Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Memory of Fire: Genesis

from the diary: “Saturday 11/7/87

“Most of the [day] I read Memory of Fire: Genesis/Memoria del Fuego: Los nacimientos por [by] Eduardo Galeano. A history of Latin America orig[inally] written in Spanish. Of course I’m reading the English translation. It’s very good. And tragic. Any history of the conquest of the ‘New World’ is inherently tragic, verdad? The author is also a poet so the language is very beautiful.”

I loved Galeano’s Memory of Fire trilogy, Genesis, Faces and Masks, and Century of the Wind. It’s like a collection of prose poems / short short stories ranging through history from the creation stories of the indigenous peoples of the Americas through the European conquest, slavery, wars, industrial revolution to the early 80s.

When I got to Cal I told one of my history professors Galeano’s trilogy was one of the reasons I chose to major in Latin American Studies. My professor looked slightly chagrinned. “That’s fiction, you know.”

Is it? An article on the web quotes Galeano, “’Each fragment of this huge mosaic is based on a solid documentary foundation. What is told here has happened, although I tell it in my style & manner.’” The essayist adds, Eduardo Galeano “also often used non-literary sources, songs, letters, newspaper advertisements, oral tradition. Fragmentary Memoria del fuego turns its back on pseudo-objective history - it is subjective, the prose is poetic and the author's own vision comes clearly through the elaborate web of historical scenes and facts.”

A few excerpts appear on the web, as in this piece where an Indian storyteller is confronted by his audience:

The children seated in a circle around the poet will ask: "& all this you saw? You heard?"

"Yes."

"You were here?" the children will ask.

"No. None of our people who were here survived."

3 comments:

David Lee said...

If fiction inspires us to studying history, what's the problem? Gotta start somewhere.

Glenn Ingersoll said...

My history classes: some of the dullest and some of the most interesting writing ...

I liked that professor otherwise. He would lecture all hour without notes and in a virtual monotone but had a wry (& dry) sense of humor. (Didn't we have a high school teacher like that?)

David Lee said...

Yeah. His name escapes me at the moment. He was pretty funny if his monotone hadn't lulled you into a hypnotic state. Then -

WHACK!! He'd use his ruler to wake you up.

I think he taught psychology?