Friday, September 12, 2008

Review: The Peru Reader: History, Culture, Politics

The Peru Reader: History, Culture, Politics by Robin Kirk

Really good collection of a variety of excerpts from some interesting books. A lot of good poetry too; like Osman Morote's "A Frightening Thirst for Violence":

"The dictator
shifts his gaze
and a rose
acclaimed as fragrant
falls, in a slice,
from just one

The dictator
swivels his hands
one worker
falls, the wife of a
falls, the children of a

what a frightening thirst
for vengeance
devours me"

Morote became the second-in-command in the Shining Path, which the book treats even-handedly, except it does tend to leave out sufficient details of the kind of daily suffering due to exploitation and inequality that led people like Morote to sacrifice his life. The book does include testimony from a government soldier, casually discussing his rapes, murders and tortures, and mentions that during the war, far more people were killed by the government than by the rebels. Some surprise.

The best instance of a description of the kind of reality people lived in - terribly far away from the wealth and comfort of rich countries - that would explain a bit about why people would give up their lives in the Shining Path or the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement to create a better society: another poem, an excerpt from "The Battle of Ayacucho" by Antonio Cisneros, which strips of glory the decisive battle that won Peru independence from Spain:

From a Mother

My sons and the rest of the dead still
belong to the owner of the horses
and the owner of the lands, and the battles.

A few apple trees grow among their bones
and the tough gorse. That's how they fertilize
this dark tilled land,
That's how they serve the owner
of war, hunger, and the horses."

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