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3.0 out of 5 stars Long, unnatural, disappointing - literary but flat, 2 Dec. 2012
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This is `the' Argentinian classic written by Marmol. It was written during the rein of terror of the Dictator Rosa during the 1840s but covers many fictional characters following the factual history and leading individuals up to Rosa the time when he starts to get really nasty. I understand, much like Dickens, it was actually serialised and explains why it is sooo long at 642 pages (I had a paperback or was that a brick - I'd suggest the ebook version)

Ok so we have Daniel Bello, the hero along with his main squeeze Florencia. Then we have Eduardo Belgano and his fancy Amalia. These Unitarians are faced by the Federalist and government backing baddies including Rosa himself, Dona Felipe, Marino, Mario Ezcurra and so on. The action starts Eduardo getting hurt during a failed bid to escape to Montevideo; he is a saved in the nick of time by Bello. Taking him to safety at Amalia's house Eduardo recovers whilst Daniel, being in with the federalists, weaves his plans to defeat Rosa. There's a lot of dialogue, some action and some love interest. There's only one captivating Dickensian character Candido who is a bumbling anxious copyist trying to stay alive in both camps.

I spent a month reading this book and at the end I really don't know why I bothered. Only during the first and last 3 chapters do we get anything approaching Dumas levels of daring do; there is no naturalist realism or sex/passion (such as Zola so easily achieves); Daniel is a sickly sweet hero annoyingly smug and too clever; we aren't given an insight into Rosa himself and all the baddies (i.e. basically normal people trying to stay alive or advance) are ironing board 2D. Amalia and all the goody women are white as sheets and beautiful. It may be historically accurate regarding British, French and Uruguayan involvement but I really can't imagine it even goes 5% into the real panic and terror of the Unitarians as Lavalle fails to make his military advance on Buenos Aires. It is quite literary and a decent read but I disliked the authors repeated entry into the story telling e.g. "The reader will be obliged..." etc

A quote: "..across that city where the ground trembles, where the air carries the smell of blood, where above the clouds there seems to be no God, where on earth there seems to be no men, where everything is lacking save the agony of the soul, the frightening creations of the imagination and the terrible struggle of hope which flees or falls prostrate in a person's bosom, against the reality, against the truth, which reduces to nothing and kills that very hope;"

I could accept its length if it really had had a story to tell over and above the history (covered extensively in appendicies, author's notes etc); which if it had been edited and extracted would be a fast action tale amounting to about 250 pages. There are really many more Latin American classics to read before resorting to this mammoth; try Echeverria's `Slaughterhouse' (covering Rosa too), Aranha's `Canaan', Azevedo's `Slum' (brilliant), Azuela's `Underdogs' or `The Bosses', Torres' `The Land' or Icaza's `Villages'; you could easily get 3 or 4 done in the same time.
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Amalia (Letras Hispanicas/ Hispanic Writings)
Amalia (Letras Hispanicas/ Hispanic Writings) by Jose Marmol (Paperback - Jan. 2001)
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