JALAMANTA: A Message From the Desert by Rudolfo Anaya

JALAMANTA: A Message From the Desert

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In the tradition of The Tao of Pooh and Khalil Gibran's The Prophet, a nonsense--albeit sincere--attempt at philosophical allegory from Chicano specialist and mystery writer Anaya (Zia Summer, p. 669, etc.). The plot, such as it is, concerns Jalamanta (""He who strips away the veils that bind the soul""), who returns to his symbolic native village after 30 years of exiled wanderings in the similarly symbolic desert. After reuniting with his ever-faithful soul-love, the goatherd Fatimah, and taking a little well-earned R&R, Jalamanta begins prating his hard-won wisdom to the villagers. But even after more than 30 years to think it through, the best he can serve up is philosophical mish-mash--a kind of tricked-up Hinduism (stripped of its ethical rigors) spiced with a dash of humanism, a sprinkle of shamanism, and great lashings of New Age natterings: ""The Sun rises like a lantern of wisdom to dissolve the night. Like a kind of parent calling the child from a night of dreams. Rise in the morning and pray to the Parent Sun."" Finally, the authorities decide--if 200 pages too late--that this harmless twaddle represents some kind of menace to their highly allegorical state. Jalamanta tries to escape, but he's betrayed by a friend (Iago!), arrested, and led off to face final, blessed silence. Anaya's presumably heartfelt attempt to formulate a grand philosophical worldview is vaguely commendable, and many of his ideas are even salutary (yes, we should all be nicer to one another), but they in no way deserve the end-time heft of self-importance and revelation they're accorded here. Overly ambitious, underly readable.

Pub Date: Feb. 7th, 1996
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Warner