This is my first venture into respected leftist author, Eric Hobsbawm’s work. The book was compiled after the author’s death in 2012 and is a collection of his writings on Latin America after he spent over forty years passionately exploring the continent. The essays have a deep focus on the poor masses of the populations, the peasants, the guerrillas, the indigenous natives. Latin America is at a crossroads between Third World poverty and Western modernity. A mainly homogenous tongue (ie. Spanish) unites the continent and the erosion of old colonial privileged elites has led to the people gaining much power at the bottom rungs of society. there are detailed chapters on Castro’s Cuban revolution, the fallout of ‘La Violencia’ and ensuing FARC civil war conflict in Colombia, and the progress of pure democratic socialism in Allende’s Chile. Hobsbawm can microanalyse peasant conditions in remote Peruvian altiplano villages yet never loses track of the underlying general political picture. The burdens of colonialism and unfair international political relationships are often seen as a root cause for lack of development. The author always maintains an optimism for the disaffected masses who he protects with intellectual rigour, even if in many cases the reality of the actual situations and future prospects are often futile. This book will form a great reference tool for my university essays on Hispanic Studies and I hope that I can continue to explore Eric Hobsbawm’s other wide range of literary material.
When you see the title ‘The Cartel’ you might immediately imagine a book about Colombian or Mexican drug lords. Yet, this book covers a 30 year history of a homegrown cartel, based in Liverpool. Back in the 1970s a pioneering Fred the Rat grouped together his criminal comrades and they moved from bank robberies and burglaries into drug importation and reselling. At its height the Liverpool cartel was importing 60% of the UK’s narcotics. International expansion took cartel employees into Spain, Turkey, North Africa, The Netherlands and South America. Police were oblivious to much of what was going on and characters such as ‘The Analyst’ had their work cut out, only many years later getting serious results through the hard work of the MCU (Major Crime Unit). The story of notorious Scouse trafficker, Curtis Warren is a highlight of the book, most probably his ostentatiousness proving hiss downfall, after appearing in the Sunday Times Rich List, getting busted by Dutch police and serving a long prison sentence in Holland. The global matrix structure of the cartel meant it operated like a large multinational business. The book’s violence is astounding. From street gangs, doormen companies, professional hits, murders (including links to the Crimewatch presenter Jill Dando’s killing), internecine wars and revenge attacks plus the rip off and advantage-taking of gullible workers further down the chain of command, blood is almost always flowing. The murder of the Cream head doorman by a 20 strong gang in a pub with machetes and baseball bats was particularly gruesome. For me, the highlight of the well woven tale was the ongoing saga of the never caught division featuring Poncho, Kaiser, Scarface and Hector. Based mainly in Amsterdam, these renegades dealt directly with the Cali Cartel and were the first to import a metric ton of cocaine to the UK. I found the tandem ascent of the UK Rave scene and dance music culture to be particularly relevant. The author has done good research and knows how to captivate the reader’s attention. I shall certainly be checking out more of Graham Johnson’s books. This book is only short and is divided into 45 chapters of only a few pages long. Yet after each chapter it takes a polite pause of breath to work out what is going on and to let the information seep in. The tale is traumatic. Definitely a five star, truly entertaining and…
Postcolonial Translation: Theory and Practice by Susan Bassnett My rating: 3 of 5 stars I’ve read a few articles on the subject of postcolonial translation and have found the area to be interesting. I thought I’d delve a little deeper into the subject. This book is a collection of nine extended essays. My first criticism is that there is too much of an emphasis on postcolonial translation in India. Whereas, due to the nature of the Indian multilingual community and its relationship with the British Empire, I can see how it can be an important focus in postcolonial translation, I felt that this book devotes too much to this one region and doesn’t fully explore more exotic regions of the world. There is very little reference to Africa and not much on South America, certainly not the Spanish-speaking part of South America. Thus, the book takes into consideration English as a primary language and the effect of British imperialism. A more varied range of essays with reference to other colonial powers would, I feel, add some spice to the book’s material. The essay on border writing in Quebec, was, I feel, the best essay in the collection. I did also, however, surprisingly, take a lot out of the Hélène Cixous / Clarice Lispector essay. Although, at first glance, the study of a famous French feminist’s obsession with a Brasilian (feminist) writer, may seem a bit trivial, I found that this essay best introduced me to new ideas and ways of viewing postcolonial translation. It is in essence a power struggle of differentials between colonised people and coloniser. When you add in the mix of a feminist outlook into translation, then some truly profound revelations come into play and I felt that the author of this particular essay (Rosemary Arrojo), developed some very interesting and original ideas, which could be applied to the whole field of postcolonial translation. Overall, this book was perhaps a bit too advanced for my tastes and it was rather difficult to maintain elevated excitement throughout the course of reading it. View all my reviews
Romantic Revolutionary: Simon Bolivar and the Struggle for Independence in Latin America by Robert Harvey My rating: 4 of 5 stars Simon Bolivar was one of history’s great characters. His revolutions across South America overthrew Spanish rule in six countries. His empire extended across the continent and was as large as that of Genghis Khan or Alexander the Great. Against all the odds, he was a Nietzchean superhuman, who with mainly inferior forces, defeated a strong European military power. He would race for battles across thousands of miles, often having to deal with the impossible geography of Latin America to do so. He was very sympathetic to the needs of the people, across all races and classes yet he had a vicious streak that was sometimes necessary to curb the power of his enemies and to protect his ideals. His military prowess as a general was unmatched yet he lacked the cut-throat political acuteness in order to rule his legacy in peace time. Bolivar’s romantic notions allowed the rise of caudillos who would nearly all turn against him by the end of his life. His life was semi-divine, mystical and has inspired many to this day yet his failure to govern successfully left him impoverished at the end of his life, seeking exile. perhaps he was too successful and took on too much? Perhaps he didn;t do enough and should have continued to liberate the whole continent? This book is interesting and well-written and gives a good insight into the life of a legendary character. View all my reviews
Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl My rating: 5 of 5 stars I’ve been to Polynesia, and stood out on a deserted beach, staring out at the vastness of the Pacific, it is only natural to imagine how these people first arrived in such a remote location. Thor Heyerdahl, in living memory, in one of the greatest sea voyages of all time, also wondered this, and set in motion a fabulous journey to emulate the ancestors of the modern day Polynesians, by sailing on a traditional pae-pae or raft from his theorized seeding point of the race in Peru. Kon-Tiki was a pre-Incan King who escaping from battle defeat on mainland South America, headed off into the Pacific Ocean sunset, seeking new lands. Thor and his five Scandic compadres repeated this adventure, having thoroughly researched every detail of it. Their voyage was viewed by most experts as a complete suicide mission. This book narrates wonderfully the ship’s log, as they trundled along the empty oceans on a unique epic of discovery. From the sea creatures they encountered en route, to the sparseness of their abode, Heyerdahl records in graphic detail every aspect of their plight. It is a truly enlightening tale, which reads exceptionally well. It is a real page-turner, which grips you as the journey progresses and you genuinely can empathise with the men’s elation when they finally strike land and spend a few weeks partying with the natives, Polynesian style. It’s a happy tale and an amazing true story. A great read! Highly recommended. View all my reviews