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Martín Fierro the Gaucho by Jose Hernandez

Martín Fierro the Gaucho (1872)

by Jose Hernandez

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Showing 5 of 5
This was read for school. And by read I mean I started it and never finished it.

What can I say... it may be the most classical book in our country but I still didn't like it... ( )
  AshuritaLove | Apr 7, 2013 |
Considered Argentina's national epic, The Gaucho Martín Fierro is not a story of historic events, heroic deeds, or noble sacrifice. Instead it is the tale of a typical gaucho who struggles to maintain his traditional lifestyle in the face of tyranny and corruption.

The gauchos were the South American equivalent of the North American cowboys: independent, unlettered, hard drinking, often nomadic, and frequently violent. Martín Fierro is one such gaucho, but he lives under a government which disapproves of his freedom. Martín is pressed into military service, ostensibly to defend against bands of raiding natives. But instead he is put to work doing backbreaking labor for his commander and local landowners. He is fed poorly, and the promised pay never seems to arrive. Finally Martín deserts and becomes an outlaw, living by his wits and his prowess with a knife.

The poem is told in simple, homespun language appropriate to its subject. The translators did not attempt to preserve the meter or the rhyme from the original Spanish. Instead, they produced a line-by-line literal translation in free verse. The result is a poem that is extremely easy to read and that can be consumed in a single sitting. But whatever beauty there may have been in the original Spanish verse has been lost. ( )
1 vote StevenTX | Jan 30, 2013 |
Martín Fierro is an epic poem divided into two parts, the first published in 1872 and the second in 1879. I decided to reread this book because I wanted to go back to the basics of Argentine literature and revisit some of the 19th century classics that I once read in a university Spanish class, superficially analyzing them in the way that foreigners analyze literature of places that they want to learn about, in languages that they are not entirely familiar with. I was happy to find how much more I found to inspire me in Hernández’s book, now that I’ve become more familiar with the Spanish language and Argentine literature. I absolutely loved the first part of the book in its depiction of the marginalized and exploited gaucho; the famous scenes, such as Martín Fierro’s confrontation with the authorities (when Cruz comes to his aid), as well has his two knife fights, were extremely entertaining. And while I was a bit disappointed by the second part, I still like the way that Hernández brings back picaresque characters and themes from centuries past and injects them into gaucho Argentina. The first part of the story belongs to Martín Fierro (with a brief interlude documenting the life of the heroic Cruz), while the second part tells the stories of his two sons and the gaucho Picardía, and then concludes with a guitar battle between Martín Fierro and the son of a man he once killed, along with some final advice from the protagonist to his sons. It´s all in verse and the language is Hernández’s written interpretation of gaucho speech. The whole story is told by a guitar player, and the characters who tell their story do it all in musical form, to the accompaniment of a guitar (they all recognize their condition as musicians and humbly ask their audience to forgive their shortcomings at the beginning of their stories).

I just read Mariano Azuela’s Los de abajo and was struck by how much the fictional characters had become real as time passed and the book stood as a document of the Mexican revolution. I felt the same thing here: Martín Fierro is probably more connected to the people’s image of the gaucho in Argentina than any real historical figures, and I think that when people think of gauchos in Argentina, his character eclipses most other representations. It’s an interesting image: he’s been uprooted from his home and family (much like Demetrio Macías in Los de abajo) to serve on the frontier and fight the Indians who menace the Argentine Wild West. His labor is exploited, he doesn’t get paid for his work, and he’s basically been lied to and betrayed by his country. When he is able to escape and go home, his homestead and family are gone. In his marginalized state, he wanders from place to place, afraid of facing the authorities due to his status as a deserter; when he finds solace in alcohol and rural gatherings, violence is the result on a few separate occasions, and he becomes even more isolated and separated from civilization. By the end of the first part of the poem, he has forsaken society and is prepared to seek acceptance amongst the Indians that populate the Argentine plains. His individualism and unwillingness to obey the unfair treatment that he receives from society as a gaucho cause him to turn his back on the civilized world. As a national hero and a representative of a bygone class of people, I think that Martín Fierro is an admirable and worthy creation. His convictions and unwillingness to be controlled by an unlawful government are admirable.

