Books by Olga Litowinsky

Released: April 1, 1991

Basing her story on Fernando Columbus's account (actually written 30 years later) of his father's last voyage (1502-04), Litowinsky closely follows the events Fernando set down, fictionalizing by updating his voice, setting the date of his narrative in 1507 (when he would have been 18), inventing conversations, and adding two characters. The result, while earnest and well-researched, is mixed. Information is clumsily introduced (``What's that hourglass for?''); the dialogue swings from stilted (``It is wise to be prudent in strange lands'') to jarringly anachronistic (``Hey, man, don't worry''), sometimes reflecting a 20th-century point of view (``I just don't like the Indies''). The invented character Paco, an impoverished boy who becomes Fernando's friend on the journey, has a converted Moslem mother and voices modern-sounding liberal sentiments about the Indians and their religion; Fernando, more authentically, believes ``it is the Indians' duty to serve God and their Spanish masters.'' Using Fernando as narrator, upholding his father's uncertain reputation, provides a viable reason for presenting a positive view of this controversial figure. But unfortunately, none of the characters here comes to life. Fernando hardly reacts to the picaresque adventures; Columbus himself is never quite in focus. In a concluding note, Litowinsky acknowledges the ``greed and corruption...that destroyed so many native American peoples''; perhaps that awareness, barely tapped here, accounts for the book's curious lack of involvement. (Fiction. 11-15) Read full book review >