Assault on Paradise


Assault on Paradise vividly depicts the Conquistadores and the Church invading Central America, impoverishing one world to enrich another. In a fast-paced, bawdy, swashbuckling adventure in Central America of the early 1700s, Costa Rican novelist Tatiana Lobo lays bare the dark legacy of the Conquistadores and the Church. Through the central picaresque story of Pedro Albaran, Lobo dramatizes the intrigues of politicians and the Inquisition and the bloody battles between the native people and the invaders, while ...

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Assault on Paradise vividly depicts the Conquistadores and the Church invading Central America, impoverishing one world to enrich another. In a fast-paced, bawdy, swashbuckling adventure in Central America of the early 1700s, Costa Rican novelist Tatiana Lobo lays bare the dark legacy of the Conquistadores and the Church. Through the central picaresque story of Pedro Albaran, Lobo dramatizes the intrigues of politicians and the Inquisition and the bloody battles between the native people and the invaders, while simultaneously presenting a reverent poetic recreation of indigenous cosmogony and mystical values which the natives seek to use to drive out the invaders.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"....Assault on Paradise can be considered a critique of colonialism and its cruelties, it is not only that. For in her portrayal of its feckless hero, Lobo moves her novel well beyond polemic and into the realm of art." — The New York Times Book Review
Library Journal
On the one hand a hilarious swashbuckling adventure, on the other a bloody, bitter indictment of the Catholic Church in the colonizing of Central America, this novel deservedly won the Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz Prize in 1995. Pedro Albaran, first victim and then instrument of the Inquisition, arrives in Costa Rica in the first decade of the 18th century. In his tender love for a native woman, he embraces her culture without ever understanding it and then must watch his Spanish countrymen wreak havoc on her--and their daughter's--people. The novel is kept moving rapidly by its memorable cast of characters, including a sensuous tavern keeper, a deranged priest, and corrupt politicians. Born in Chile, Lobo has lived in Costa Rica since 1966. She has published five other books in Spanish; one hopes that they, too, will soon be translated into English.--Mary Margaret Benson, Linfield Coll. Lib., McMinnville, OR
Jay Parini
....Assault on Paradise can be considered a critique of colonialism and its cruelties, it is not only that. For in her portrayal of its feckless hero, Lobo moves her novel well beyond polemic and into the realm of art. -- The New York Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781880684467
  • Publisher: Northwestern University Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/1998
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 298
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Lobo was born in Puerto Montt, Chile and studied theatre and painting at the University of Chile. She now lives in Costa Rica.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Pa-bru Presbere dreams of Sura,
Lord of the Nether World

Before beginning his spirit journey, he ate the last permissible bit of banana, and fed the last sweet-cedar twigs into the fire. The cave lit up. The sacred tapir had perhaps walked nearby, perhaps far away. He hearkened to the Kapa's final words. "This is how it is ..." the Kapa said, "The order of things has been so determined: there are three worlds above with rocks, clouds, winds, and stars. Sibu dwells there. And there are three worlds below where Lord Sura dwells. Looking up or looking down, counting from above or from below, we inhabit a fourth world, a dual world, the world of appearances. Actual things are in the nether worlds: it is from below that life springs, man has his root there, and his head, as well, because we return below when we die. This is the mystery that the men with moss upon their jaws are unable to understand. Their order of the universe is backwards. They have but one God in the sky and do not see that Sibu without Sura is an impossibility. Deceived by their only god, they walk about in their long garments here and there, to and fro: they never sit down, are never satisfied ..."

    The Kapa finished speaking in his old man's voice and then broke into a long monotonous song. Pa-bru asked no questions; he already knew all there was to know. This was not his first spirit trance but it was of special importance. The fire slowly expired and the shadows fell, the darkness good for thinking and meditation but not about the external things that anguish us in the officious light of day, ratherabout the secrets of the womb. Pa-bru thought about Sibu whose breath gives life. He saw him, impalpable as the wind. Sibu thought of Presbere as a cacao berry and Presbere's blood as chocolate. Sura, guardian of the underground world to which the dead return, dwelt below. Sura molds people as the potter shapes a vessel and, when he has finished them, Sibu exhales the breath of life, and the children leave the safe haven of their mother's womb to open their eyes upon a world of facade and deceit.

    Sibu breathed upon man's understanding and taught him to sing and dance, to use vessels, and light fires. Sura tends the seeds that Sibu caused to sprout and brings all that decays back to life.

    The Kapa sings the song that unlocks the portal of the underground world; of that which is not thought, nor seen, nor understood when the eyes are open and one is occupied with the little things of everyday. He is insistent and repeats his call, the melody rebounding from the walls of the cave, dispersing itself in the darkness. How much time has passed? How big or how small is space? How long is time?

