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The war of Don Emmanuel's nether parts…
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The war of Don Emmanuel's nether parts (original 1990; edition 1991)

by Louis De Bernières

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1,270249,197 (3.89)48
Member:TerenceKempMcKenna
Title:The war of Don Emmanuel's nether parts
Authors:Louis De Bernières
Info:London Minerva 1991
Collections:McKenna's Library
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Work details

The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts by Louis De Bernières (1990)

  1. 20
    One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (ShaneTierney)
  2. 00
    Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (Pedrolina)
    Pedrolina: Both books take on the slightly surreal side to war, but with serious consequences nonetheless.
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Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
"In a historic feat of compromise," we learn of the country's recent past, "democracy was restored by the abolition of elections."

Firstly I should point out that this is the first of the author's South American trilogy, although to be honest I didn't realise it at the time, but it doesn't really matter as they are stand alone novels and as such can be read in any particular order. The title is also a little misleading as it has nothing really to do with war but instead is a piece of political satire mixed with a touch of magic.

The action takes place in a remote community in an unnamed South American Andean country which is ruled over by a corrupt oligarchy and fascist military officers. Problems begin when Dona Constanza Evans, an aristocratic wife of a wealthy landowner and descendant of a Welsh speculator, decides to divert the local river in order to supply water for her private swimming pool. Astounded by this turn of events the local villagers ask Don Emmanuel, another rich local landowner whose own land is down river of Dona Constanza's property and as such would also be adversely affected if the scheme goes ahead especially as he likes to bathe his 'nether parts in the river, to try and dissuade her.

However, when diplomacy fails Don Emmanuel and the villagers decide to sabotage her scheme. Which in turn has the unintended and undesired affect of bringing both Government soldiers and Communist guerrillas to the scene to investigate until the villagers force the Army to return to their base. Meanwhile back in the capitol of the country the President and a corrupt cabal of military officers are vying for control.

The author cleverly intertwines a series of almost cartoon like incidents inflicted on the Army with some fairly graphic portrayals of torture perpetrated by the Army, an inept and divided guerilla movement, some rather racy sex scenes with tales of romance, witty political satire with the supernatural.

There is an abundance of characters which at least initially can be a little off putting and confusing but if you stick with it they tend to sort themselves out in the end. These characters tend to be fall into certain groups: clever peasants, wise whores, arrogant dames transformed by love, and inept officials .

Although in the novel the country is unnamed many readers and no doubt academics with come to the conclusion that it is based on Colombia, a country that has suffered a number of civil wars over the years in which hundreds of thousand of it's inhabitants have died. Perhaps given this fact and the grimness of the author's political satire the ending, where the villagers establish a new Utopian civilization in a ruined Inca city, is a little too optimistic to bear too much scrutiny. However, this should not take away from the fact that this IMHO is a beautifully written piece of work that left me, if not laughing out loud, with a constant grin on my face. No bad thing surely? ( )
  PilgrimJess | Jul 26, 2018 |
Kitties! Loved this warm, funny, touching novel. I really loved the episodic structure, each chapter an elegantly crafted short story of its own, and how he weaves all these characters and episodes together. Some of the chapters are stomach-turning horrific; some beautifully sweet and tender; some laugh-out-loud funny. Just enough magical realism to keep everything woven together, including magical cats! Tons of characters, some of them not a lot more than types, many of them vivid, all of them beautifully drawn. And the humor. The satirical, wry, British influenced, and Latin influenced humor....dark and slicing and intelligent and wacky with such a keen eye and ear for the absurd. This goes right up among my favorite satire, including A Confederacy of Dunces, Pride and Prejudice, Geek Love. ( )
  charliesierra | Mar 22, 2017 |

The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts – Louis De Bernieres
4 stars

“Life is nothing if not a random motion of coincidences and quirks of chance; it never goes as planned or as foretold; frequently one gains happiness from being obliged to follow an unchosen path or misery from following a chosen one. “ Louis De Bernieres – The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts


I’m reading Bernieres backward. I started with Birds Without Wings and I’ve been working my way backward through his publication history. This book (which must be a contender for “Best Title of the 20th century”) was published in 1990. It was a very ambitious first novel. In an author’s note, Bernieres states that he has created an imaginary Latin American country with history, topography and language jumbled up from various sources. There are nearly 40 characters whose lives intersect in a story that includes guerilla war, military corruption, paranormal intervention, brutality, passion, outrageous humor and biting satire.

