cover image Dona Barbara

Dona Barbara

Romulo Gallegos. Vintage Books USA, $14.95 (358pp) ISBN 978-0-307-47230-4

First published in 1929, this classic by Gallegos (1884-1969), president of Venezuela in 1948 before a coup forced him into temporary exile, is set in the isolated and mysterious Venezuelan plains. Do\xF1a B\xE1rbara, the heroine of this novel, is at once beautiful, captivating, and powerful. Her manipulative character and rural outlook, however, ensure that this power is a force for no good; instead, she represents a terrorizing barbarism in its fight against civilization, which is so often featured in 20th-century Latin American literature. When Santos Luzardo returns home to his family land, he discovers that the magnetic Do\xF1a B\xE1rbara controls most of his territory. Yet he remains immune to her appeal, instead becoming attracted to her daughter, Marisela. The path of true love does not run smoothly, however, and the rules of civilization do not hold true in the plains. Luzardo discovers that he has to fight fire with fire, and in doing so he exposes and destroys Do\xF1a B\xE1rbara. Published in conjunction with Telemundo, which is currently airing an eponymous telenovela, this new edition may come as a surprise to U.S. soap fans. The Venezuelan colloquialisms make this a challenging read, though a glossary and explanatory notes are included. This classic remains as engaging in the present day as when it was first published; recommended for large public libraries.-Alison Hicks, Univ. of Colorado at Boulder