I was trying to think if the United States has a comparable book to Martín Fierro: a book, preferably an epic poem, which presents an image of the American, the Cowboy perhaps, defining that idolized, romanticized class of people who figure so prominently in our country’s history. The closest things I can think of, although very different from Martín Fierro, are Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience and Walden. It seems to me that an American is presented there that is somewhat relatable to the gaucho Martín Fierro. It’s not a poem, though, so I’m still a bit dissatisfied. Maybe I should read Leaves of Grass? That’s about the best example of a canonical American poem that I can think of. I think about the United States and Argentina as being very similar in their 19th and early 20th century histories: similar waves of westward expansion and genocide of native peoples, similar patterns of European immigration and growth, and similar struggles for national definition. Having read a lot of Argentine literature, and especially now that I’m stepping back into the fundamental stages of the national literature of Argentina, I now wonder what books I should read or reread that provide similar representations of the United States at those important moments in its literary history. There’s an episode of Seinfeld where Elaine dates a guy who is a “bizarro Jerry,” and he has a whole cast of friends who are just like George, Kramer and Newmann, except completely different and “bizarro.” I’ve always thought about Argentina as being a bit like a “bizarro United States,” and I would kind of like to get to know early American literature now that I’ve become somewhat familiar with Argentine literature. ( )
1 vote msjohns615 | Aug 5, 2010 |
I wanted to read this book ever since I read the Borges short story based on an episode from it. Years ago Ibought a battered Spanish copy, and I also read a translation from a library. I was a bit disappointed in it, but still I thought it important enough to Argentine culture to buy this copy when it was available cheap. ( )
  antiquary | Mar 8, 2010 |
I read this because an episode from it was used as as the basis for a short story I liked very much by Borges. I must admit reading the original poem I was rather disappointed. It is not bad, but not as good as Borges. But who is? ( )
  antiquary | Jan 15, 2010 |
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First words
Here I come to sing to the beat of my guitar; /
because a man who is kept from sleep by an uncommon sorrow /
conforts himself with singing, like a solitary bird.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
This work includes both "Martín Fierro" and "La Vuelta de Martín Fierro".
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 987113620X, Paperback)

The Martin Fierro, the classic argentine poem, has been the subject of studies and discussions ever since the issuing of its first part edition -el gaucho Martin Fierro- in 1873, and there have been many ensuing editions, including some still available, to prove it. This new edition of both parts aims to render a balanced startpoint to the study of the literary piece. This edition is based on the original texts: El gaucho Martín Fierro Imprenta de La Pampa, 1872, and La vuelta de Martín Fierro Librería del Plata, 1879, and includes no less than 535 lexicographic notes, conveniently placed at the bottom of the pages and intended to help the modern reader grasp the exact meaning of the text without obtrusive lengthy interruptions. The notes were made by comparing the critical editions by Eleuterio F. Tiscornia, Ed. Losada, Buenos Aires, 1941; by Carlos Alberto Leumann, Ed. Angel de Estrada, Buenos Aires, 1945; and by Santiago M. Lugones, Ed. Centurión, Buenos Aires, 1948; their own notes compared between them and with the critical edition by Elida Lois and Angel Nuñez, Ed. ALLCA XX (Association Archives de la Littérature Latinoaméricaine, des Caraïbes et Africaine du XX Siècle), Paris 2001; with the notes by Leopoldo Lugones in El payador, Ed. Centurión, Bs. As. 1948 (and Stockcero 2004), those of Francisco Castro in Vocabulario y frases del Martín Fierro, Ed. Kraft, Bs. As. 1950, and those of Domingo Bravo in El Quichua en el Martín Fierro y Don Segundo Sombra, Ed. Instituto Amigos del Libro Argentino, Bs. As. 1968.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:27:29 -0400)

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