Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Hugo Chavez as tastemaker

If you invited the Venezuelan president to your birthday party, he would probably present you with a book. Let’s say that for some reason international media is also attending the party, that book would rapidly become a bestseller. Hugo Chavez gifted a Noam Chomsky tome a few years back and it rocketed up the charts. Last month at the Summit of the Americas, Chavez did it again. He gave Barack Obama a copy of Eduardo Galeano’s seminal The Open Veins of Latin America. The book quickly climbed from number 54,295 to number two on Amazon’s bestseller list.

Eduardo Galeano is one of my favorite writers. Galeano writes like no one I’ve ever read. He tells of struggles and triumphs using poignantly poetic vignettes rather than the traditional chaptered structure of history texts. Galeano provides a lesson to the realm of historiography: history has a literary and beating heart that we all share despite our myriad differences. His writing is engaged, witty, and never short of compassion. Galeano constantly reminds us that we are infinitely more similar than we are different.

The Austin Public Library owns several works by Eduardo Galeano.

The Open Veins of Latin America

Voices in Time

Upside Down: a Primer for the Looking-Glass World

Soccer in Sun and Shadow

We Say No: Chronicles 1963-1991

Memory of Fire

Galeano’s newest work—Mirrors—will be published May 25th.

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