Sunday, October 23, 2011

To Bury our Fathers - Sergio Ramirez

It has been said that the trade of writing is the best in the world, though more ancient ones exist. Or perhaps not. The need to tell, and to be told, begins that magic moment in which someone is not content with the direct perception of the reality that surrounds him, and with his mind wanders beyond the real limits of his world, where what is visible ends and darkness filled with anxiety for the unknown begins.”  - Sergio Ramirez ,  lettre-ulysses-award

Sergio Ramirez is one of the leading figures in the Central American Literature. He was the Vice-President of the Nicaraguan Republic for over 15 years under the rule of Daniel Ortega. This book considered as a major work of fiction coming out of Central America. Written during 1973-1975 while he was in West Berlin, under a scholarship.

Sergio Ramirez takes us back to the years of 1930 to 1960 under the rule of Samoza ( 'el Hombre' as he is referred in the book) afte the fall and death of Sandino. The multi layered narrative follows the harrowing experiences of the revolutionaries often under arrest and torture and most of the times in exile at Guatemala or Honduras running away from the military. The 30 year period is too broad to detail, hence he is written tis book through the experiences of soldiers, revolutionaries, musicians, prostitutes, and other insignificant Nicaraguan people. However the theme circles around three friends, two of them initially part of the National guards and later defected. Jilguero, whose grand father contested the only election for the President of Nicaragua, won by huge margin only to have the election disqualified by el hombre. Larios ( known as Indio) was part of the national guard, who helped the colonel Catalion Lopez during one of the difficult period, only ot be paid back by treachery is now in exile at Guatemala. The along with Taleno ( son of a rich merchant joined the military academy and was part of the national guard , who was later arrested and was put in a cage near a tiger in the Presidental zoo. The threesome, gets their revenge later by kidnapping Colonel Lopez in Guatemala. On another thread we read the return of Larios' body from Guatemala to his home land by his son which could have been the reason for the name of the book. I understand the Spanish title " ¿Te dio miedo la sangre? " has a meaning "Were you afraid of the Blood".

The book moves through reminiscence of people, monologues or retelling of stories witnessed or heard by various participant in the present or past. In the end it all comes down to the struggle between the dictatorship of Samoza ,supported and financed by the US who control both economical and political fate of all of those tiny Central American republics. and Sandinista rebels( eventualy they won and formed a government under Daniel Ortega)..The narration does not have a flowing story line, its random and kaleidoscopic, taking the reader to a level of frustration.

One of the issue with the narrative is that it is presented jumbled up to the reader. For the intial pages it is very difficult to get t grip of the tale as the space and times are often intermixed with atleast 6 threads of narration are on. Without the help of the chronology at the end of the book I wouldnt have managed to get a hold of the narrative. This was helpful through out the reading, in order to get the time and place accurate, but on the otherside it was too distracting to the flow of reading. The story is summarised in the two paged preceding the chapter 1 and in the last 2 pages mentioned above. His style and language is impressive and the structure though confusing at first, once you have a grip , is good and engaging. However, the book lack in some sort of completeness. It does not have any definite conclusion, may be as intended by the writer. Nonetheless, a very intelligent work of fiction.
To Bury Our Fathers ( 1977 )

Sergiop Ramirez ( translated from Spanish y Nick Caistor 1984 )

Readers International

249 Pages

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