Unfurling like a medieval book of days, each page of Eduardo Galeano’s Children of the Days (trans. Mark Fried) has an illuminating story that takes inspiration from that date of the calendar year, resurrecting the heroes and heroines who have fallen off the historical map, but whose lives remind us of our darkest hours and sweetest victories.
The review in the New Work Times starts saying:
One would think that Latin Americans, after all they’ve suffered, from the tortures and terrors of the Spanish Inquisition to the death squads and disappearances of the cold war, would have given up on the idea that history is redeemable. But it seems that centuries of repression and struggle have had the opposite effect, searing into their political culture a kind of irrepressible Hegelianism, an ability both to recognize the dialectic lurking behind the brutality and to answer every bloody body with ever more adamant affirmations of humanity.
Born in Uruguay, and forced into exile in the 1970s, Galeano has forged a career from refusing to write anything that resembles the work of anyone else. He is perhaps best known in English-speaking countries for Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent (1973) [free PDF], a masterful denunciation of imperialism in the region. Galeano’s more recent work mixes history with fiction, poetry and memoir to produce books that resemble mosaics. The method is what one might call refractory. The effect is dizzying, like staring up close for a very long time at the walls of Gaudí’s Sagrada Família.
Children of the Days is the ne plus ultra of the Galeano style and form, a triumph of his mosaic art – 365 sad and strange and shiny little fragments, placed adjacent to one another to form a vast and seemingly coherent whole. Here is January 27, dedicated to Mozart and our pre-conceived obligations as the heritage keepers for the future generations:
All of Galeano’s usual obsessions are vividly represented here: US and European imperialism, the pharmaceutical industry, western governments, the military, the church, advertising, business, Hollywood. It also, as you already saw with the Mozart, deals with the “unbearable lightness” of never-achieved personal efforts:
This is a book of the days, for any day, to be read at the expense of challenging our minds and hard cold pseudo-facts about the world. Recommended, that is for sure.