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Post Sarmiento in the News
Created by John Eipper on 07/17/20 4:43 AM

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Sarmiento in the News (Patrick Mears, -Germany, 07/17/20 4:43 am)

I was reading this article today in BBC Online and was pleasantly surprised to see that it mentioned Sarmiento's Facundo. That, of course, brought back fond memories of the occurrence of synchronicity in connecting with you. https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20200716-the-best-early-novels-youve-never-heard-of .

I was also happy to be reminded of Sarmiento, his opposition to the dictator Rosas, his visit to the US and the publication of his "travelogue" thereafter, and his receiving an honorary degree from (where else) The University of Michigan. I wish that son Eddie could have joined Connie and me on my search for Sarmiento's traces in Argentina back in 2012, like Eddie did the next year when he, Connie and I tracked down Pablo Neruda in Santiago, Valparaiso and "Casa Neruda" on the Pacific shore near Isla Negra.

I placed a post of this BBC article on LinkedIn a few minutes ago, where I amplified a bit on the author's description of Facundo and will now see later, via "Likes" and "Comments," how many secret Sarmiento fans are still out there.

JE comments:  Very much a product of his times, Domingo Faustino Sarmiento has not aged well in the last generation, given his racist theories linking progress and "whiteness."  When president, he was especially brutal to Argentina's indigenous population.  In my grad school days (late 1980s), the Modern Languages building at U Michigan featured a large bust of Sarmiento by the elevator, but it was removed after student protests a few years ago.  Regardless, I'll forever be grateful to DFS for personal reasons:  he connected Pat Mears and me, and thence to WAIS!

Facundo (1845) is hardly a "novel you've never heard of," as the BBC phrases it, but the article is not targeted at Hispanists.  Part character study of a provincial strongman (caudillo), part sweeping sociological treatise, the book outlines Sarmiento's vision for Argentina:  "civilization" is achieved through education, the strengthening of government institutions, and immigration, preferably of the Northern and Western European type.

Shall we start our own discussion on "best early novels you've never heard of"?  Cutoff date:  1900.  Allow me to put in a vote for Aluísio Azevedo's 1890 O cortiço (The Slum, or A Brazilian Tenement).  It's naturalist realism at its grittiest, shocking and awing even the jaded reader.  I found myself wondering out loud every few pages:  This is from the 1890s?


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