Coincident with the publication of esteemed author/activist Eduardo Galeano’s new tome, Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History (Nation books), Tom Engelhardt appended an anecdote of his personal connection to Galeano with his broadcast of an excerpt from the new opus:
First, a confession. Whenever I read a new Eduardo Galeano book, I drive my wife crazy. I can’t help myself. I wander out every five minutes, saying, “You’ve got to hear this.” And then I read her some moving, dazzling passage, and disappear, only to reappear five minutes later, saying, “You’ve got to hear this.” The arrival of a new book by one of our great writers is always an event. This is publication day for his latest work, Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History. It follows Mirrors, his history of humanity in 366 well-chosen episodes. You might think of his latest volume as a prayer book for our time: a page a day for 365 days focused on what’s most human and beautiful, as well as what’s most grasping and exploitative, on this small, crowded planet of ours. I would be urging all of you to celebrate the event and buy copies under any circumstances. (Confession: once, long ago in another life, I was Galeano’s U.S. editor and when his Memory of Fire trilogy burrowed into our North American landscape and refused to leave, it was among the best moments of my book publishing life.) Today, however, is a double celebration for me, because Galeano, the single most charismatic (and modest) man I’ve ever met, appears at TomDispatch for the first time. I’ve chosen six “days” from his new book, just a taste of the year’s worth of pleasures between its covers. What follows is a little introduction in imitation of his distinctive style. Tom]
My own experience with Eduardo Galeano began when I read about him in a Talk of the Town piece by Lawrence Weschler and later in his book on post dictatorship Argentina and Brazil(A Miracle, a Universe: Settling Accounts with Torturers (Pantheon 1990). In a piece in the New Yorker called The Dept of Amplification, Uruguay Weschler recounts Galeano’s gripping personal story: Galeano is of Argentine-Uruguayan heritage and when he was asked why he chose to live in Montevideo, he responded “if I was murdered in Uruguay it would be by an enemy but if I was murdered in Argentina it could be either an enemy or friend.”*
Eduardo and I have chatted a number of times (2 or 3?), the last coming in 2006, when we sat in my Chrysler rag top, parked on North Avenue Beach in Chicago, on a blustery June day with my hound Rosie in the back seat (they both took a liking to each other) That conversation is reproduced here
EG: … Each language contains its own music and therefore when you are translating you are coming from one music and inventing another one. Which music would be the best in order to get these ideas, emotions, feeling, memories, possibly to be shared by other people from other cultures, from other languages. I don’t believe really in God, nowadays.
RB: Did you ever?
EG: In my childhood, yes, I was very Catholic. And in my childhood I was a fervent reader of the Bible, then there were some stories that I didn’t like too much but I didn’t know why. And as time had gone by, years had passed, I am now able now to understand why for instance the Tower of Babel story was a story I didn’t like at all. This God acting like a universal chief of police, punishing and hating and being—how could he find that giving us the diversity of languages was a punishment? The diversity of languages is one of the best treasures of the human condition, of the fact of being human in this earth. Because diverse is the best thing, I mean, the best of the world is the fact that the world contains so many worlds inside. And so many languages. We have different languages because we have different musics and we are walking musics. As we are walking time.
For years I have been buying up remainders of Eduardo’s The Book of Embraces and giving them away.Patrick Madden efuses:
Sandra Cisneros, in her introduction to the 2000 edition of Eduardo Galeano’s Days and Nights of Love and War, writes, “I believe that certain people, events, and books come to you when they must, at their precise moment in history.” For me, The Book of Embraces, in its Spanish version, El libro de los abrazos, arrived as a gift from my Uruguayan brother- and sister-in-law. My wife told me that it was a well known and beloved book by the most famous of contemporary Uruguayan authors. I flipped through its pages and was ecstatic to find pictures and short fragments. I had been experimenting with fragments in my own writing. Even before I read a word of the book, I felt like I had found a soul brother or a mentor
* as a leftist activist and journalist Galaeno was at risk for assassination or disappearance
Currently reading Land of the Living by Austin Ratner (Reagan Arthur)