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THE TREE OF LIFE by Mario Bencastro


Stories of Civil War

by Mario Bencastro

Pub Date: May 15th, 1997
ISBN: 1-55885-186-8
Publisher: Arte P├║blico

justify yes* The Tree Of Life ($11.95 paperback original; May 15, 1997; 128 pp.; 1-55885-186-8): Fifteen stories about the effects of El Salvador's brutal civil war (197992), from the journalist and novelist previously known for A Shot in the Cathedral (1996). A kind of passive pantheism suffuses these grim tales, whose characters are uniformly helpless victims, and whose sufferings are conveyed in a monotonous narrative voice that may be in part the result of an indifferent translation. Here and there, Bencastro strikes sparks--in a ``Romeo and Juliet''like tale of thwarted young love (``Once Upon a River''), and especially in the magical-realist metaphoric power of the collection's vivid central image: a tree that gathers unto itself the bodies of the dead and restores them to life and safety within its body.