DON JUAN'S BAR by Antonio Callado


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This amazing ""revolutionary"" novel is full of surprises -- not the least being that its author is a middle-aged Brazilian ""man of letters"" rather than some youthful wild-eyed Maoist. It glides with amazing dash and brio from torture chamber to love affair, more with the elegant grace of a minuet than with the terror of people who almost all lose their lives in failed attempts to reach Che's small guerrilla band in the Bolivian foothills. There's no sense of tragedy, only the offhand, almost humorous, way in which middle-class intellectual revolutionaries are likely to die: a bank robber turning his eye from the cashier at a crucial moment because he spots a friend stuffing stolen money from under the floorboards into a grocery bag. But there is a partial condemnation of this kind of half-hearted commitment when Che stoically nears his end; also a rather joyous vision of the future as the survivors more or less accidentally hijack a plane to transcendental Cuba. The action switches from character to character and not a word is wasted in this razzledazzle masterpiece of understatement. The ""historical"" sections on Che's capture and death approach grandeur without heaviness, and the clear, functional, completely artless language is admirably translated from the Portuguese by Barbara Shelby.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1972
Publisher: Knopf