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THE BOOK OF LAMENTATIONS by Rosario Castellanos

THE BOOK OF LAMENTATIONS

by Rosario Castellanos

Pub Date: Dec. 8th, 1996
ISBN: 1-56886-038-2

 Originally published in 1962 and widely acclaimed as one of the great Latin American novels (now in English for the first time), this epic story of class conflict is the major work of the late Mexican author (192574), whose other best known fiction includes The Nine Guardians (1959) and City of Kings (1960--not reviewed). In a vivid style (beautifully translated) that blends realistic narrative with incisive sociopolitical commentary, Castellanos traces the events leading up to a rebellion by the oppressed Mayan Indians of Mexico's southernmost state of Chiapas (formerly Ciudad Real) against their highborn ``Ladino'' masters. The story is set in the 1930s, though it was inspired by Mayan uprisings in 1712 and 1868. Its greatest strength is a gallery of arresting characters, drawn with bold strokes and thrust into dramatic interaction. Among the most important: Catalina Diaz Piulia, a Mayan leader and prophetess all but destroyed by the devastation she helplessly foresees; Fernando Ulloa, a government employee entrusted with overseeing land redistribution, and inevitably caught between the masters he serves and the Indians with whom he identifies; Fernando's faithless wife Julia Acevedo, a sexual predator whose unrestrained appetites will prove her undoing; Father Manuel Mandujano, an ambitious young priest whose imperfect faith and charity are memorably skewered in a truly penetrating characterization; and wealthy, privileged Idolina, whose patient plan to revenge her father's murder will resonate to the very last page. Castellanos's fiction--a skillfully executed panorama that doubtless influenced such later and better-known novels as Mario Vargas Llosa's The War of the End of the World--has an excitingly swift pace that actually increases in the final fifty or so pages, where a long-simmering resentment explodes into coruscating, cathartic violence. An essential addition to our list of distinguished fiction by Latin American writers--perhaps one of the greatest of them all.