CAMILO TORRES: A Biography of the Priest-Guerrillero by Walter J. Broderick

CAMILO TORRES: A Biography of the Priest-Guerrillero

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Given the initial warning that this biography is to follow Trotsky's ""materialist method,"" Broderick's introspective, novelistic portrait of the Colombian guerrilla priest Camilo Torres Restrepo comes as a surprise. True, we are asked to accept a priori the solidarity of the Colombian oligarchy under Yankee direction -- an assumption that's true enough in general to make Broderick's lack of interest in the specifics of how ""they"" operate merely annoying. But the personal development of Father Torres, whose class origins would place him somewhere near the oligarchy's outer circle, is robbed of none of its complexity. Torres first confounded his anti-clerical parents by becoming a strict and sincere seminarian; later, after exposure to Christian Democratic theories and the tail end of the worker-priest movement in Belgium, he returned to Colombia as a liberal, ""modern"" priest -- a pipe-smoking organization man willing to drink with university students, much more interested in running committees on economic development than in hearing confessions. But the polarization of Colombian society and Torres' own drive toward activist commitment pushed him closer and closer to the left -- first the Communists and later the embryonic ELN guerrilla movement -- and after using his immense personal popularity to call publicly for revolution, Torres was forced underground only to die in a jungle ambush. Broderick's Torres is an authentic hero, but one whose idealism was more than tinged with naivete. And despite the author's barely restrained tendency to turn his extensive research into radical soap opera, this is an engrossing history of a revolutionary symbol -- one that leaves you to wonder whether there was any moral alternative to the romantic gestures that brought his death.

Pub Date: March 7th, 1975
Publisher: Doubleday