Posts Tagged ‘Beth Hawkins’

Eduardo Galeano renounces his book: “Reality has changed a lot, and I have changed a lot.”

Friday, May 30th, 2014
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He changed his mind. So what?

It’s never too late to change your mind.

We haven’t been following the news as we ought, so we owe a heads-up and a hat tip to Minnesota journalist (and sister-in-law) Beth Hawkins. So here’s what’s happened.

Uruguayan novelist Eduardo Galeano wrote his iconic The Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent way back in 1971. The book, which describes how centuries of systematic plunder has left a continent in political disarray and poverty, was translated into a dozen languages and sold a million copies. It has been considered equivalent to a bible in university classrooms since its publication, taught in history, anthropology, economics, geography. It was widely embraced in Asia and Africa, as well as South America (though the economic rise of China, India, and Brazil somewhat undermined its logic). It shot to the top of amazon lists more recently, when Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez gave a copy of the book, which he had called “a monument in our Latin American history,” to President Obama at their first meeting.

That was then, this is now. Galeano has repudiated the book, “saying that he was not qualified to tackle the subject and that it was badly written.” From the New York Times:

Predictably, his remarks have set off a vigorous regional debate, with the right doing some “we told you so” gloating, and the left clinging to a dogged defensiveness.

Open Veins tried to be a book of political economy, but I didn’t yet have the necessary training or preparation,” Mr. Galeano said last month while answering questions at a book fair in Brazil, where he was being honored on the 43rd anniversary of the book’s publication. He added: “I wouldn’t be capable of reading this book again; I’d keel over. For me, this prose of the traditional left is extremely leaden, and my physique can’t tolerate it.”

galeano“I know I can be accused of sacrilege in writing about political economy in the style of a novel about love or pirates. But I confess I get a pain from reading valuable works by certain sociologists, political experts, economists and historians who write in code.” We couldn’t agree more. He told the Brazilians, “Reality has changed a lot, and I have changed a lot.”

Others are thinking about his politics, and even Isabel Allende, who wrote a new foreword for the book, is dismayed. We’re thinking about honesty. How many things has Humble Moi written that should be buried in a deep, deep hole!  Kate Bell, whoever she is, summarized our thoughts exactly in the comments section: “I expect all serious writers feel the same about early work. I choked with embarrassment upon unfurling some ancient clips of a minor column I once wrote. And formal economics was just a toddler in the world of academe then, even more so for the developing world. Any ‘told you so’s only demonstrate the immaturity of the taunter.  I’ve been trawling through old textbooks from the 70s. Economics, psychology, marketing … All so dated and dull, fit only for reading in the smallest room.”

Everyone is wondering how to teach this book, now that its author has disavowed it. Easy. Teach the book, and also teach about Galeano’s reservations about it. Teach about then, and teach about now, too. Isn’t that what teaching’s all about?