Synopses & Reviews
The Book of Lamentations, appearing for the first time in paperback in a widely praised translation by Esther Allen, is a novel about the southern Mexican region of Chiapas and draws on two centuries of struggle among the Maya Indians, the white landowners, and the conflicted mestizo class. It transposes historical events to the Chiapas of Castellanos's own childhood in the 1930s and explores the struggle of Mexico's women for independence from the oppression of their husbands and lovers. Her plot is multilayered, weaving the stories of wealthy Leonardo; his wife, Isabel; Julia, his independent lover; Fernando, the land-reform agitator; and Catalina, a Mayan woman who raises the bastard child, the result of Leonardo's rape of a Mayan girl.
Blending a wealth of historical information and local detail with a profound understanding of the complex relationship between victim and tormentor, Castellanos starkly captures the ambiguities that underlie all struggles for power.
Set in the highlands of the Mexican state of Chiapas, The Book of Lamentations
tells of a fictionalized Mayan uprising that resembles many of the rebellions that have taken place since the indigenous people of the area were first conquered by European invaders five hundred years ago. With the panoramic sweep of a Diego Rivera mural, the novel weaves together dozens of plot lines, perspectives, and characters. Blending a wealth of historical information and local detail with a profound understanding of the complex relationship between victim and tormentor, Castellanos captures the ambiguities that underlie all struggles for power.
A masterpiece of contemporary Latin American fiction from Mexico's greatest twentieth-century woman writer, The Book of Lamentations was translated with an afterword by Ester Allen and introduction by Alma Guillermoprieto.
About the Author
Born in Mexico City in 1925, Rosario Castellanos spent much of her childhood in Comitán, in Mayan southern Mexico. After traveling to Europe and to the United States for advanced study in aesthetics, she returned to the province of Chiapas to work with Indian theater groups and the Indigenous Institute of San Cristóbal. Much of her work, even throughout her involvement with the literary group "The Generation of the '50s," tried to traverse the distance between the pre-Columbian and the European cultural traditions of Mexico. While serving as Mexican ambassador to Israel, Castellanos died in a freak household accident in Tel Aviv. In an irony she might have enjoyed, she was buried in the rotunda of Illustrious Men, in Mexico City.