Fascinating, almost three books rolled into one, one gets glimpses of the life and history of the author and on another level one is plunged into the mythology of the amazon tribes, and also the attitudes and ideals of Peruvian society.
From Florence to Lima to the Amazon this book intriguingly explores the role of the storyteller throughout history. One day in Florence a writer sees a photo of an old school friend , Saul standing amongst the Machiguenga tribe which lives in isolated dispersed groups throughout the amazon. For them the travelling storyteller is their newspaper, their internet, their historian, their entertainment, their library and their wise man. As the living collective memory of the tribe the storyteller reduces their sense of isolation by linking them to the outside world and in turn gives them identity and knowledge. For Saul this is his Kafkaesque metamorphosis into a whole new world . By exploring the Machiguenga's culture the author investigates the human mind as a whole and as the threads of the story become tightly woven a deep human need to tell stories is portrayed This novel can be enjoyed on many levels as it reflects and investigates the parallel co-existence in Latin America of the ultra modern and ancient. As the author explains "At the heart of the same society there is a very modern civilisation that participates in all of the most modern technology and ideology and very primitive societies, archaic that are relatively frozen in time and maintain completely traditional structures, institutions and ideologies." As the aspect of globalisation is delved into we are also left with the tragedy of the inevitable destruction of so many rich and intricate cultures. This short but powerful book with its magical, spell binding narration will by the end leave you re-assessing your own perceptions of society.
It is difficult to decide what to say about this. The writer is clearly accomplished and the world in which the story is set is fascinating, but for me, it doesn't quite add up to a novel. The story about the 2 friends is intriguing but I found the 'storytelling ' sections less so. The tribal words were confusing and difficult to remember, and there was no glossary. It had the epic feel of Spanish language literature, though.