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Category Archive for 'Colombia'

The acolyte Tancredo, the tormented main character of this wicked satire by Colombian author Evelio Rosero, has a terrible fear of becoming an animal, especially on Thursdays. A young hunchback from Bogota, Tancredo has been living in the rectory of the church since childhood, when he was taken in by Fr. Juan Pablo Almida and given an education with the idea that he would one day enter the church. The biggest problem for Tancredo, however, is that he is worked so hard he has little time for anything else, especially since he has been assigned the task of running the Community Meals Program, Monday through Friday, each day serving a different congregation. The arrival of Fr. San Jose Matamoros del Palacio and the departure of Fr. Almida and his sacristan (Tancredo’s superiors) for a meeting with Don Justiniano, the church’s patron, set the stage for the novella’s turning point, both hilarious and horror-filled. Fr. Matamoros is totally different from Almida and Machado, singing the Mass and inspiring the congregation with his passion. When Fr. Matamoros concludes the service, he is persuaded to stay the night in the presbytery, and when all the electricity goes out, those who have worked much of their lives in and for the church make their confessions, suggesting indirectly some of the sins of Fr. Almida and Celeste Machado. A terrific satire!

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Within the two hundred fifteen pages of this short, allegorical novel, Evelio Rosero creates a microcosm of Colombian rural life in the fictional community of San Jose, where no one knows who will attack them next—the army, the paramilitaries, the guerrillas, or the drug lords. Though the residents are peaceful small farmers and businessmen with few, if any, ties to the “outside” world and virtually no interest in the country’s politics, every militant faction vying for power in Colombia somehow believes that these residents constitute an imminent threat. Every character in the novel becomes a sort of Everyman, an ordinary person living his own life, just like the ordinary people in any other country, with similar kinds of goals, a similar desire for love and family, and a similar belief (or non-belief) in a higher spiritual power. Because Rosero also creates intriguing, quirky personalities for his characters, they are livelier than most other generic, “Everyman” characters, and they therefore generate sympathy and understanding of their individual problems while they also represent broader, more elevated themes.

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