§ion=&combo2=&text1=&text2=&SocNetUsername=&SocNetPassword=&authCode=& 7th Decade Thoughts: The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts by Louis de Bernières

7th Decade Thoughts

Thoughts about books, politics and history (personal and otherwise), pictures I've taken and pictures I've edited.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts by Louis de Bernières

This is de Bernières’ first novel I think and it’s interesting to see how his later style is developing, with different sections devoted to very different characters and story types and with other sections devoted to history, politics, local traditions, and other typically “nonfiction” topics. I can see the writer of Corelli’s Mandolin developing here.

The influences behind this novel are clear: (1) de Bernières spent time teaching English in Colombia and that is clearly the unnamed republic in the book and (2) he must also have spent time reading Latin American authors, specifically Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The novel seems to combine the typical hot steamy novel set in an hopelessly unruly banana republic with the rollicking fun and magical realism of One Hundred Years of Solitude. There’s a good jolt of political satire with a point of view on history that’s different from both the banana republic novels and from Latin American magical realism. It is not quite its author’s own voice—more a trying on and modification of other author’s voices—and I suspect readers of de Bernières’ mature novels will initially be a bit disappointed.

Still once the story gets going, readers will marvel at the author’s humor and inventiveness and rush on to finish it. Starting with the spoiled lady who wants to divert a river to fill her swimming pool and the fat, stupid, brutal army officer the novel progresses through giant cats and laughing plagues, political disappearances a lá Argentina, and the founding of Cochadebajo de los Gatos (“a city of cats beneath a lake”) which figures in the de Bernières’ continuation of the saga—The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting. We loved these early de Bernieres' novels--much more than Corelli's Mandolin. Yes they do combine magical realism and satire in a wonderful mix. We have many Latin American friends and have studied and traveled in various LA countries and can see the culture in these books. But they are more than a commentary on a Banana Republic; they deal with the amazing capacity for love and cruelty to coexist, wrapped with a wonderful sense of magic and humor. Hope and despair and the capacity for surprising turns along the way. Try these. You may love them as much as we do.

9/27/2010 05:41:00 PM  

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