Originally published in September 2004, in 2 parts.
Book 31 in my first 52 books challenge.
Author: Luis Sepúlveda
Original title: Un viejo que leía historias de amor
Translator: Peter Bush
Year published: 1989, 2002 (translation)
Where got: Any Amount of Books, London (second-hand bookshop)
All Antonio José Bolívar Proaño wants to do is to live his life quietly, read the love stories the itinerant dentist brings him twice a year, and be left alone. Then a hunter is stupid enough to kill some baby ocelots (a protected species) and the enraged mother ocelot begins killing every human she can find. The village is threatened, and the mayor sends out a search party, forcing Antonio to come along. Antonio is saddened by the whole situation, but has no choice but to follow orders and hunt the creature down.
Translation, technique and plot:
The translation is well done and the story has no translation flavour.
The narrative has a flowing, lyrical quality that critics have likened to the style of Hemingway’s early works. On the surface it is a simple story of man against nature, but on a deeper level it may be seen as a parable for the way the Amazonian rainforest is being depleted and its native inhabitants (aborigines and animals) hunted and driven ever deeper into the forest. Civilized man, in the guise of Slimy Toad the mayor, the gold prospectors and the white hunters are pitted against nature, symbolized by the ocelot and the natives. In the middle stands Antonio, who comes from outside like the mayor, hunters and prospectors, but has adapted himself to the life in the rainforest.
This book is going on my keeper shelves, and I will definitely read it again.
This is a beautifully told story about sad but inevitable events. 5 stars.