    Sibu-Sura are one and indivisible. It is no more possible to separate them than it is to separate the cloud from the rain or the rain from the damp earth that gives birth to the greenery that is food for the deer which in turn is food for the puma from whose excrement the fruits and flowers sprout which feed the hummingbird whose chicks are eaten by the hawk whose decaying flesh nourishes the bushes which are food for the deer on whom the puma feeds. The cycle of life and death has no end; an eternal death is the same as an eternal rebirth. Life-death veers in Kapa's song and Pa-bru veers; his bones melt, his elbows, knees, jaw, and all his body parts that end in an angle disintegrate. Muscle dissolves and flesh as well, yet he is perfectly aware of his innermost parts, liver, kidneys, lungs. His blood circulates slowly causing him to feel heavy and at the same time light. His heart beating quietly, imperceptibly, Pa-bru transcends the frontier of the impossible; he joins together the separated, leaves this level of appearances and descends to the real world, the origin of all things. He would succeed were it not for an error that obliges him to go back to the surface of deceptive appearances and so lose the opportunity to understand the order within disorder. His body once again encloses itself within its narrow confines, his bones harden, the borders that separate him from the other establish his difference and the voyage to origins collapses like a broken vessel. Pa-bru had left one eye open. He opens the other. His spirit trance has been broken.

    His spirit trance was broken because of a perverse idea that entered through the window of his opened eyelid. The Kapa has stopped singing. How to resume his journey now if the Kapa is no longer guiding him? Pa-bru is beset by uneasiness. What had been the dual god's purpose in bringing the bearded men? Or is it that they were only in Sibu's plan? Did Sura also have something to do with it all? Was it a joint plan or was one of them alone responsible? Then Sibu-Sura are not indivisible ... each has his own will. And they might not have been in agreement ... Perhaps it was Sibu, the one who looks upon people as cacao berries ... The foreigners who used a long garment tied around the waist with a cord said that God lives above, precisely where Sibu lives. They went in and out of the jungle, their faces covered with hair, skinny and pale, and they said that Sura was a devil, because the devil dwells under the earth. Walking one behind another, they conversed in their barbaric tongue and talked to a small piece of white cloth. Their bony heels and bleeding feet showed from under their garment the color of ticks. They appeared to be very ill, decrepit, but they did not stop anywhere to seek help from the healers nor to gather medicinal herbs. They came as far as Recul in search of the Kapa. Presbere clad himself in the gaudy colors of the macaw and went up an annato tree. Perched there he watched them running away from the women who, he was gratified to see, were throwing stones at them and noted with satisfaction how they tugged at their hairy jaws and wailed as they stretched up their arms. Spat upon, stoned, and insulted, they went away looking up into the sky, unmindful of where they trod.

    They never returned to Recul but did not depart entirely. They built strange-looking houses that in no way resembled Sibu's cone-shaped house and, on top where there should have been an upturned tub on the roof beam to catch the rainwater, they placed two crossed timbers and said that it was God, the one, true God of all people.

    The houses of that god were built in the air, detached from the earth. And they wished to sow the souls of the Indians in the air, as well.

    The Kapa's breathing had stopped entirely. He was no longer in the cave, that uterus of grandmother earth, old, ancient, yet ever fertile.

    Pa-bru Presbere searched for another idea that might console him. And he came upon it: the lords of the air and the earth had given him life in order for him to put a stop to the terrible harm being wreaked by the foreigners through their cruelty and greed. That was his destiny, his great, important destiny. He felt better, consoled. He was still young and had a long road ahead. There was no hurry. The Kapa had told him: slow as the sloth, relentless as its claws.

    Pa-bru Presbere lay face down, arms spread out, the better to feel the voluptuous contact of the earth against the skin of his genitals. His doubt had not been resolved but he would soon find the answer. Serene and at peace, he put off till later in his journey the mystery that had distracted him, shut his eyes, and gave himself up to the descent. The roots of all that lives, is born, and dies could be seen in the layers of the world below. He saw the seeds not yet sown interspersed with the roots of the avocado, the sweet cedar, and the bitter cedar. He saw his mother's roots and those of the maternal clan, which was also his, and he saw the spirit of the macaw, his protector; the macaw, named Pa-bru, like Presbere. He saw all the worlds and understood all things, and he also saw a little girl with eyes like two pools, who made the stones fall silent: a strange child floating, adrift in life.

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Table of Contents

Pa-brú Presbere dreams of Surá, Lord of the Nether World

Of Petro Albarán's first days in a part of the West Indies where the inhabitants impress him as being gossipmongers, backbiters, and troublemakers

Of the passion that possesses the scribe, and of the strange life led by the people of Cartago

Threats loom over Pedro de Albarán and the Inquisition enforces its justice

Pedro sets out on the dangerous route of the missionaries and lets fate steer his course

Of how Agueda Pérez de Muro helped Pedro reconstruct a part of his life intangible as a dream

Pa-brú Presbere is entrusted with a mission by the Kapá

Agueda listens closely to Pedro's story and the description of his meeting with Juan de las Alas

Presbere makes ready

Agueda nods and Pedro relates how Gerónima's departure took him unawares

Pa-brú Presbere attacks

The night of confidences ends and Pedro has a fit of jealousy because of Bárbara Lorenzana

Presbere talks with the Kapá for the last time

Pedro takes a crab for God and finally learns why La Chamberga was looking for him

The new secretary of the Governor's Office entangles himself in his own contradictions as war preparations build

Where is Presbere?

While the war rages Pedro storms Captain Casasola's wardrobe

The war ends and Pedro is left entirely in the dark

The dog days make Cartago unbearable. Hundreds of macaws roost in the bell tower of the church and Juan de las Alas glows with an inner light

The King says thank you

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