The Book of Embraces
Cisneros, in her introduction to the 2000 edition of Eduardo
Galeano's Days and Nights of Love and War, writes,
"I believe that certain people, events, and books come
to you when they must, at their precise moment in history."
For me, The Book of Embraces, in its Spanish version,
El libro de los abrazos, arrived as a gift from my
Uruguayan brother- and sister-in-law. My wife told me that
it was a well known and beloved book by the most famous
of contemporary Uruguayan authors. I flipped through its
pages and was ecstatic to find pictures and short fragments.
I had been experimenting with fragments in my own writing.
Even before I read a word of the book, I felt like I had
found a soul brother or a mentor.
after that, I was talking on the phone to Dr. David Lazar,
my dissertation advisor and an exceptional professor of
nonfiction creative writing. I was sitting by my computer
and was toying with El libro de los abrazos in my
lap, looking at the pictures while I talked. He asked, with
no information from my end, if I had ever read Eduardo Galeano.
He knew I had lived in Uruguay, and went on to mention that
Galeano was a Uruguayan writer of creative nonfiction. I
laughed. "What book?" I asked. "The Book
of Embraces. It's a fantastic book. I used to teach
from it all the time," he said. I laughed again. "I
have the book on my lap," I told him, explaining. He
laughed along with me.
Book of Embraces is a quick deep cutting healing sweet
shouting whispering assaulting bothering comforting book.
It is made of short fragments, stories and musings and graffitis
and sayings and dreams and lies and truths, and juxtapositional
etchings of ironic commentary. Galeano wants to say something
like we need each other, we need to wake up, we need to
change, we need more love, we need embraces. His words are
powerful evocations. Galeano's writing is politically charged
and poetically balanced to give more meaning, more thought,
ounce per ounce, letter per letter, than most anything I've
ever read. This writing is sharp, it's beautiful, it's fabulous
in the many senses of that word.
Galeano has become a sort of mentor for me. I can
feel his influence in my thoughts and my writings. Even
if we disagree on some things. In December of 2000, I interviewed
Galeano in Café Brasilero, Montevideo's oldest café
(est. 1879). I found him to be gracious, witty, and wise.
This interview will be published in the Fall 2001 issue
of Fourth Genre, a literary journal devoted to literary
nonfiction (look for it at your local university library).
This man has, in some ways, changed my life. And it all
comes back to that first book I read. The Book of Embraces
is, for me, like scripture. It contains holy words.
The Book of Embraces or other books by Eduardo Galeano
on the book covers below and you'll be taken to Amazon.com
pages where you can purchase each individual book. You may
also want to try www.powells.com,
all used book sites (or databases) which ought to have used
copies of many of these books as well. If you are looking
for the books in Spanish, some of the above sites may have
copies, or you could try www.loslibros.com.
What's important is that you actually buy some of Galeano's
that the books below are in chronological order by date
of publication (except for The Book of Embraces),
and represent only those works currently in print in English.
Galeano has many other books as well.
Book of Embraces (1991) Parable, paradox, anecdote,
dream, and autobiography blend into Galeno's exuberant
world view and affirmation of human possibility.
Down (2000) An eloquent, passionate, funny, and shocking
expose of our first world priviledges and assumptions.
in Sun and Shadow (1997) A quick snapshot of the highlights
and lowlights of this very popular international sport.
Words (1995) In this retelling of Latin American folklore,
Galeano depicts the various and delicious ironies of
life at the end of this century.
Say No (1993) 34 pieces covering 30 years affirming
the struggle of the forgotten and dispossessed for human
of Fire III: Century of the Wind (1989) Offers Galeanos
interpretations of the 20th century, from the bucolic
New Jersey laboratory of Thomas Edison to the armies
of Emiliano Zapata and Fidel Castro.
of Fire II: Faces and Masks (1987) The tangled, cataclysmic
history of our hemisphere from the 1700s up to the dawn
of our present century, told through characters as resonant
and compelling as Simon Bolivar, Toussaint LOuverture,
and Billy the Kid.
of Fire I: Genesis (1985) A meditation on the clashes
between Old World and the New, and, in Galeanos
words, and attempt to "rescue the kidnapped memory
of all America."
A fierce, impassioned, and kaleidoscopic historical
experience that takes us from the creation myths of
Makiritare Indians of the Yucatan to Columbus
first, joyous moment in the new World.
and Nights of Love and War (1979) Galeano records the
lives and struggles of the Latin American people under
two decades of unimaginable violence and extreme repression.
Veins of Latin America (1973) Galeano covers five centuries
of the pillage of the Latin American continent.
of books from www.amazon.com.