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Martin Rivas by Alberto Blest Gana
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Martin Rivas (1862)

by Alberto Blest Gana

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LOS MEJORES LIBROS DE CHILE
  beatriza | Dec 10, 2016 |
Alberto Blest Gana was born in 1830, the son of a father from Ireland and a mother from the Chilean landed bourgeois. His father helped modernize the medical establishment in Chile and two brothers dabbled in politics and also were writers. Blest Gana is well-known in Chile for his many novels – they are considered classics and read in schools. He was influenced by a number of 19th c. French novelists – Balzac, Sand, Stendhal – and was in France for a diplomatic position during the revolts of 1848 and 1871. Some of his earliest novels were set in France; later ones took place in Chile.

Martín Rivas is one of his best-known novels. The title character is a poor but principled provincial who comes to Santiago after the death of his father. He’s taken in by a business partner of his father, Don Dámaso, a wealthy and rather dim flip-flopping politician. Don Dámaso interacts with a number of other airheaded rich conservatives – political discussions set the stage early on but then only appear later in the book. The majority of the plot is taken up by the romantic entanglements, affairs and triangles of Martín, Don Dámaso’s beautiful but spoiled daughter Leonor and his foppish, stupid son Agustín, their sweet and demure cousin Matilde, Martín’s noble friend Rafael San Luis and two girls from a not-quite-aristocratic family, Adelaida and Edelmira. Martín, unsurprisingly, loves Leonor but her wealth and beauty (as well as her being the daughter of his benefactor) put her out of his reach. While trying to fight his feelings, Martín helps his friends with their romantic woes and there are a number of melodramatic twists and turns.

All the melodrama makes the books a pretty addictive read. However, many of the characters are somewhat thin – Agustín, for example, is a ridiculous dandy who is always dropping French words and talking about Paris, though it is repeatedly noted that his French is poor. Don Dámaso’s longstanding inability to make up his mind and general ineffectualness is also satirized and his wife is a useless woman who is more concerned with her dog than anything else. Still, Blest Gana may make fun of the family but he does not treat them harshly and since the admirable Martín cares about them, there must be something there. The ending sort of demonstrates this. The prose was somewhat flat though this could be the translation. Even if some of the characters were one-note, the relationship and class issues are interesting.

The two lower-class girls are sympathetically portrayed and the usual story of upper-class men seducing and forgetting those types of women is shown in a strongly negative light. The author notes that in Chilean society, unlike in Europe, it was possible for the newly wealthy to be accepted in politics and the best society. There are several comparisons made between Leonor/Matilde and Adelaida/Edelmira – including several instances of being in love with the same person – and they could easily have been in each others’ places. Adelaida and Edelmira’s mother and brother are violent and vulgar but Don Dámaso and his buffoonish friends also support violence, they just want it carried out by the state. Matilde’s father, like the mother and brother of the girls, is also controlling and expects her to marry who he says. Martín is an another example of class fluidity. Though the current members of the ruling class are stupid and silly, Martín’s ascent – which combines the hardworking dedication of a poor boy from the countryside, an outsider’s self-awareness, the political passion and liberalism of San Luis and the elegance and wealth of Don Dámaso’s family – suggests improvement. Some issues with characters and prose, but an interesting and fast read for anyone with an interest in the period or lesser-known 19th c. literature. ( )
3 vote DieFledermaus | Jan 25, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0195107144, Paperback)

Widely acknowledged as the first Chilean novel, Martin Rivas (1862) by Alberto Blest Gana (1830-1920) is at once a passionate love story and an optimistic representation of Chilean nationhood. Written shortly after a decade of civil conflict, it is an indispensable source for understanding politics and society in nineteenth-century Chile.
The hero of the story is Martin Rivas, an impoverished but ambitious youngster from the northern mining region of Chile, who is entrusted by his late father to the household of a wealthy and influential member of the Santiago elite. While living there, he falls in love with his guardian's daughter. The tale of their tortuous but ultimately successful love affair represents the author's desire for reconciliation between Chile's antagonistic regional and class interests. Indeed, many critics have interpreted Martin Rivas as a blueprint for national unity that emphasizes consensus over conflict.
In addition to providing commentary about the mores of Chilean society, Blest Gana documents the enormous gap that existed between the rich and poor classes. An invaluable text for its portrayal of contemporary social, political, and class conditions, Martin Rivas illustrates the enriching influence that romanticism had on nineteenth-century Chilean literature.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:34 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Widely acknowledged as the first Chilean novel, Martin Rivas (1862) by Alberto Blest Gana (1830-1920) is at once a passionate love story and an optimistic representation of Chilean nationhood. Written shortly after a decade of civil conflict, it is an indispensable source for understanding politics and society in nineteenth-century Chile. The hero of the story is Martin Rivas, an impoverished but ambitious youngster from the northern mining region of Chile, who is entrusted by his late father to the household of a wealthy and influential member of the Santiago elite. While living there, he fal.… (more)

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