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For some reason unknown to me and undoubtedly related to the Internet as a source of information I have come to realize that the Internet fulfils a role in earlier times fulfilled by my father, that is, providing opinions automatically regarded as facts I pictured Bryce Echenique as an example of that sort of Latin-American writer full of nostalgia for the past and the cultural and political roots of a continent that wasted its potential to become a successful nation, a powerful federation of states like the one the damn gringos made up out of the blue to fight the English.
My point is that there is an interesting amount of nostalgia to be found in the literature of the loser regions of the world. The passage of time, its very slowness, the haunting of family ghosts, curses, lingering memories, unheard of stories that seem to sneer at matter-of-fact approaches to life, are the most outstanding features of the literature produced by those for whom belonging to a defeated nation is a birthmark.
The case of Latin-American literature is quite telling: loneliness, the dusty village, the inhospitable mountain or the barren soil, men and women clinging bitterly to the remembrance of their defeats, sweat, turmoil, instability and constant fleeing, but also heavy drinking and immoderation, all told as a storyteller would, as if the present had turned into the past even before it is gone, as if the awareness that life is no more than attachments, recollections and fears was too much to bear.
And, often, the gringo looming, whether in the shape of the Fruit Company, the CIA, or a letter sent by a beloved relative who emigrated to Miami. Funny thing is that the master, the authentic inspiration of these writers was in fact an American, a bloody great writer who keeps teaching those who care to pay a bit of attention that America did not come out of that Civil War completely unharmed and that those who lost it kept being haunted by ghosts and memories: yeah folks, his name is William Faulkner.
Well, it turns out that the little rascal that wrote the book I am reviewing did not care much about lost wars or the Fruit Company. He does not speak on behalf of a God forgotten continent but on behalf of himself: and who would dare to reprove him?
He is totally entitled to care much more about his life in Paris as a young student, and to give us a detailed account, if so he wishes, in this five hundred pages long book. All of this is narrated in a droll style. Disappointments and defeats are told in the same tone as anecdotes and disorderly and raucous stories faecal issues, sinking mattresses, squatting to use the toilet. But, far from coming across as apologetic, the impression is that a too melancholic or defeatist tenor has been pushed aside by an innate festive attitude which refuses to indulge in self-pity.
She leaves him sorry for the spoiler but he survives, keeps living: his lack of seriousness turns out to be his uttermost strength. And this is precisely the uttermost strength of the book in my opinion: there was an episode that almost made me cry, and I am not the crying type. The absence of drama in the language, the almost childish style albeit not devoid of commiseration, managed to highlight the tenderness of it all, of that little life being undeservedly assaulted and destroyed and the efforts of those who love it to save it, three defenceless and fragile existences whose love for each other is simply not enough to protect themselves.
An attempt to come to terms with those years as a student and his involvement in politics? Or maybe to get over the disappointments of love? There is a good deal of all of them in this book, and the truth is that exaggeration, irony and humour can also make you cry. Share this:.
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