And All of Us Were Actors, A Century of Light and Shadow

  • Autor: Gustavo Gac-Artigas, translated by Andrea G. Labinger
  • Biografía Autor: Gustavo Gac-Artigas
  • Género: Literatura y Novela
  • ISBN: 978-1930879720
  • Nº Páginas: 456
  • Encuadernación: Tapa blanda
  • Año: 2016

Cinematic, tragicomic, iconoclastic, And All of Us Were Actors tells the story of a near-fantastic journey through the most pivotal moments of a continent’s history. A man of the theater, activist, and eternal romantic, our hero, the protagonist, spins a new Odyssey before our eyes. Traveling from Buenos Aires to Bogotá along Andean byways, he recalls Thespis, who, exiled from Athens, took to the road in a carriage and gave rise to the notion of the itinerant theater. As he travels, our hero reveals hidden paths; some leading out of the mountains to immense open spaces, others to prison cells. At once hero and anti-hero, director and cast member, he passes through natural wilderness, international festivals, Chilean torture chambers, and European exile, in a magical voyage along the Cordillera and beyond, all while engaged in a running conversation with his 36-ton truck and the night sky. And All of Us Were Actors invites readers to join a feast, choosing, from among multiple textual possibilities, those morsels that will regale their senses and pique their appetites for new dishes. Dining, they follow our hero as he evolves through privation and plenty, seizing on that lucky occasion to devour a sheep’s head, a gift from the gods and the Indians of the Bolivian highlands. Reviews: "Gac-Artigas engages in dialogue with diverse literary voices that . . . reflect on the meta-reality of literature, whether in theatrical, narrative, or poetic form: Shakespeare, Neruda, Brecht, Dante, Cervantes, Joyce, Homer . . . We readers rise and are born with him, as the narrator invokes Neruda, who in turn invoked the vigorous Incan people in Heights of Machu Picchu." Moisés Park, Revista de la Academia Norteamericana de la Lengua Española, Vol. V, 20 September 2016). "... the lyricism and different levels of interpretation found in this marvelous journey to the interior of the American continent . . . of the theater . . . [and] of the mind of this actor and witness throughout his journey across the century . . . capture the reader's desire to immerse himself in the story so as to discover, along with the protagonist, the brutality and beauty of a century that cannot leave us unmoved." (Resonancias.org, 3 January 2016). An artist embarks on a momentous journey during turbulent times. Though the author draws on his own experiences, this ambitious book is a novelistic work rather than a memoir. Gac-Artigas’ (Ado’s Plot of Land, 2002, etc.) hero has a view from the ground of historical movements, plying his trade as an actor, theater director, and poet in Chile during the months leading up to the 1970 election and in Colombia at the dawn of the drug trade. He immerses himself in revolutionary politics and romance in Paris and Rome in the late ’60s and, at different times, finds himself in jail and then exiled from his native Chile. He is an activist and an artist in dangerous times and places, traveling the world from South America to Europe, often fleeing one place to get to another. Along the way, he shares some observations of the countries he visits (“On entering Colombia, when you enter the hot lands—and along its borders there are no cold lands—the damp heat clings to your body; the mosquitoes cling to your body so they can slake their thirst for fresh blood; its history clings to your body and to your history”). Ultimately, he starts over with his family in Rotterdam. While based on Gac-Artigas’ life story, what the author is after here isn’t an orderly tale. It’s more evocative than informational. The prose can be beautiful and lyrical, as when he talks about the birth of the protagonist’s daughter, writing, “The lights bowed their heads before her beauty and her honey-colored skin, and nestled her among its rays.” But the narrative often doesn’t provide a grounding in a period or place, making it hard to judge where a scene is happening, who is there, or where it fits into the timeline. And as skilled as the author’s poetry can be, he is also prone to get lost in his own language. In one passage, he writes: “That was the beginning of the mirror refracting his image, reflecting both reality and the individual, torn between the anguish of other people’s suffering and the unbearable pain it inflicted on oneself.” That sentence continues for several more lines, making the meaning of the original metaphor impenetrable. There are some wonderful moments in this work, but the author’s design makes them hard to unearth. This globe-trotting tale remains a tough read for anyone looking for linear storytelling. KIRKUS REVIEWS

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