Synopses & Reviews
Enstam’s translation of Hernández’s best known novel a curricular staple for Peruvian schoolchildren is as vibrant and wild as the jungle it eulogizes. The novel relates the tale of Abel Barcas a young man seeking work in the booming rubber industry of turn of the century Santa Inés a village on a tributary of the Amazon River called the Ucayali. Latex rich shiringa trees have made the jungle a gold mine for some such as the corrupt governor Portunduaga and a snake pit for others including local populations ruined by the slave trade and forced labor. Initially Barcas gets entangled in a series of slapstick misadventures several undertaken with the book’s titular jungle savant creating an episodic feel until a mission to recover a missing villager galvanizes the action. A love story between Barcas and Sangama’s daughter Chuya adds intrigue to what is otherwise an extended ode to an ecosystem that’s been vanishing since the book’s first printing in 1942. Readers hoping for subtle dialogue and character depth will be disappointed; melodrama seems to be the order of the day but the author’s familiarity with the region establishes the Amazon’s “green prison”—teeming with alligator swallowing anacondas malevolent strangler figs and man eating ants—as one of the book’s most compelling characters second only to the “capricious monster” of the Ucalayi itself. (BookLife) " Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved."