Alejandro’s Much Ado About Books


Like last week the Literature Post I dedicated it to examples of Costa Rican Literature, I wanted to take this opportunity to dedicate this week to expose examples of Ibero-American Literature, which is obviously very wide and impossible to cover even the most well-known authors in the 9 accustomed options but I hope to serve as a guide for those who have not read these books, or embarking on their own research to find the Ibero-American author of your choice. Also wanted to make a balance between classics and contemporary novels, as well as venture into different genres to the ones which initially always people think about Ibero-American literature. And if at the end, they are not your types of books, that’s fine, just seek out other genres or geographical regions where there could be the type of books that you really want to read. Read. Any book. Just read.


Don Quixote

Loved by some, hated by others, but ultimately it is undeniable to admit that the most important Ibero-American novel that has been published is “The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha” by the author Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. The book has been described as the first modern novel, originally published between 1605 (the first part) and 1615 (the second part), and also is the most translated and best-selling book, second only to the Bible.

The novel chronicles the misadventures of a man, old and very thin, that he call himself as a knight, adopting the name of Don Quixote de la Mancha, which with a hack named as Rocinante and with the assistance of a squire known as Sancho Panza, got out into the world in search of fighting giants and save damsels in distress, which causes that everyone believe him as crazy.


Doña Bárbara

This is my favorite Ibero-American novel.

This book is by Rómulo Gallegos, an author from Venezuela, published in 1929. This novel tells the story of a woman, a “man-eater” woman, whose name is Barbara and everybody calls her “Doña Barbara”, “doña” means like “mrs”. But that title here denotes also the respect and fear that everybody, specially the men, have for her. And her first name “Barbara”, is a real name used by many women but in Spanish also means “wild” and this is crutial in the story, since she lives in the deep of the jungle around the Arauca River. She is a landlady, powerful, rich and ruthless. When she was young, she was raped by pirates, also losing her first love, so she became bitter and hating to all men.

The other main character in this story is “Santos Luzardo” whose name is another word game, like with Doña Barbara, only a little more tricky, “Santos” means “saint” and “Luzardo” means like “light”, and so he is like the saint light of civilization and progress that it’s entering to the wilderness of the jungle.

The shock when those powerful characters meet is the very heart of the story. And don’t worry if you think that I spoiled you the book, all that it’s only the introduction of the main characters. The story is just beginning.


The Shadow of the Wind

This novel was published in 2001 by author Carlos Ruiz Zafón, a native of Barcelona, ​​Spain, and although it is relatively a very recent book, has quickly become very popular and translated into dozens of languages​​.

Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julián Carax. But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax’s books in existence. Soon Daniel’s seemingly innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets–an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love.



This is the last novel written by the Chilean author Roberto Bolaño, in fact the writer died before it could be published. This book published in 2005, has quickly placed in the highest positions of the Ibero-American literature, which in itself, he was an author with a prolific list of published novels.

Four professors of literature, Pelletier, Morini, Espinoza and Norton, are united in their fascination with the work of Beno von Archimboldi, an enigmatic German writer whose reputation is growing worldwide. Complicity of intellectual vaudeville turns into a pilgrimage to Santa Teresa (supposed to be Ciudad Juárez), where some say Archimboldi has been seen. Already there, Pelletier and Espinoza learn that the city has been for years the scene of a long string of crimes: in landfills appear corpses of women with signs of having been raped and tortured. It is the first hint of the novel to its stormy flow, full of memorable characters whose stories, some are of innocent humorlaughter while others are of real horror, spanning two continents and include a dizzying traveling in the European history of the Twentieth century.


Trojan Horse

This book published in 1984 by investigative journalist JJ Benitez, a native of Spain, since its release caused a stir because Benitez has always ensured that the documents that formed his first book they were delivered by a mysterious man known only as “The Mayor” who had been an officer of the United States Air Force and who claims to have participated in a top secret project called “Trojan Horse” that sent people back in time to do research on events in the past, and that in the case of “The Mayor”, his mission was to visit Galilee in the days of Jesus of Nazareth. And although obviously the government of the United States has never confirmed this story, you just have to note that the publishing house who originally published the first book, classified it as “Non Fiction”.

