HUNGER by Martín Caparrós


The Oldest Problem
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An award-winning Spanish novelist and journalist chronicles his travels around the world revealing our collective inability to “provide millions of people with enough food to…live healthfully.”

“There is no plague as lethal, and at the same time as avoidable, as hunger.” So writes Caparrós (Professor-at-Large/Cornell Univ.; Valfierno: The Man Who Stole the Mona Lisa, 2008, etc.), asserting that as many as 800 million people experience life-threatening hunger every day. Sometimes this hunger is due to famine, which, he writes, can be justified, so to speak, by the fact that its cause is often war or an accident of weather; more often it can be traced to the whims of bureaucracy and “the banality of evil.” Whatever the cause, by his estimate, five children die every minute around the world from hunger. Caparrós describes his travels to Argentina, Niger, India, and the U.S. to examine food insecurity, famine, agricultural inefficiencies, climate change, and the like. The author concludes that hunger is a product not of biology but of economics. In a time of great inequality, the haves owe their fortunes to the fact that there are so many have-nots, and “the capitalist machine doesn’t know what to do with hundreds of millions of people” it considers to be “surplus.” The capitalist critique is well considered if sometimes diffuse. The author’s argument takes on greater force when he works with the data to make significant points, such as the fact that Argentina, which produces enough export crops such as soybeans and maize to feed 300 million people, still cannot manage to take care of its own precisely because its resources are flowing outward. “How is there not enough?” he asks, answering his own question by placing the Argentine example in the context of the globalized commodity system. In that context, even as Argentina has managed to replace its rural laborers with machines, “it hasn’t figured out what to do with those people." Thus, they starve.

A broad-ranging, provocative examination of a problem that is likely only to grow.

Pub Date: Jan. 14th, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-61219-804-0
Page count: 544pp
Publisher: Melville House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2019


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