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Doña Barbara by Rómulo Gallegos
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Doña Barbara (1929)

by Rómulo Gallegos

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English (2)  Spanish (2)  French (1)  All languages (5)
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Plot is hard to summarize, but broadly, this is set in the 1930s and concerns a man, Santos Luzardo, trying to recover his ranch land on the plains of Venezuela most of which has been swallowed up by a witch-like woman, Doña Barbara, and her evil henchmen while Santos has been away and dependent on an unscrupulous overseer. We are given a good deal of the local color. This is a seminal work in Latin American literature, with the beginnings of "magic realism", developed more fully in later works. As far as characters: names are symbolic: "Santos"--holy or saintly; "Barbara", a wild, untamed force. There's even an Ugly American, Señor Danger, one of the villains. Besides the regaining of Santos's land, a big theme is Transformation to the positive of the personalities of the main female characters.

This may read better in the original Spanish; I felt this English translation was clunky. ( )
  janerawoof | Jun 22, 2018 |
As his inheritance diminishes due to corrupt judges settling disputes against him, Santos Luzardo returns from Caracas to his estate near the Arauca river where he decides to fight against Doña Bárbara, who has gained possession of the neighbouring estate by seducing Santos's alcoholic cousin.

Any attempt to summarise the plot makes it sound like a Mills & Boon or soap opera (in fact the book has been turned into a telenovela), but there's actually some quite meaty stuff here about how adverse circumstances can mar a person's character, how we are the result of the choices we've made, and reflections on how and whether a good man can survive in a society where might makes right.

The book may be a jewel of Spanish prose for all I know, but the translation does seem rather clunky and over-literal at first, but I got used to it and am glad I persevered. ( )
  Robertgreaves | Jan 26, 2016 |
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Dona Barbara tells the tale of an epic struggle between two cousins for a cast estate and ranch in the Venezuelan llano, or prairie ... Published in 1929 and all but forgotten by Anglophone readers, Dona Barbara is one of the first examples of magical realism, laying the groundwork for later authors such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Mario Vargas Llosa. In Venezuela, Doa Barbara is a beautiful and mysterious woman with a ferocious power over men-- it's even rumored she's a witch. She owns a ranch, the Altimara, but must struggle constantly to keep it. When her cousin Santos Luzardo returns to the plains in order to reclaim his land and cattle, he reluctantly faces off against Doa Barbara, and their battle becomes simultaneously one of violence and seduction.… (more)

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