Sunday, May 25, 2014

Retro Book Review - Genesis

Book - Genesis
Writer - Eduardo Galeano   
Series - Memory of Fire #1 
Published By - Open Road Integrated Media

First things first, I got this book from NetGalley, so thank you netgalley and Open Road Integrated Media for this opportunity.
Very rarely do I come across such awesome works of art that I find myself unworthy of reviewing. 'Genesis' by Eduardo Galeano, which is volume one of his Memory of Fire is definitely one such work of literature. It is a novel of the history of a continent, of a great many people who have been wronged so much, yet sadly they were wronged by some fellow human beings. It is a novel of despair, of greed, of depressing racism, of utterly disgusting use of religion for selfish gains. It is written with such passion and such delicacy, with vivid imagery, through viewpoints of so many people, it is like memory of Latin America. It certainly is those lands' and its peoples' sad memory, their memory of fire.

Before I started this novel I was prepared for the depressive stories, as I knew from other reviews on the internet that this depicts the true history of Latin America, of how greedy Europeans and their colonial rules ended a civilization, how they murdered thousands of people and destroyed a culture. I knew that the author holds back no punch in telling the truth. So, I was prepared for the sadness. But I was not prepared to like the book so much, to be affected by it so much. This book should be read by every person who comes from an independent nation, who fought for their freedom or are still fighting. The excellent prose and methods of storytelling touches the readers soul in this novel. The passion of the writer is palpable and it is really hard to not get emotional while reading this masterpiece.

The book is roughly divided into two parts, first part is 'First Voices' which tells the various myths and legends of the indian people who used to live in the land of South America before the conquistadors came. It is very entertaining as it tells their views of creation of various things, of their religion, of their mythology. This part was specially enjoyable to me and reminded me of some of my favorite such works as 'Silmarillion' and 'Gods of Pegana'. I almost finished this part in one sitting and loved the short fairy tale seeming stories the most.

The second part is the main part and is apparently based on truth, this part is named 'Old New World', which might be the authors attempt at conveying irony saying that this so called new world which the Europeans claimed to discover was already quite old with its civilization. This part starts from 1492 with the first group of Europeans landing in Guanahani and ends in 1700 with the death of Charles II and the ending of the dynasty that conquered America. This part is quite depressing with the history of how the native indians were massacred; how they were used as slaves, killed by the thousands; how thousands more blacks were brought as slaves from Africa to work on the plants and mines; how racism prevailed over humanity; how religion was used for the greed of colonization, mining and altogether rape of an entire continent. But it also is the story of their rebellion, of their fight for freedom, of their attempt at preserving their culture. The author gives at the end a list of the sources from where he took the information's and inspiration of his writing, which is a nice gesture altogether.

All the stories in the book are told in short chapters, which are from a page long to maybe up to 3-4 pages, but all are done with so much passion and care. So many viewpoints of people from each and every side, now telling a story of an Spanish conquistador, then the story of an Indian chief, then may be an catholic priest, then may be a black slave and many many more such alternating viewpoints. This keeps the story so unpredictable yet Eduardo somehow manages it all to flow together brilliantly and in smooth pace.

This book was much more appreciated by me as I come from a country in South East Asia which was a British colony for more that 200 years, after that we were enslaved by another powerful nation for about 30 years. After which my country finally gained freedom through an independence war. And also because as part of being asian and from a third world country I can try to relate with those people from Africa who were wronged for so long and are still being wronged in various parts of that continent. 

Despite liking the novel immensely, I can not recommend this to everyone because of the depressive nature of this book (truth is often quite sad). But in my opinion anyone who has paid dearly for their right to freedom or anyone who likes the idea of freedom should read this. And those who love historical novels in general will find a treasure trove of brilliant prose, exquisite story telling and imaginative passion in this book. Although this book needs a bit of time to digest, so I might wait a while, but I will definitely read the rest of the volumes.

This truly is a masterpiece of its specific genre. I can not give this any less than 5 out of 5 stars.     

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