In the first English translation of a Peruvian classic, an ambitious young man arrives in the jungle to make his fortune and finds himself swept along on a mysterious adventure.
In the early 20th century, Abel Barcas arrives in the Amazonian village of Santa Ines to make a living in the burgeoning rubber trade. What he doesn’t expect is the drama of dispatching a corrupt, drunken governor and his vile minions, the Bull and the Piquicho. The new governor appoints Barcas as his partner in the rubber business and sends him on a journey to survey the surrounding jungle for harvestable rubber trees. He is accompanied by an intrepid explorer known as the Matero; the wise man and rumored sorcerer Sangama, who is seeking an ancient, legendary treasure; Sangama’s beautiful daughter, Chuya, with whom Barcas falls in love; and the villainous Bull and Piquicho. Together, the group encounters hurricane winds, ravenous anacondas, and what might be demon spirits that fill the darkest corners of the jungle. The novel, based on Peruvian author Hernández’s own experiences in the jungle, was first published in Spanish in 1942; this is the first time it has been available in English, thanks to the translation efforts of Enstam. It is an elegant, poetic translation, with Hernández’s passionate prose painting a vivid picture of the jungle’s untamed beauty and danger, giving readers a rare glimpse into a world that, at the time, was still mostly unspoiled by modern man. “Some maintain that the jungle is a green prison,” Sangama says. “Others claim that it is the true Hell. Others describe it as an environment fit only for the life of the trees, but not for the dwelling of men.” Barcas’ relationship with Chuya—and the novel’s treatment of women in general—is a bit shallow in some of its more testosterone-fueled moments, but one imagines (and hopes) that attitude is a relic of the time period.
A dark, disturbing, but beautifully described Amazonian adventure with overtones of Heart of Darkness.