Continuing my long-running series of “Latin American Classics You’ve Never Read” (although it may be true I haven’t reviewed most of the books in the series – in fact, only Abel Posse and Fernando Vallejo, way back at the beginning of this blog), here’s Ricardo Güiraldes’ Don Segundo Sombra (Argentina, 1926). A boy who is a guacho (orphan) becomes a gaucho (cowboy who lives on the pampas). A gaucho is a real man’s man: he doesn’t complain when he’s injured, his life isn’t troubled by women, he can break in horses, he can fight with knives, he can herd cattle, wrestle bulls; he’s learned the harshness of the world and his only ambition in life is to have a trail of ponies all the same colour.
Plot: our narrator runs away from home and follows the mysterious Don Segundo Sombra, the epitome of gauchoism, who becomes his godfather and teaches him gaucho ways. Much riding of horses ensues.
Weighed down by some pretty hard-going (even, dare I say, at times turgid) books at the moment (Broch, Volponi, Wyndham Lewis, Ernst Weiss, Olive Moore), I particularly enjoyed reading something reasonably straight-forward, simply-told, and which was more about acting than thinking about one’s acts (though our narrator does have pause to reflect at times, particularly towards the end).
Availability: Well, as a Latin American classic, obviously you won’t find this book in print in English any more. You might find it knocking around in old second-hand shops though, because Penguin brought out a mass-market paperback version in the late 40s (which is the edition I have, and I saw another one the same (cheaper, too) after I’d bought this).
Next-up: Well, it’ll have to be Fernando del Paso’s News From the Empire. I’ve done all the background reading, now for the novel itself. (But since it’ll probably take me a year or so, I might squeeze in another before next year!).