Controversial and even hated by some, but it is indisputable that “Trojan Horse” and its subsequent sequels have become ones of the best known books in Ibero-American literature, translated into dozens of languages.

The Underdogs

The Underdogs (Los de Abajo) is a novel originally published in 1916 by the Mexican author Mariano Azuela. Narrating fictitious events in the midst of the authentic Mexican Revolutionary War (1910-1920), which as you can notice, was published when that war was still raging.

Mariano Azuela, who was a military medic in that war, in fact he had to exile himself to El Paso, Texas, and it was there that he wrote this book, first in segments published on a local newspaper and later it was published finally as a novel.

A good thing about the book while it mentions big names like Pancho Villa, all those historic characters are secondary and in many times only mentioned and not actually having active roles in the story. The book narrates the fictional revolutionary campaign of Colonel Demetrio Macías, and in almost the whole book, the reader perceived the events through the eyes and opinions of Luis Cervantes, a young idealist man who joined the Macías’ insurgent army.

Another good thing about the book is that the author, Mariano Azuela, didn’t glorify the war but without any remorse, it portraited as something dark, violent and senseless. The novel shows how ironic is the situation of the revolutionary forces where they have battled for years without having any real political position or even knowing why they were in either side of the war.

Also shows how poverty was ruling in the Mexican towns to an extreme that even the revolutionary soldiers have money but the towns didn’t have anything to sell, barely surviving, questioning how any good can be doing that revolutionary war to the civilians in the middle of the battling.

Irony is a strong issue in the narrative of the story, since the very beginning of it is based on it, due that Demetrio Macías, the main character didn’t have any interest to be part of the revolution but when an enemy of Macías, labeled him as a member of the revolutionary forces, the Federal army tried to arrest him, but it provoked instead that he would form his own ragtag army and entering, for real, in the revolution.

Also, I think that Mariano Azuela with intention or not, he acomplished perfectly with this novel to show the seven deadly sins: Wrath, Greed, Sloth, Pride, Lust, Envy and Gluttony, where the main character, Demetrio Macías is guilty of each sin at some point in his life, but also the rest of the characters are guilty of some of those sins. Showing that in a war, and even worse, a civil war (since making a war to destroy another’s country is bad, making one to destroy your own’s country is even worse), the sins run free causing amok.


The House of Spirits

This novel by the famous Chilean writer Isabel Allende, was first published in 1982, by an editorial in Argentina, due to the political situation at that time in power in Chile and forced the author to escape from her own country to save her life.

With this book debuted the prolific career of Isabel Allende, easily turning as the most influential female writer in the Ibero-American literature.

The novel tells the epic story of the large and turbulent Trueba family, based in Chile, with its troubled patriarch and his clairvoyant women, tracing their lives from the end of the IXX century to the violent days of the coup that overthrew the government of Salvador Allende in 1973.


The Alquimist

This novel was originally published in 1988, failing on its first edition to make sales, but thanks to that the Brazilian Paulo Coelho decided to change of publishing house, once published his second novel “Brida”, this one “tow” to “The Alchemist” making it not only a best-seller in Brazil but beyond the borders reaching sales of 65 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling books ever, and translated into 80 different languages ​​including wining a Guinness World Record for most translated book written by an author still alive.

This story is about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried in the Pyramids. Along the way he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king, and an alchemist, all of whom point Santiago in the direction of his quest. No one knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles along the way.


One Hundred Years of Solitude

It is undoubtedly the masterpiece of the career of the Colombian writer, Gabriel García Márquez, which was published in 1967 and since then it has sold 30 million copies, translated into 40 languages ​​included in the list of the 100 best novels of all time several countries such as France and Norway. An interesting anecdote is that when García Márquez was trying to publish the novel, he presented it to Carlos Barral, director of the publishing house Seix Barral in Barcelona, ​​and that man told him “I think that this novel is not going to succeed, I think this novel does not work”. Today, the name of Gabriel Garcia Marquez is known around the world meanwhile not even on Spain is not recognized the name of Carlos Barral.

The book tells the story of the Buendia family for seven generations using as a framework the fictional town of Macondo.





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