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The Armies (New Directions Paperbook) Paperback – 10 Jun 2010

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Paperback: 199 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Co.; 1 edition (10 Jun. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811218643
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811218641
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 1.8 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,565,495 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

TheArmies is written in a compressed, lean style, which addressesthe difficulty of the material with uncompromising clarity. Itis a fragile tone, but Anne McLean's translation does full justiceto it.

A disturbing allegory of life during wartime, in which little appears to happen while at the same time entire lives and worlds collapse. This is an important and powerful book.

Evelio Rosero has dipped his pen in blood and written an epic in 215 pages. If anyone has wondered if there is life in the Colombian novel after magical realism, this is the evidence of the extraordinary power of that country's literature.--Linda Grant

The Armies is written in a compressed, lean style, which addresses the difficulty of the material with uncompromising clarity. It is a fragile tone, but Anne McLean's translation does full justice to it.

The best literary rendering of the Colombian conflict to reach American readers since Marquez Nightmarish, surreal, yet true to life.--Megan Doll"

A brutal but beautiful novel about life in Colombia ... has won the Independent foreign fiction prize [UK].--Alison Flood

It is an extraordinary, devastating book, spare and gripping, by turns painful and cruel . Rosero is unflinching.--Ben Ehrenreich"

A scathing indictment of the current political situation in Colombia.--Roberta Gordenstein

About the Author

Anne McLean has won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize twice, as well as the Premio Valle Incla n. She has translated the works of Javier Cercas, Julio Cort zar, Carmen Mart n Gaite, Ignacio Padilla, and Evelio Rosero.

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Format: Paperback
(4.5 stars) Within this short, allegorical book, Evelio Rosero creates a microcosm of Colombian rural life in the fictional community of San Jose, where no one knows who will attack them next--the army, the paramilitaries, the guerrillas, or the drug lords. Though the residents are peaceful small farmers with no interest in the country's politics, every militant faction vying for power in Colombia somehow believes that these residents constitute an imminent threat. The four militant groups each want to dominate and control the area to prevent any other group from controlling it, and they are willing to massacre innocent men, women, and even babies to achieve their bloody but elusive goals.

In the hands of Colombian author Rosero, every character in the novel becomes a sort of Everyman, an ordinary person living his own life, just like the ordinary people in any other country. Because Rosero also creates intriguing, quirky personalities for his characters, they are livelier than most other generic, "Everyman" characters, and they therefore generate sympathy and understanding of their individual problems while they also represent broader, more elevated themes. As the village comes under fire from bloodthirsty enemies as undifferentiated to the residents as they are to the reader, the author's universal themes of good vs. evil, power vs. subservience, and human kindness vs. barbarism become allegorically obvious.

Ismael Pasos, a seventy-year-old retired teacher, lives with his wife Otilia, also a teacher, on a small farm, the highlight of his life being his daily climb of a ladder to watch his neighbor's young wife, Geraldina, sunbathing nude.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x89e012f4) out of 5 stars 3 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x89e0c348) out of 5 stars "It is extraordinary, we seem besieged by an army that is invisible." 13 July 2010
By Mary Whipple - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
(4.5 stars) Within this short, allegorical book, Evelio Rosero creates a microcosm of Colombian rural life in the fictional community of San Jose, where no one knows who will attack them next--the army, the paramilitaries, the guerrillas, or the drug lords. Though the residents are peaceful small farmers with no interest in the country's politics, every militant faction vying for power in Colombia somehow believes that these residents constitute an imminent threat. The four militant groups each want to dominate and control the area to prevent any other group from controlling it, and they are willing to massacre innocent men, women, and even babies to achieve their bloody but elusive goals.

In the hands of Colombian author Rosero, every character in the novel becomes a sort of Everyman, an ordinary person living his own life, just like the ordinary people in any other country. Because Rosero also creates intriguing, quirky personalities for his characters, they are livelier than most other generic, "Everyman" characters, and they therefore generate sympathy and understanding of their individual problems while they also represent broader, more elevated themes. As the village comes under fire from bloodthirsty enemies as undifferentiated to the residents as they are to the reader, the author's universal themes of good vs. evil, power vs. subservience, and human kindness vs. barbarism become allegorically obvious.

