How Eduardo Galeano gained overnight fame
Hugo Chavez’s gift of a little-known book to Barack Obama has sent the exiled Uruguayan writer shooting up the bestseller lists
When Barack Obama met Hugo Chavez, one of his country's biggest critics, at the Summit of the Americas in Port-of-Spain at the weekend, the American president was given a surprise gift by the Venezuelan president. In full view of the watching world, Chavez thrust a copy of The Open Veins of Latin America by the Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano's into Obama's hands. In doing so, he turned a little-known cult history book into a resurgent publishing sensation.
Now Galeano's book has flown past even Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series on the Amazon bestseller list, rising from number 54,295 to number two.
The subtitle of Galeano's tome gives a clearer idea of of what the reader is in for: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent. Published in 1971, it is a leftist take on how imperialism in its various guises - fork-bearded conquistadors from Spain, 19th-century British businessmen whose contracts were backed by gunboat diplomacy, and US multinationals - have ravished Latin America's resources and its people.
Galeano has previously said that he supports the new US president
Starting with Columbus and ending with Castro, the book was inflammatory enough to be banned by several military dictatorships and send Galeano, who has also written authoritatively on football, into exile.
Galeano, when interviewed about Obama's election last November, said he was a supporter of the new president. "Well, as almost everybody else, I'm happy about it. I mean, I received it as a victory in the long, difficult struggle against racism."
But he did also reveal some reservations. "I'm worried about the repetition of this dangerous, toxic word, 'leadership'. I have heard this word said by Obama and also by McCain, and I usually hear it with a dangerous frequency in all the... in almost all the politicians in the United States, and about Latin America, it's usual to say, 'We should recover our leadership in Latin America'. We don't need any foreign leadership. Let it be. Let reality be as it wants to be, with no ruling state deciding the destiny of other countries. Please, no more. Stop with this tradition of the messianic mission of, you know, saving the world."
There is no word yet on what Galeano might have to say to President Chavez by way of thanks, for turning him overnight into an international literary sensation. ·
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