Widely acknowledged as the first Chilean novel, Martin Rivas (1862) by Alberto Blest Gana (1830-1920) is at once a passionate love story and an optimistic representation of Chilean nationhood. Written shortly after a decade of civil conflict, it is an indispensable source for understanding politics and society in nineteenth-century Chile.
The hero of the story is Martin Rivas, an impoverished but ambitious youngster from the northern mining region of Chile, who is entrusted by his late father to the household of a wealthy and influential member of the Santiago elite. While living there, he falls in love with his guardian's daughter. The tale of their tortuous but ultimately successful love affair represents the author's desire for reconciliation between Chile's antagonistic regional and class interests. Indeed, many critics have interpreted Martin Rivas as a blueprint for national unity that emphasizes consensus over conflict.
In addition to providing commentary about the mores of Chilean society, Blest Gana documents the enormous gap that existed between the rich and poor classes. An invaluable text for its portrayal of contemporary social, political, and class conditions, Martin Rivas illustrates the enriching influence that romanticism had on nineteenth-century Chilean literature.
A Chilean statesman, mathematician, and writer, Blest Gana (1830-1920) founded the Latin American documentary social novel and dashed off impressive prose works that mined the strata of Santiago society from the heady days of its independence to its lackluster fin-de-siecle. In 1850, his ambitious but reflective and level-headed young protagonist, Martin Rivas--son of an adventurous prospector in Chile's northern district who lost his fortune searching for an illusory mother lode--heads south for the capital precisely when the Chilean economy is booming. Upon his deathbed, Martin's father entrusts him to the Santiago household of his now wealthy former business partner. Here, Martin falls in love with his guardian's haughty daughter, Leonor. Their agonizing but ultimately successful romance reflects the author's desire for a reconciliation between the antagonistic regional and class interests of his country, and Martin's ascent from mining bourgeoisie to national bourgeoisie based in agriculture, finance, and commerce reflects Blest Gana's prescriptions for Chile's well-being. An accomplished and entertaining allegory that waited 137 years to be translated into English.--Jack Shreve, Allegany Coll. of Maryland, Cumberland Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.