A book this complex should be read with great attention. The need for attention to detail is not immediately apparent. Characters and situations are introduced is short, well-constructed passages that seem only loosely connected. At the beginning it is easy to read briefly about one character, put the book down and come back to it much later. I did this several times, but I lost out on the connections and found that I had difficulty with pivotal events when I could not remember each character’s significance. The book improved when I sat down to read for longer periods of time. I was able to grasp the intricate web of intertwined lives that Bernieres was building.

I was mildly disappointed that Don Emmanuel’s nether parts play a very minor role in the story. In a very round about way, it is essentially the story of an impoverished, insignificant village and its hilariously devious victory over the corrupt and brutal military establishment. It is a temporary victory. I found the surreal salvation of the village to be the weakest part of the story. The best parts concern individual characters who are drawn realistically, but with great affection and humor. As in his later books, Bernieres has an underlying social agenda. He touches on the implications of United States covert military intervention, drug trafficking, the Falklands Island conflict, and international pressure concerning ‘Los Deseparecidos”.

There are a great many similarities between this book and the later Birds Without Wings. It even begins with the death of a bird, in this case, a vulture. The later book is stronger and I’ve tried to define why I think so. The biggest difference is the use of first person narrative. Bernieres allowed the many characters of Eskibahce to speak for themselves. The characters in Don Emmanuel’s fictional country did not speak up in their own voices. They are wonderful characters, but they stayed in the book and did not come alive for me in the same way.
( )
  msjudy | May 30, 2016 |
De Bernieres' debut novel begins when Dona Constanza decides to divert the river to fill her swimming pool and by so doing sets in motion a series of events that lead to chaos in the villages of this unnamed South American country. There is a huge cast of characters - military, politicians, industrialists, peasants, Indians, guerrillas, spirits and animals. He also sprinkles in words or phrases in Spanish, Portuguese, and Indian dialects - and even a few that he makes up entirely. De Bernieres sincludes a fair amount of magical realism which may not appeal to everyone, but I love his writing. ( )
  BookConcierge | Feb 14, 2016 |
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To the Incorrigible and Legendary Don Benjamin of Poponte, who entrusted me with several children and three horses.
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It had been an auspicious week for Captain Rodrigo Jose Figueras.
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Book description
This book is very dark, yet full of humor, and a superbly vivid depiction of both the supernatural and brutally realistic worlds. I thoroughly enjoyed this read.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375700137, Paperback)

Louis de Bernières's sardonic pen has concocted a spicy olla podrida of a novel, set in a fictitious Latin American country, with all the tragedy, ribaldry, and humor Bernières can muster from a debauched military, a clueless oligarchy, and an unconventional band of guerrillas. There's a plague of laughing, a flood of magical cats, and a torture-happy colonel. The cities, villages, politics, and discourse are an inspired amalgam of Latin Americana, but the comedy, horror, adventure, and vibrant individuals are pure de Bernières. This masterpiece, the first of a trilogy, is followed by Señor Vivo and the Coca Lord, and The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:20 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

When the spoilt and haughty Dona Constanza tries to divert a river to fill her swimming pool, she starts a running battle with the locals. The skirmishes are so severe that the government dispatches a squadron of soldiers led by the fat, brutal and stupid Figueras to deal with them. Despite visiting plagues of laughing fits and giant cats upon the troops, the villagers know that to escape the cruel and unusual tortures planned for them, they must run. Thus they plan to head for the mountains and start a new convivial civilisation.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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