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Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human Historyby Eduardo Galeano
The great Eduardo Galeano, Uruguayan writer and journalist, has spent some five decades in literary pursuit of restoring memory, veracity, and justice to their once-exalted heights. Resounding throughout his works are the amplified echoes of the forgotten, forsaken, silenced, and slandered. In giving voice to the voiceless, Galeano ensures that history's authorship shall not be entrusted solely to the wealthy, powerful, and victorious.
Children of the Days is composed of 366 of Galeano's trademark vignettes — one for every Gregorian calendar day of the year. Each of these entries, marked by both brevity and beauty, recounts or remembers an individual, moment, or era omitted from the official annals of yesteryear. In retrieving these stories from their historical exile, Galeano redeems their dignity and reanimates their tale. More than the mere act of commemoration alone, these vignettes illume the dark and disregarded corners of our collective past (and act, perhaps, as a bulwark against repeating its myriad misdeeds).
Like nearly all of Galeano's books, Children of the Days excoriates the excesses of war, religion, capitalism, and conquest. In reframing the historical narrative to be more inclusive and forthright, Galeano takes equal inspiration from politics, poetry, and the proletariat. Whether by revolution or revelation, many of the figures he chose to memorialize could be defined by their defiance, outspokenness, and dissatisfaction of the status quo. Galeano's longing for an equitable, verdant, and peaceable world has informed his writing since he began his career, and his commitment to engendering such a vision is one of the essential characteristics of his work.
Eduardo Galeano composes prose as resplendent as some of his subjects are sorrowful. With ever the eye for the neglected, distressed, oppressed, and maligned (spanning thousands of years), he creates beauty where once there was betrayal, and intrigue where ignorance once thrived. From the familiar to the obscure, Galeano masterfully recollects and rescues from amnesiac disregard those for whom history has never made room. Children of the Days is but the latest steadfast entry in Galeano's efforts to resist the erosive effects of time, revisionism, and selective memory. Obsessed with remembering lest the rest of us forget (and perhaps to help restore the enduring promise of the future), Galeano makes an offering of his art so that we may yet be reminded of the inherent brilliance, dignity, and wonder of a life consumed not by belligerence, fanaticism, and the shallow pursuit of wealth but one that is instead receptive to the voices of others and the world at large.
Children of the Days was rendered from Spanish by Mark Fried, Galeano's longtime English translator.
One cannot read any of Galeano's books and not be moved to think, to consider, and to wonder about life and all the histories we carry with us. Every one of his publications are worth reading, and this is the latest in a long line of his beautiful masterpieces. It is a meditation, a remembering, and a call to humanity to wake up, to be better, and also to stop and smell the roses.
Synopses & Reviews
This book is shaped like a calendar. With each day, comes a story. Its inspiration is the Mayan version of Genesis which tells, And the days began to walk. And they, the days, made us. And thus we were born, the children of the days, the discoverers, lifes searchers.”
For each day, Galeano has chosen a story from that date, something unknown or almost unknown, of feasts and tragedies that really happened, from all possible years and places, violating the frontiers of maps and time.
Galeano challenges the reader to consider the human condition and our own wretched choices. These vignettes elevate the little known heroes of our world and decry the destruction of treasures (intellectual, linguistic, and emotional) that we have all but forgotten.
This book is like a cousin of Mirrors, full of yarns, prose poems, ditties and dance steps that resurrect the lives of the heroes who have fallen off the historical map. It reminds us of our sweet victories and darkest hours.
You will meet Manuela Leon, who stirred up Ecuador in the 1870s and caused the Indian masses to rise against forced labor and the payment of tribute. As if that were not enough, she also committed the impertinence of challenging Lieutenant Vallejo, a government official, to fight a duel before the astonished eyes of his soldiers, and in open combat her lance humiliated his sword.
You will learn:
The most popular episode of the Catholic catechism, Adam and Eve biting the apple, is not listed in the Bible.
The Greek Eratosthenes measured the waist of the world 2300 years ago, and was wrong by only sixty miles
That Aristotle wrote that a woman is "an incomplete man", and St. Thomas of Aquino wrote that woman is "an error of nature".
That Spaniards who bathed were once accused of Muslim heresy.
That until 1990 that homosexuality was a mental illness, according to the World Health Organization.
Only eleven people attended Karl Marx's funeral, including the undertaker.
Until 2008 that Nelson Mandela was still on the list of terrorist security risks to the U.S.
In Haiti, according to ancient tradition, mourners should lead the funeral casket in a zigzag to mislead the dead so they can no longer find the way back?
Every two weeks... a language dies.
Galeano is like one of the walking librarians of the middle ages, who set up caravans during times of war as a refuge for books and stories. Galeano says that humans are made up both of atoms and stories. In this great humanist treasure he shows us how to live and how to remember. It awakens the best in us.
"Galeano performs the sort of extraordinary feats of compassion, artistry, and imagination achieved in fiction by his fellow visionary Latin American writers, especially Borges, Garcia Marquez, and Bolaño." Booklist, starred review
"Galeano's prose is nearly lulling in its lyricism." New York Times Book Review
"With each passing day, details of an important event — or one lost to history's selective memory — illuminate the humanity and barbarism of our species. Good and evil, beauty and ugliness, generosity and greed — all are juxtaposed to great effect....[T]his is a heady portrait of the human story rendered in broad, though no less incisive and affecting, strokes." Publishers Weekly
"Galeano's many readers will surely find this secular calendar appealing." Kirkus Reviews
Galeano's new book is his richest and most poetic yet, a joyous calendar of the sacred and the damned, a book of inspiration for those fighting tyranny, greed, and amnesia
Unfurling like a medieval book of days, each page of Galeano's new work has an illuminating story that takes inspiration from that day of the calendar year. Each entry resurrects the heroes and heroines who have fallen off the historical map, but whose lives remind us of our darkest hours and sweetest victories.
Among many others, you will discover the Brazilians who held a smooch in” to protest a dictatorship that banned kisses that undermined public morals” and learn of the day Mexico invaded the United States, the sacrilegious” women who had the effrontery to marry each other in a church in 1901, and Abdul Kassem Ismael, the grand vizier of Persia, who kept books safe from war by creating a walking library, 117,000 books aboard four hundred camels, forming a mile-long caravan.
Beautifully translated by Galeano's longtime collaborator, Mark Fried, Children of the Days is a great humanist treasure that shows us how to live and how to remember. It awakens the best in us.
About the Author
Eduardo Galeano is one of Latin America's most distinguished writers. He is the author of the three-volume Memory of Fire; Open Veins of Latin America; Soccer in Sun and Shadow; The Book of Embraces; Walking Words; Upside Down; and Voices in Time. Born in Montevideo in 1940, he lived in exile in Argentina and Spain for years before returning to Uruguay. His work has been translated into twenty-eight languages. He is recipient of many international prizes, including the first Lannan Prize for Cultural Freedom, the Casa de las Américas Prize, and the First Distinguished Citizen of the region by the countries of Mercosur.
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