Ismael Pasos, a seventy-year-old retired teacher, lives with his wife Otilia, also a teacher, on a small farm, the highlight of his life being his daily climb of a ladder to watch his neighbor's young wife, Geraldina, sunbathing nude. Now elderly, Ismael and Otilia are about to visit Hortensia Galindo on the fourth anniversary of the disappearance of her husband, captured by some unknown militant group and now "disappeared." Within days, his neighbor, the "Brazilian," his son, and their 12-year-old female cook, have also been taken. Nothing is being done to find the missing.

As circumstances become progressively worse and the atrocities become ever more brutal, Ismael becomes less lucid. The final scenes challenge the reader to see any hope for a peaceful life for these villagers, any hope for the future, any hope that beauty and kindness and love can possibly exist within such a culture. Though some readers may become frustrated at not knowing exactly which factions are perpetrating the various acts of violence, others will find that not knowing the answers puts them into the shoes of the villagers more directly. Some may also feel that the characterization of Ismael becomes vague and hard to follow when he begins to lose his hold on reality, while others will feel it makes him even more human and damaged by events. The novel leaves many questions regarding the future of this area, but it leaves no question at all about the courage of the author to raise these issues in print while they are continuing. Mary Whipple
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x89bc3f18) out of 5 stars Innocent bystander-victims in the living hell that is rural Colombia 20 Nov. 2012
By R. M. Peterson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Evelio Rosero (born 1958) is a prolific Colombian novelist, who has won several prestigious awards. THE ARMIES is his most celebrated novel and the only one translated into English. It was written in 2006 and was his thirteenth novel over a span of a quarter century. In a nutshell, it depicts the effect of the violence that has wracked Colombia over the past four decades on everyday Colombians who are innocent bystanders.

The first-person narrator of THE ARMIES is Ismael Pasos, a retired schoolteacher in San José, a rural Colombian town. Ismael is now seventy years old and beginning to suffer the physical aches and infirmities of age. Early in his narrative we learn that forty years previously, he had been attracted to a young woman, Otilia, in the waiting area of a bus station. As she coyly moved away with a sidelong glance, a boy came up to an old man sitting on the bench next to Ismael, pressed a revolver to the old man's forehead, pulled the trigger, threw the gun far away, and casually walked out of the bus station. Ismael and Otilia were given assigned seats next to one another on their bus and, despite that inauspicious introduction to one another, a romance was born and they were married. Ismael's narrative has passing references to other incidents of sudden, random violence in the intervening years, the worst being two years previously, when the town church was blown up.

Over the span of Ismael's narrative the mayhem intensifies. Successive waves of guerillas, paramilitaries, the army, and drug traffickers sweep back and forth through the town and the surrounding countryside. Many citizens of San José become collateral damage and others are targeted for wanton, deliberate slaughter. Still others are kidnapped. During a particularly destructive firefight in the town, Otilia disappears and her goldfish and one of her cats are killed by a bomb of some sort. Ismael struggles on, along with the two remaining cats ("the Survivors"), wondering whether Otilia too has been kidnapped and if so whether he will receive a ludicrously exorbitant ransom demand. As time goes on, Ismael seems to increasingly lose touch with reality, and as civil order ebbs away to nothing, most of the inhabitants vacate the town until only Ismael and few other crazies remain.

Ismael's tale is harrowing, gruesome, and infinitely sad. It is told in unadorned language and its horrors are more horrific because they are related with such understatement. No doubt THE ARMIES does convey, in memorable fashion, the tragedies of quotidian, rural life in much of Colombia.

But I was vaguely dissatisfied with the novel, I think for two reasons, both relating to the character of Ismael. First, he is presented (or, he presents himself, and rightly so it seems) as a dirty old man, always leering at the physical sexual attributes of women and even young girls. Because he is so self-centered, lecherous, and not particularly likeable, it is more difficult to feel great compassion and sorrow for him. Second, his concern for Otilia after she disappears is inconsistent with his attitude towards her up to that point, when to him she is essentially a self-righteous pain in the butt. In other words, the portrayal of the wretched civil disorder in Colombia is powerful, but the character of the protagonist seems somewhat askew.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8a3e6aa4) out of 5 stars For Today 17 Sept. 2013
By David J - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Read this book. And then tell other people about it. This is what I am trying to accomplish here. It is worthwhile.
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