years ago, and in 1992 spent a couple weeks in El Salvador right as the FMLN had negotiated a cease-fire with the government.

Re-reading the book now, in 2014, brought back many memories of meeting campesinos in the countryside and seeing the affection of the people everywhere for the assassinated Archbishop Romero.

This is a wonderful novel filled with poetic prose and the author captures the dignity and humanity
Sep 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
A moving novel based on the events that took place during 1 day in the life of a peasant salvadoran woman; it depicts the human tragic story of salvadoran or rather Central American life in the 1980's. a must read for every Latin American or anyone interested in feeling and sharing the pain of our sad history in Latin America. I just read somewhere that this book was placed 5th among the most recognized books written in Spanish in this century. Well done Manlio!
May 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
By far this is one of my favorite books of all time. The story describes one day in the life of a Central American women who has to endure the hardships of life in poverty. Reading history of Central American this book captures many historical moments through the eyes of someone living through it.
Michelle Lemaster
Jan 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Through a fictionalized account, this book chronicles the soical activism of the poor in Central America. A true call to arms. Beautifully told. Horrific in its depictions of a real life wartorn country.
Tawny Alvarez
Jul 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
AMAZIN! I love books that give voice to women. This book is the accumulation of stories and thoughts that Manlio Argueta heard while interviewing women about the civil war in El Salvador.One of my top ten favorite books.
Robert Cullinane
Sep 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
An exceptional book. From the first rays of the sun coming through the thatch to the end of the day it takes you through the raw life of an El Salvadoran family.
May 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I read this book 20 years ago but remember it as a very moving personal account of the Salvadoran civil war. Things are heating up in El Salvador again . . .
Jul 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book was one of a few that propelled my intellectual investment in the exploration of human rights in the Americas.
Jemera Rone
Nov 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books ever about the war in El Salvador. I read it many years ago in Spanish and still have a vivid memory of how true the Spanish phrases rang.
Jun 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Before reading this book, I didn't know much about the civil war in El Salvador. After reading, I had a brutal, visceral understanding of what happened to ordinary people during those horrible times. The plot moves from early morning to late evening on a single day, and is narrated from different perspectives. It's a little confusing to follow because the characters are only introduced through internal monologue and dialogue. But their relationships become clear as the story moves through an ...more
Dark Heda
Oct 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
So gosh darn sad.

There is a certain honesty to this book, the author really strives in his audience seeing the ancient days in El Salvador. He describes the setting as if he’d been there just yesterday. The guards are filled with hatred and just pure evilness. The cruelty towards civilians is terrible. The author didn’t even give me a happy ending.
Dec 07, 2019 rated it liked it
a tale full of brutality, of violence inflicted against the poor, the poor who realize they have no rights, who organize, gain "awareness" and realize that their oppressors can somehow feel that they will loose, and, in anger and fear, turn even more violent.
Dec 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It's impossible to review something so lyrical yet bleak. Beautiful, yet brutal. I wish I'd read this sooner.
Steven Bramble
Feb 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is one of those books that it seems like everyone should know after you've already read it, but coming across it in English isn't necessarily a piece of cake. Suffice it to say, it's one of the best, most timeless, and most relevant works of Latin American literature I've ever read.

Having spent a decent amount of time around indigenous populations in Central America, I think Argueta perfectly captures the kind of introspective, fatalistic and taciturn voice that one could argue is
Possibly the best book I've ever read in my life.
Oct 22, 2009 rated it did not like it
One Day of Life
Manlio Argueta
Reviewed by: Adrianna Frazier
6 October 2009

The book that I read and am now reviewing is One Day of Life. This book takes places in El Salvador during the El Salvadorian Civil War. During this time it shows the oppressive environment created by the authorities who invaded a small village. The atmosphere is very chaotic and is enveloped in a cloud of fear. The novel is set up in chapters that are specific times. The entire book takes place in one day which begins at
Alexndra Chenelle
Oct 22, 2009 rated it did not like it
One Day Of Life

Manlio Argueta

Reviewed by Alexandra Chenelle

Word Count: 570

War is difficult; there are many sides to it, many stories to tell, and more to it than just the physical battles. This concept is expressed very deeply and descriptively in Manilo Argueta’s novel One Day of Life. The book illustrates one day of a brutal civil war in El Salvador, told from many perspectives from innocent bystanders, to direct victims, to the ones causing all the violence. Organized by time, the book
Tom Darrow
Jun 09, 2013 rated it did not like it
This book was awful. The plot was very disorganized, the characters were flat and had no life and the author's writing style was confusing and amateurish. This is a story of a peasant family in El Salvador and their conflict with the "authorities" who kidnap and murder anyone who resists the government or complains about the situation. The book tells some of the back story of the conflict, and there is a little glimmer of hope that this book won't be a train wreck, but the characters end of ...more
Jul 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
I just finished re-reading this book, and the second read made me realize how horrors -- especially political and violent -- are a usual part of our fictional (whether in books or in film/television) lives, and though somewhat distressing, they don't usually affect me very much. Understanding that this story -- not just one like it -- is almost entirely true gave this read a very different feel.

Here's my original review:

This book was part of the recommended reading in preparation for my trip to
Michaela Larsen
Dec 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
Though I usually don't re-read books, I would maybe like to go back and read this book in the Spanish someday. I enjoyed it in English, however, I felt I was missing out on something--the lyricism and poetic word choice would, I think, be even better in Spanish.

I thought this book was very interesting and informative--it gives an accurate-feeling sense of the worldview of the primary characters in the book who represent the farm workers under the oppressive government rule in El Salvador in the
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Club de Lectura B...: Un Día en la Vida, Manlio Argueta 1 2 May 28, 2016 10:42AM  

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Argueta was born in San Miguel (El Salvador) on November 24, 1935. Argueta has stated that his exposure to “poetic sounds” began during his childhood and that his foundation in poetry stemmed from his childhood imagination. Argueta’s interest in literature was strongly influenced by the world literature he read as a teenager. Argueta began his writing career by the age of 13 as a poet. He cites ...more
“No one forgets his pain, that’s a lie. It’s buried there in memory and remains in you forever.” 4 likes
“We call our worst enemies dogs, but they don't deserve it because dogs are the friends of man.” 3 likes
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