The emerging societies of the Caribbean in the seventeenth century were a riotous assembly of pirates, aristocrats, revolutionaries, and rogues -- outcasts and fortune seekers all. In They're Cows, We're Pigs, acclaimed Mexican novelist Carmen Boullosa animates this world of bloody chaos and uncertain possibility through the eyes of the young Jean Smeeks, kidnapped in Flanders at age thirteen and sold into indentured servitude on Tortuga, the mythical Treasure Island. Trained in the magic of medicine by le Negre Miel, an African slave healer, and Pineau, a French-born surgeon, Smeeks signs on as a medical officer with the pirate band the Brethren of the Coast. Transformed by the looting and violence of pirate life, Smeeks finds himself both healer and despoiler, servant and mercenary, suspended between the worlds of the law-abiding, tradition-bound "cows" and the freely roaming and raiding "pigs."
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They're Cows, We're Pigs based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
"No one in this world who does not steal can live in it. Why do you think the judges and officers of the law hate us so? Sometimes they banish us, sometimes they have us whipped, and sometimes hanged, even though our saint's day may yet not have arrived....It is because they do not want any other thieves besides themselves and their underlings around them. What keeps us free more than anything else is an ample stock of clever guile." --Quevedo, La vida del Buscon.This quote aptly starts off Carmen Boullosa's fast paced and rollicking tale of pirate life in the Carribean Sea during the 17th century. From reading, it seems the other thing that kept the Brethren of the Coast free was the absence of women from the island of Tortuga. Interestingly, it seems that the brethren were able to live communally and share everything until women and property crept onto the island. Once the first brother bought a wife, it was all over. As Boullosa says in her Author's Note, "In its series of adventures, this novel is then a laboratory of things feminine in absentia as much as it is a reminiscence of men who rebelled against a cruel order, and outlaw order, and ended by being as cruel and outside the law as the order they detested."For me there was an eerie parallel between Smeeks, the pirate's physician, and the military doctors in Iraq who allegedly "oversaw" torture procedures. Both can apparently dutifully value and preserve life with one persona and the with another persona witness and participate in the degradation, torture and loss of life. As with many of the other latin american writers I've read, the point of view or persona of the narrator continually shifts in this book so that if you get reading at too great a clip one can easily get lost. Overall, this was a quick and enjoyable read. I will be looking for other books by Boullosa as they become available in translation.
The way the story starts is very appealing and creative but lasted for only a sigh, it became a recollection of bad short stories rather than a novel. Completely disappointing.