IN THE LAND OF SILENCE by Jesús Urzagasti


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 Originally released in South America in 1987, this tedious, pretentious novel by a Bolivian poet and novelist is at least consistent. Starting on the last day of 1980, Urzagasti tells the story of Jursafu, a newspaperman and sometime poet who is caught up in the recurring violence of his country. This violence is directed upon him at the opening of the novel, and Urzagasti traces how Jursafu wound up in his current predicament. Narrated alternately by Jursafu and his two interior alter egos, the Other and The Dead Man, the novel proceeds with a jumble of memories, anecdotes, metaphors, parables, and political directives describing how a rural boy grew up to be an intellectual yet retained the conviction that it is better to be in tune with nature and to be a hard- working laborer than to get involved in matters requiring words. There is no movement to the story, and every scene is jammed down the throats of readers as if they could never form an opinion of their own. Overwrought, ridiculously self-conscious and wordy without any joy, humor, or verbal inventiveness, the novel is smothered by its strident earnestness. There are a few small moments in which Urzagasti skillfully dramatizes his simple message, such as Che Guevara not knowing that the cure for his chronic asthma was in the weeds he was walking over in the hills of Bolivia, but the author's usual modus operandi is heavy-handed and long-winded and wears thin after only a few pages. In one of the Dead Man's sections, Urzagasti writes, ``The narrator must amaze; the listener must be perplexed.'' Maybe so. But perplexity implies interest and a desire for answers, both of which Urzagasti fails to arouse.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 1-55728-367-2
Page count: 384pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1994