“Life is nothing if not a random motion of coincidences and quirks of chance; it never goes as planned or as foretold; frequently one gains happiness from being obliged to follow an unchosen path or misery from following a chosen one. “
I’m reading Bernieres backward. I started with Birds Without Wings and I’ve been working my way backward through his publication history. This book (which must be a contender for “Best Title of the 20th century”) was published in 1990. It was a very ambitious first novel. In an author’s note, Bernieres states that he has created an imaginary Latin American country with history, topography and language jumbled up from various sources. There are nearly 40 characters whose lives intersect in a story that includes guerilla war, military corruption, paranormal intervention, brutality, passion, outrageous humor and biting satire.
I was mildly disappointed that Don Emmanuel’s nether parts play a very minor role in the story. In a very round about way, it is essentially the story of an impoverished, insignificant village and its hilariously devious victory over the corrupt and brutal military establishment. It is a temporary victory. I found the surreal salvation of the village to be the weakest part of the story. The best parts concern individual characters who are drawn realistically, but with great affection and humor. As in his later books, Bernieres has an underlying social agenda. He touches on the implications of United States covert military intervention, drug trafficking, the Falklands Island conflict, and international pressure concerning ‘Los Deseparecidos”.
There are a great many similarities between this book and the later Birds Without Wings. It even begins with the death of a bird, in this case, a vulture. The later book is stronger and I’ve tried to define why I think so. The biggest difference is the use of first person narrative. Bernieres allowed the many characters of Eskibahce to speak for themselves. The characters in Don Emmanuel’s fictional country did not speak up in their own voices. They are wonderful characters, but they stayed in the book and did not come alive for me in the same way.
- Paperback: 384 pages
- Publisher: VINTAGE ARROW - MASS MARKET; 1 edition (1 September 1991)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0749391308
- ISBN-13: 978-0749391300
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.4 x 19.8 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 200 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 106,012 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)