Long considered a classic in Bolivia, Juan de la Rosa tells the story of a young boy's coming of age during the violent and tumultuous years of Bolivia's struggle for independence. Indeed, in this remarkable novel, Juan's search for his personal identity functions as an allegory of Bolivia's search for its identity as a nation.
Set in the early 1800s, this remarkable novel is narrated by one of the last surviving Bolivian rebels, octogenarian Juan de la Rosa. He commits his memories to paper in order to pass on that uniquely personal understanding of the past "with which serious historians never busy themselves." Juan recreates his childhood in the rebellious town of Cochabamba, and with it a large cast of full-bodied, Dickensian characters both heroic and malevolent, from Juan's wise and self-sacrificing tutor, Brother Justo, to the ruthless colonial general Goyeneche. The larger cultural dislocations brought about by Bolivia's political upheaval are echoed in those experienced by Juan, whose mother's untimely death sets off a chain of unpredictable events that propel him into the fiery crucible of the South American Independence Movement. Outraged by Juan's outspokenness against Spanish rule and his awakening political consciousness, his loyalist guardians banish him to the countryside, where he witnesses firsthand the Spaniards' violent repression and rebels' valiant resistance that crystallize both his personal destiny and that of his country.
Few novels combine historical scholarship, operatic drama, comic detail, and political fervor so seamlessly. In Sergio Gabriel Waisman's fluid translation, English readers have access to Juan de la Rosa for the very first time.
About the Author
Sergio Gabriel Waisman is completing his Ph.D. in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of California, Berkeley. Alba María de la Paz Soldán is Professor Latin American Literature, University of Buenos Aires.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This novel tells a portion of the story of the South American wars for independence from Spanish rule in the first part of the 19th century. It takes place in Bolivia, focusing on the events around Cochabamba, and it takes the form of a memoir, written by a man who became one of the leaders of struggle looking back on his childhood during the early, disastrous years of the war. The novel is heavy on the historical events (if you don't enjoy history books, this novel won't appeal to you), told with a fair amount of drama mixed with dashes of a dry humor. Aguirre lived and wrote in the 19th century, in the same period as he sets the protagonist's older self, and you can feel the passions and fervor that infused the young nation at this time.The translation is well-done, though it does not read as colloquial English¿there is a slightly stilted quality to it that reflects the original Spanish. I have only one real objection to the effort: there are a substantial number of Spanish, Quechua and Latin words and phrases that are not translated and they are all end-noted instead of footnoted. This means the reader must continually flip to the end of the book instead of glancing at the bottom of the page.This book attracted my attention as a starting point for this year's effort to read more Latin American and African authors because I lived for a year and half in Bolivia. I found a few nostalgic moments in the place names, the food and the descriptions of the people, and this may have colored my views more than a bit, but I enjoyed the book. I'd give it a mild recommendation.