Chambacu, Black Slum

Manuel Zapata Olivella, Author, Jonathan Tittler, Translator Latin American Literary Review Press $12.95 (128p) ISBN 978-0-935480-39-9
A mother tries frantically to preserve what is left of her family in this grim portrayal of life on a Colombian island. Inhabited by descendants of African slaves, and tied to Cartagena by a flimsy bridge, Chambacu is indeed a ``link in an ancient chain of suffering.'' Maximo, son of matriarch La Cotena, tries to inspire islanders to rebel by instructing them in ``the dialectic of misery,'' but to no avail: he is drafted into the Korean War's ``Colombia battalion.'' There Maximo is tortured and imprisoned for his refusal to fight; his brother Jose, however, signs up in order to avoid arrest for smuggling. Overseas, Jose's ways serve him well--he returns with a motorcycle and a Swedish wife, Inge. Uncomfortable with prosperity, however, he resumes whoring and abandons Inge as his other brothers, boxer Medialuna and fighting-bird breeder Crispulo, wage their own battles for survival. Through it all, La Cotena tries to keep her offspring respectable or, failing that, alive. While this novel's ending is no surprise, Olivella writes with the robust naturalism of Zola. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1989
Release date: 01/01/1989
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