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Amirbar (Spanish Edition) by Alvaro Mutis
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Amirbar (Spanish Edition) (original 1990; edition 1992)

by Alvaro Mutis

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323637,398 (3.71)3
Magroll, weitgereister Seefahrer, geht hoch oben in den kolumbianischen Anden auf Goldsuche. Statt erhofftem Reichtum macht er einen unheimlichen Fund..
Member:rolazp
Title:Amirbar (Spanish Edition)
Authors:Alvaro Mutis
Info:Norma (1992), Edition: 1ST, Paperback, 147 pages
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Amirbar by Alvaro Mutis (1990)

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English (2)  Spanish (1)  All languages (3)
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“Amirbaaar, Amirbaaar,” called the wind. And Amirbar calls a reader to join Maqroll the Gaviero on an adventure that takes him down into the labyrinth of an abandoned gold mine; no, make that more than one gold mine. But beware – there’s delirium and madness afoot with echoes of “Tis the wind and nothing more!”

Amirbar as spell; Amirbar as charm; Amirbar as incantation. Like a powerful, irresistible drug - Amirbar. The Gaviero says he spent the strangest days of his life in Amirbar.

For us as readers, it all starts when the tale’s narrator, a friend of Maqroll, finds him in a dumpy Los Angeles model room run by the Gaviero’s longtime acquaintances, Yosip and Jalina, an Arab couple. The globetrotting adventurer is violently ill, trembling, staring in agony and desperation with wild-looking eyes. After finally winning Maqroll’s reluctant consent, the narrator arranges for him to be taken to a hospital to receive treatment and thereafter to his brother Leopoldo’s house for some needed rest.

It's on the patio of his brother's in Northridge, in the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles, at night, relaxing, over bourbon and port, that Maqroll the Gaviero relates his tale.

For such a story that acts like a secretive drug comparable to Maqroll’s describing the gold mines as secretive drug, a linerar synopsis of events seems hardly appropriate. Thus, as if holding up gold nuggets for inspection, I’ll share several happenings and leave it to a reader to judge what can be considered dream, intoxication, hallucination or sheer madness.

Maqroll’s first contact with an alien world, a world of fantasy, is with a gold mine by the name of The Hummer, first excavated by Germans (the dark romanticism of E. T. A. Hoffmann and the tragic dreams of Heinrich von Kleist come to mind). The Gaviero is told by an old-timer who’s done lots of prospecting that what is needed when looking for gold is a cool head since any man who looks for gold always ends up half-crazy. He persists and Dora Estela, a kindly waitress, offers some advice: her brother Eulogio, an honest man who doesn’t talk much, can serve as a guide.

So Maqroll and Eulogio set out. Maqroll sees a mine as similar to a ship in that each holds dark mysteries and corpses. Maqroll the sea wolf, seeking escape from the monotony of land and the ambushes of fate, first by setting out on the seas and then by descending down to the underworld of a gold mine. Oh, Maqroll, do you wish to weigh life’s mysteries the way one weighs gold?

A discovery in The Hummer: “Eulogio brought the light close to the walls, revealing human skeletons in improbable positions. Ochre-colored rags, impossible to identity, hung from the bones. It was easy to distinguish the women because of the shreds of skirt clinging to their legs. Skeletons of children lay at the feet of the women.” And some days later, while Eulogio is off to the city to sell gold, he is brutally beaten and tortured by soldiers. So much senseless violence perpetrated against peasants and poor people – and many times committed by the police and military, the so called “protectors.” Another type of madness.

There’s a second gold mine – Maqroll and Eulogio give it a name: Amirbar. “Gradually I came to realize that I lived only in the mine, where the walls seep moisture from another world, where the deceptive gleam of the most worthless fragment of mica could carry me to the heights of delirium.”

Our Gaviero is told by Dora Estela that the gold curse is lifted if he’s with a woman and does it with love. Enter Antonia, the young exotic beauty with vaguely Indian features. Maqroll and Antonia, side by side, work the gold mine. Maqroll merges with Antonia in a way not entirely natural: Maqroll merges with Amirbar in a way not entirely natural. Wherein lies the difference? Where will it all lead when a head loses its cool? Again, each reader can judge where the madness ends and sanity begins, if it begins at all.

