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SON OF MAN by Augusto Roa Bastos ; translated by Rachel Caffyn; foreword by Ariel Dorfman; afterword by Jean Franco (Monthly Review Press: $24 , cloth; $7.50 , paper)

January 15, 1989|ELENA BRUNET

First published in 1961, this harrowing work of fiction is told as nine short stories or fragments spanning the history of Paraguay since its independence and illustrating three crucial episodes in the nation's tumultuous history: the dictatorship of Gaspar Rodriguez Francia (1812-40), the 1911 rebellion and the Chaco War of 1932.

Symbols and legends are the only clear links among the stories. Among these symbols is a wooden statue of Christ (the title's "son of man") carved by the leper Gaspar Mora that is unnailed from the cross every year on Good Friday in rebellion against the "resignation and obedience" that the Jesuits had introduced when they initially colonized Paraguay.

Augusto Roa Bastos, born in Paraguay in 1917, has lived in exile since 1947.

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