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REVIEW - LATIN AMERICAN FICTION RECENT TRANSLATIONS OF LATIN AMERICAN FICTION / John Brushwood Ermilo Abreu-Gómez, Canek: History and Legend of a Maya Hero. Translated by Mario L. Dávila and Carter Wilson. University of California Press, 1980. 80 pages. $14.50, $2.95 pb; Fernanco Alegría, The Chilean Spring. Translated by Stephen Fredman. Latin American Literary Review Press, 1980. 160 pages. $7.95 pb; Oswald de Andrade, Seraphim Grosse Pointe. Translated by Kenneth D. Jackson and Albert Bork. New Latin Quarter Editions, 1980. 131 pages. $8.95;* Carlos Fuentes, Burnt Water. Translated by Margaret Sayers Peden. Parrar, Straus and Giroux, 1980. 231 pages. $11.95; Osman Lins, Avalovara. Translated by Gregory Rabassa. Knopf, 1980. 332 pages. $12.95; Luis Rafael Sánchez, Macho Camacho's Beat. Translated by Gregory Rabassa. Random House, Pantheon, 1980. 210 pages. $10.95; Márcio Souza, The Emperor of the Amazon. Translated by Thomas Colchie. Avon, 1980. 190 pages. $2.75 A LEJO CARPENTIER, the Cuban novelist, invented the phrase "marxA . velous reality" to describe a particular way of viewing Latin America. So many things seemed extraordinary, paradoxical, and magical that he could hardly believe what his own eyes saw. His cultural background was rich, and he was no stranger to the inventions of artists—romances and allegories, magicians and dragons, phantasmagoria . In Paris he had witnessed the surrealists hanging watches from tree limbs and calling forth lion's heads from the cervices of women. But these incredible things were only inventions. In America, reality was marvelous and incredible: voodoo mysticism, schizoid dictators, the Manaus grand opera house in the Amazon jungle, the remains of ancient civilizations close by modern cities and these, in turn, adjacent to undeveloped countryside. Carpentier wrote more than thirty years ago. Since then, many novelists have seen Latin America as he did—Miguel Angel Asturias, Demetrio Aguilera Malta, Joäo Guimaräes Rosa, Gabriel García Márquez , among others. It is Garcia Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude that brings this view to the largest number of norteamericanos. This novel's larger-than-life characters and persumably miraculous events satisfy our longing (or anyway, the publishers' longing) for a delightfully exotic Latin-American culture. * The publisher of Seraphim Grosse Pointe has ceased operations. Copies may be purchased from K. D. Jackson, Dept. of Spanish and Portuguese, Univ. of Texas, Austin, TX 78712. The Missouri Review · 97 The Emperor of the Amazon, by Marcio Souza, may well be taken as a parody of the modern Latin-American novel or—if one thinks of parody as disrespectful—an amusing anti-romance based on one of those stranger-than-fiction moments in history that fall within Carpentier's definition of "marvelous reality." Set in the nineteenth century, the novel describes a former journalist and an interesting collection of opportunists who intend to carve out a new country in the Amazon region, against the territorial interests of existing nations. A travelling opera company plays an important role in these deep-jungle politics, and not simply as part of the plot machinery. The presence of an opera company and a luxurious opera house in these regions enhances the sense of this-really-can't-be, and the nature of opera itself colors the meaning of the novel. Early in the story, the hero jumps from a window to avoid confrontation with an offended husband. His fortuitous landing saves the life of a gentleman of importance and sets the course of the plot. He is blessed with limitless charm and the ability of a James Bond to extricate himself from difficult situations. Of course he is a great lover who counts among his conquests an aristocratic beauty, an operatic soprano, and a former nun; he has his macho way, so to speak, with three major social institutions—the aristocracy, the arts, and the church. Souza does nothing to make him a serious character, and the prose style, at least in the English version, makes an interesting contrast by dealing with this opportunist and his rascally actions in sustained elegant language. The effect is to give the novel some of the quality of comic opera—a comic opera in a highly improbable...


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