The narrator returns and concludes with: Appendix: The Gaviero’s Reading. He relays some of Maqroll’s favorite authors and books, including how the Gaviero considered Céline the best writer in France since Chateaubriand but the best novelist in France - definitely Georges Simenon. And just so happens Maqroll was carrying a Simenon novel at the time, Lock No. 1. Well, that’s a fresh breath of clearheaded thinking! Quite the switch, Maqroll, from all your gold mine craziness. Being a big Georges Simenon fan myself, I very much enjoyed this ending to Amirbar.


Columbian author Álvaro Mutis, 1923-2013

“A strange fever began to take hold of me, coming in waves during the day and staying at night to fill my dreams with a procession of recurrent, obsessive imagines. The poisonous delirium of the mines was manifesting its first symptoms.” - Álvaro Mutis, Amirbar ( )
  Glenn_Russell | Nov 13, 2018 |
I was very excited to stumble upon a new (to me) and relatively contemporary author with an impressive pedigree (Premio Cervantes, works translated by Edith Grossman, "One of the greatest writers of our time," according to Gabriel García Márquez), whose works were available at an extremely accessible price online. For a total of about ten bucks I was able to procure an Alfaguara anthology of his seven novellas about Maqroll el Gaviero, a wandering seaman who has traveled the world and had a great deal of adventures; as well as a first edition of this book, Amirbar, which is included in the Alfaguara anthology but is a bit of an anomaly, as it concerns the time that Maqroll left the open seas to try his hand at gold mining in the foothills of the Andes. Colombia is a country whose literature I'm not particularly familiar with, and it was exciting to have a new author with a plethora of works to choose from. I was hoping that this first book would open the door to a new author that I could enjoy in the future, and while I am not willing to discard the author based solely on this initial reading, my enthusiasm was a bit tempered by Amirbar. I think that Álvaro Mutis is without a doubt an exceptional writer, but his subject matter may not be my cup of tea.

In this book Maqroll tells his mining story to his chronicler in California as he recovers from a bout of malaria that has to taken him out of seafaring action. He arrives in South America seeking to mine some gold and meets a variety of interesting people along the way. He stays in an inland town for a while as he gets the lay of the land, and befriends one of the workers at the cafe named Dora Estela. She introduces him to her brother, who becomes his mining partner and helps him explore two mines, the second of which proves fruitful; unfortunately, he is then abducted by military patrollers concerned about guerilla activity in the region. Since Maqroll needs someone else to help him work the mine, Dora Estela sends him a woman who is mysterious and has a special method of contraception that prevents her from having children, which is one of her greatest fears in life. The mining story ends with Maqroll feeling older and wearier than when it began. There is an epilogue in which the chronicler recounts a later correspondence with Maqroll in which he explains how he found some information relatable to his experience in the mines in an old Mallorcan book that he read. I enjoyed the way that the initial and final sections of the book contrasted with the body of Maqroll´s tale, with ostensibly modern-day California and Europe helping situate his story, which in some ways could have just as easily happened a century ago as today, in our own times.

I would call this book well-written, but I certainly did not find it inspiring. Perhaps it was not the best introduction to the author: it appears to be an addendum of sorts to the life story of Maqroll, and it also wanders from the nautical nature of his other adventures. I didn´t find myself extremely attracted to the premise of an incessant and sage wanderer who has been everywhere in the world and has boatloads of experience with the various men and women who inhabit this earth. In reading the limited biographical information on Álvaro Mutis available online, it appears that he too has done a fair amount of wandering, and it stands to reason that his Maqroll character is a combination of his own experiences in the world and his fantasies about what it would be like to travel the high seas seeking adventure, winning women and experiencing the various trials and tribulations of the rough life of an anchorless soul. I´m just not a big fan of adult adventure stories, although I understand that many people are. The scope of el Gaviero's travels and experiences gave the author an expansive palette of people, places and vocabulary from which to choose, and Mr. Mutis undoubtedly has incredible control over the Spanish language. I would definitely recommend this book to those who enjoy adventure stories starring grown-ups; I just don't particularly enjoy them myself. I am glad that this book got me thinking about mines and mining, because I remembered that I wanted to re-read the book Subterra, by Baldomero Lillo, which documents the hardships of Chilean miners in the early 20th century. I was thinking about it when I first read about the miners in Chile who have been stuck far underground for quite some time, and I'm planning to start reading it during my afternoon break. ( )
  msjohns615 | Oct 5, 2010 |
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Magroll, weitgereister Seefahrer, geht hoch oben in den kolumbianischen Anden auf Goldsuche. Statt erhofftem Reichtum macht er einen unheimlichen Fund..

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