Memory of Fire: Genesis
Part One of a Triology

Galeano, Eduardo
Publisher:  Random House, USA
Year Published:  1985
Pages:  293pp   Price:  $25.50   ISBN:  978-0-393-31773-2
Library of Congress Number:  F1408.27.G3413 1985Resource Type:  Book
Cx Number:  CX9439

A meditation on the clashes between the Old World and the New, and an an attempt "to rescue the kidnapped memory of all America." A fierce, impassioned, and kaleidoscopic historical experience that takes us from the creation myths of the Makiritare Indians of the Yukatan to Columbus's first joyous moments in the New World to the English capture of New York.

Eduardo Galeano's Memory of Fire: Genesis, is the first instalment of his three-part trilogy documenting Latin American history. From early creation myths to primary source descriptions of the first contact between Spanish Conquistadors and the 'new world', Galeano's Gensis chronicles the early encounters and colonizing missions from 1492 to 1700. Relying on translations of first hand accounts, the author presents the interaction between the old and the new world from several perspectives. The author's focus sheds light on the inhumane and cruel policies taken towards the native inhabitants of the Americas in the guise of Christianity and progress. Several of the documents record the ethnocentric beliefs of European supremacy, the inferiority of 'native' peoples and the impassioned attempts of indigenous peoples to preserve their roots in the face of dramatic change.

Galeano's work also provides glimpses into the voices of objection to the treatment of the colonized people, speaking out against the brutal enslavement and maltreatment of 'savages'. Providing sources from all over Europe, the author characterizes the climate of European thought in the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth century, exemplifying how the impact of heathenism, barbarism and expansionism influenced popular perceptions during the era. Genesis reveals how the fires of the Spanish Inquisition fueled the colonization of the 'new world' and inflamed and exploited a continent rich with human and material resources.

Genesis voices stories, accounts and events often forgotten and overlooked in early Latin American history. The format, presented chronologically, reveals a continuing divide and a "kaleidoscopic" view between those in favour, those opposed and those ambiguous to the events shaping the Americas. While the author supplies no personal interpretations, the choices reflect his ambition to produce a collection demonstrating the various actors contributing to the turbulent two centuries of culture clash that laid the foundation of modern Latin American history.

[Abstract by William Stevenson]

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