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The Book of Embraces.

The skills of a historian, journalist, prose-poet, and old-fashioned storyteller are combined in Galeano's work. He constructs this book of anecdotes in a mosaic or montage-like fashion, never completely filling a page with text, using some of the space for his clever, surrealistic illustrations.

The stories here deal with such topics as war and political insurrection, exile, dreams, and art, and are often grouped together. The most moving of them have to do with the slaughter and repression that have torn virtually every Latin American nation in recent years. There are horrible tales of the genocidal campaign of the Guatamalan government against the Indians, of the brutal regimes in Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay. The widely traveled Galeano has seen the seamy underside of many nations; brutality and corruption are so widespread and deeply rooted that they seem almost impossible to eradicate. Yet the author, who frequently leavens his work with humor, clearly holds out some hope for humanity, seems to think the poor and disenfranchised have some chance to improve their states. As he travels he records the graffiti of the poor. In Argentina: "Everybody makes promises and nobody keeps them. Vote for nobody." In Caracas, during a time of crisis, at the entrance to one of the poorest barrios: "Welcome, middle class." In Bogota: "|Proletarians of all lands, unite!' And underneath, in a different hand: |(Final Notice)."' If the oppressed can still maintain a sense of humor, Galeano implies all is not lost.

Despite the grimness of his subject matter, Galeano's writing is full of lyricism. Everywhere he sees beauty; no doubt this has also helped sustain him through some awful times. He expresses great respect for fellow artists, including Neruda and Onetti. So many pages here contain sentences and passages worth quoting, by one of our most gifted and knowledgeable contemporary men of letters.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Review of Contemporary Fiction
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Pekar, Harvey
Publication:The Review of Contemporary Fiction
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 1993
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