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Fiction

January 25, 1987|Margarita Nieto

STORIES by Sergio Ramirez, translated by Nick Caistor (Readers International: $14.95, hardcover; $7.95, paperback; 118 pp.). The multiple role of intellectual-diplomat-politician exemplified by Latin American writers, Jose Marti, Pablo Neruda, Octavio Paz and Carlos Fuentes, usually surprises North Americans who fail to realize that political leadership is often considered both a moral and social obligation for the intelligentsia in these countries. That this phenomenon is one of writer-politician and not vice versa in the case of Sergio Ramirez, vice president of the Nicaraguan Sandinista government, is evident in this collection of eight short stories translated into English by Nick Caistor. A novelist as well ("To Bury Our Fathers," 1985), his insights into the irony and pathos of contemporary life and harsh political realities is tempered by an ability to focus on the human aspects of poverty, greed, infidelity, cruelty and illusion. "A Bed of Bauxite in Weipa," a multilayered narrative reminiscent of Fuentes and Julio Cortazar, is a revealing psychological portrait of an unfaithful husband, an upper- class pillar of society, who seeks the innocence of first love through expensive one-night stands. In "To Jackie With All Our Heart," "Nicaragua Is White" and "Saint Nikolaus," Ramirez focuses on elements within a provincial society seeking to be American or European at any cost. The elements of humor, parody, pathos and social criticism in these three stories remind one of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's short narratives, as does "The Centerfielder," but it is in "The Perfect Game" that his originality and ability as a storyteller reach a unique level of mastery in narrating the suspense and hopes of a small-town pitcher's father as his son almost pitches a perfect game.

Ramirez's maturity and competency place him within the mainstream of contemporary Latin American writers. Still, one wonders if this work would be published in the United States if his political fame had not preceded it, and, furthermore, how many more competent and excellent writers from Central and South America who are not politically active are destined to remain unknown in this country?

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