Guest contributor: Bill Lundgren

Lundgren’s Book Lounge: Eduardo Galleano’s “Children of the Days”

categories: Cocktail Hour / Reading Under the Influence

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Throughout his writing life Eduardo Galeano has given voice to the silenced. Hopscotching the globe to elude the death squads of right-wing military dictatorships, he has offered up a steady succession of works of brilliance, mostly chronicling the history of the Americas. He has described himself as “… a writer obsessed with remembering the past of America… intimate land condemned to amnesia.”  His newest work, Children of the Days, continues to expand notions of literary genre. Is he a journalist? An essayist, a historian or novelist? Certainly a poet… Children of the Days follows the days of the calendar to offer up vignettes from the forgotten annals of history. While it is impossible to adequately characterize the cumulative power of the writing, here is a small sampling:



 In 1781 Tupac Amaru was quartered with an ax in the middle of the Plaza de Armas in Cuzco.

Two centuries later, a tourist asked a barefoot boy who shined shoes in that very spot if he had ever met Tupac Amaru. The little bootblack, without raising his head, said that yes, he knew him. While he continued working, he murmured, practically in secret, “He’s the wind.”



Directorium Inquisitorum, published by the Holy Inquisition in the fourteenth century, set down the rules for torture. The most important was: “The accused who hesitates in his responses shall be tortured.”



The state of Sergipe, in Brazil’s Northeast: Paulo Freire begins a new workday with a group of very poor peasant farmers he is teaching to read and write.

“How are you, Joao?”

Joao does not reply. He tugs on the brim of his hat. A long silence. Finally, he says, “I couldn’t sleep. All night long I couldn’t close my eyes.”

No more words come, until he murmurs, “Yesterday, for the first time ever, I wrote my name.” 


On the occasion of Barack Obama’s first diplomatic mission to Latin America, Venezulan President Hugo Chavez gave a copy of Galeano’s classic history of the region, Open Veins of Latin America, to the U.S. President. Unfortunately Obama seems not to have read it or failed to understand its message. What Galeano is telling us is that the disappeared and the silenced and the tortured and the innocent civilians killed in drone attacks, will be heard; if at first only in the pages of these wondrous writings, eventually in the implacable retributive lessons of history.

Epigraph to Colum McCann’s masterful new novel, Transatlantic:

“No history is mute. No matter how much they own
 it, break it, and lie about it, human history refuses to
shut its mouth. Despite deafness and ignorance, the
 time that was continues to tick inside the time that is.
                                                 EDUARDO GALEANO

[Bill Lundgren is a writer and blogger, also a bookseller at Longfellow Books in Portland, Maine (“A Fiercely Independent Community Bookstore”).  He keeps a bird named Ruby, and teaches at Southern Maine Community College.  He is getting a new hip.]



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