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Interview With Eduardo Galeano Patrick Madden After spending his adolescence drawing . political cartoons for El Sol and Marcha, Uruguayan socialist newspapers, Eduardo Galeano turned to writing. He began as a journalist in Montevideo and was editor-in-chief there of both Marcha and Epoca during the early sixties. His first book-length works were fiction, but he soon found his energies driving him to write the true stories of the people of Latin America. He has, since 1967, written over twenty books ofvariously sub-genred nonfiction; over halfofthem have been translated into English. His most recognizable works include 197Vs explosive rant against North American imperialism, The OpenVeins ofLatin America, which Isabel Allende "devoured in two days with such emotion that [she] had to read it again a couple more times to absorb all its meaning "; Days and Nights of Love and War (1979), a fragmentary, autobiographical reminiscence ofthe author's early adulthood, including visits to Nicaragua and Guatemala; The Book of Embraces (1989), a further collection offragments ofothers' stories; and a revisionist history of the Americasfilled with the lives and experiences of those not in power, the trilogy Memory of Fire, which won the American Book Award in 1989. His writing has been awarded the Dutch Aha prize, Uruguay's Ministry ofCulture award, Eduardo Galeano Photo by Paula Haro Patrick Madden Photo by Karina Cabrera 180 Interview with Eduardo Galeano181 and Cuba's Casa de las Americas prize twice. In 1999 he was given thefirst-ever Lannan Prizefor Cultural Freedom. His articles appear regularly in The Nation, and his shortfragments of nonfiction stories can often befound in Grand Street or Mother Jones. His most recent book, Upside Down, has been called both "agitprop " and "electric and exhortative." He was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, in 1940, the grandson of a Welsh immigrant whosefamily name, Hughes, was so difficult to explain that the young Galeano signed his drawings Gius (a phonetic approximation in Spanish) until he dropped the name in favor of his mother's maiden name, Galeano. His teenage years were shaped by the stirrings ofconflict in his native land and in LatinAmerica ingeneral. In 1973, when a right-wing military coup usurpedpower in Uruguay, Galeano went into self-imposed exile,first in Argentina, then in Spain. He returned to Uruguay in 1985. In his writing he has dealt sparingly with his own life experiences, preferring instead tofocus on the stories ofothers. He says, "Tm a curious man, always devouring other people, their voices, their secrets, their stories, their colors. Tm stealing their words; maybe I should be arrested. " He has cultivated afragmentary aphoristic style reminiscent of great essayists such as Simone Weil, Teodor Adorno, and Walter Benjamin. His style is transparently simple, poetic, and dense with meaning, and all ofhis recent books are illustrated with etchings or silhouettedfigures. His writing has been described as "fable,fairy tale, myth, poem, diary,journal, parable,paradox, anecdote , dream. " Sandra Cisneros calls Galeano "the man I consider my teacher. "John Leonard calls him "a dangerous radical storyteller. "Alan Ryan says, "Galeano goes out on the tightrope and then levitates in the air above it. " Eduardo Galeano was interviewedfor Fourth Genre in December 2000 in Café Brasilero, Montevideo's oldest café, established in 1879. The interview was conducted in Spanish and later translated by the interviewer. Madden: I recendy wrote a review ofa new edition ofyour book Days and Nights of Love and War, which begins by challenging the book jacket's categorization ofthe book as "Latin America / History." Why is your writing so hard to classify? Even the distinction between prose and poetry is blurred. Galeano: The problem with what I write is that it's unclassifiable in a single genre. This necessity to put a label on the forehead of every person and every work of culture and every action, or to label the jar and close it tight so you can work with it in the laboratory, this system ofclassification is the enemy of Ufe. Fortunately Ufe is more powerful than that, and I write trying to express fife, and therefore the necessity to express life forces me to violate genres. I understand, however, that for practical reasons nowadays, with thousands of...


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