Tag Archives: Memory of Fire

Galeano on Jorge Luis Borges

Galeano on Jorge Luis Borges

1935: Buenos Aires


Everything that brings people together, like football or politics, and everything that multiples them, like a mirror or the act of love, gives him the horrors. He recognizes no other reality than what exists in the past, in the past of his forefathers, and in the books written by those who knew how to expound that reality. The rest is smoke.

With great delicacy and sharp wit, Jorge Luis Borges tells the Universal History of Infamy. About the national infamy that surrounds him, he doesn’t even inquire.

— from Eduardo Galeano’s Century of the Wind (1998)

Galeano on Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Galeano on Gabriel Garcia Marquez

1928: Aracataca

Garcia Marquez

The roundup is on for the wounded and hiding strikers. They are hunted like rabbits, with broadsides from a moving train, and in the stations netted like fish.One hundred and twenty are captured in Aracataca in a single night. The soldiers awake the priest and grab the key to the cemetery. Trembling in his underwear, the priest listens at the shootings begin.

Not far away, a little boy bawls in his crib.

The years will pass and this child will real to the world the secrets of a region so attacked by the plague of forgetfulness that it lost the names of things. He will discover the documents that tell how the workers were shot in the plaza, and how Big Mamma is the owner of lives and haciendas and of the rain that has fallen and will fall, and how between the rain and rain Remedios the Beautiful goes to heaven, and in the air passes a little old plucked angel who is falling into a hen-house.

from Eduardo Galeano’s Century of the Wind (1998) 

Review: Eduardo Galeano’s Memory of Fire Trilogy

Review: Eduardo Galeano’s Memory of Fire Trilogy

A slightly different version of this post first appeared on my old blog on July 27, 2008.


I’ve picked up Eduardo Galeano’s Memory of Fire trilogy again. I’m on the last installment, Century of the Wind.

It has always surprised me that not many readers are familiar with Eduardo Galeano. If there’s any writer I discovered after university who has a profound impact on my writing, it would be he. Galeano’s what my friend Marc might call “a ’90s sort of writing.” Others might dismiss as postcolonial twaddle. For me, that’s just fine. His preoccupation with history, the dark side of revolutions and colonization may be profoundly relevant and thought-provoking, even agitating, but it’s his words that are just so seductive. Besides, his style is well fitted to this blogging generation that demands stories to be pithy, well-written—and all under 200 words.

Memory of Fire is amazing. All three volumes consist of vignettes on the history of the Americas—not just South America, but also Central and North America. He starts with pre-colonial myths in the first volume (Genesis) and continues with the arrival of the Europeans. The second volume (Faces and Masks) is painful and heart-wrenching as it details the various anti-colonial uprisings and struggles throughout the centuries.

Each vignette is put into proper context: dates, cities, and footnotes are provided. Each volume has around 400 historical and literary sources—practically a crazy thing to do for fiction, but that goes to show how well-researched and ambitious this work is. In Galeano’s eyes, the Americas collapse and become one: the struggle of all natives—from disparate groups such as the Inuits and the Nahua—become a single struggle against a common enemy who wears different faces.

I don’t recognize all the historical figures that peppered the first and second volume, so the third volume is a downright pleasure as more names become familiar. Galeano talks of Mexican novelists Manuel Azuela (The Underdogs) and Juan Rulfo (Pedro Paramo), the childhood of Louie Armstrong, the Zapatistas and the Sandinistas.

I particularly liked what he said about Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Jorge Luis Borges; I’ll post them separately to highlight their differences.