Monday, January 10, 2011

"The pope is an idol...whose feet are kissed." Voltaire

If an object of a novel is to tell a story and possibly, to reveal a wrong, Miguel Angel Asturias has accomplished his goal.

The author, who won a Novel Prize, tells the story of an ugly American, George Maker Thompson. Thompson had been a pirate in the Caribbean, pretending to rescue passengers from broken down ships and forcing them to give him their jewelry in thanks for rescuing him. He also did such things like ransoming working men in Panama.

He feels that he's wasted his time as a pirate and can make more money on the land.

He meets Jinger Kind, a businessman from New Orleans. They discuss the local people who they consider backward. Their idea is that by taking land from the natives and building roads, they would be bringing civilization and progress in exchange for bringing themselves wealth. Kind also states that ending the natives isolation and opening a port for sea trade, are signs of progress.

Thompson also meets and becomes charmed by a local woman named Mayaris.

Callously, Thompson, Mr. Kind, Mayaris' mother, Dona Flora and a man called the Commander, set about bullying the natives into selling their land. They don't mind using force to get the land and state that if gold bullets (meaning money) doesn't work, there's always lead.

Things go smoothly until Mayaris realizes that Thompson is taking advantage of her people. A servant named Chipo Chipo hears Thompson and the others plotting to take the land by whatever means possible. Chipo then disappears and begin going from village to village spreading the word and advising the natives not to sell their land and resist by whatever means possible.

Dona Flora was a wealthy land owner. When her daughter, Mayaris, dressed in a bridal white, goes into a river to drown herself as a protest against Thompson, Dona doesn't seem that distressed and later marries Thompson herself.

Except for the fact that Thompson doesn't represent the United States government, this could be a story of a powerful country taking advantage of innocent natives, who had been content to live their life by the land.

The book was dry, no suspense and it seemed more like reading a text book than a novel. In addition, there isn't any character development. Many of the characters are called by their titles so it is impersonal but there is a clear message about the powerful, attempting to take what doesn't belong to them, from the poor, uneducated natives.

Please check my Amazon review and at the end, of the Amazon review, indicate "YES" it was helpful.

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