Voices of Time A Life in Stories

Eduardo Galeano; Translated by Mark Fried




Trade Paperback

368 Pages



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In this kaleidoscope of reflections, renowned South American author Eduardo Galeano ranges widely, from childhood to love, music, plants, fear, indignity, and indignation. In the signal style of his bestselling and much-admired Memory of Fire trilogy—brief fragments that build steadily into an organic whole—Galeano offers a rich, wry history of his life and times that is both calmly philosophical and fiercely political.

Beginning with blue algae, the earliest of life forms, these 333 vignettes alight on the Galeano family’s immigration to Uruguay in the early twentieth century, the fate of love letters intercepted by a military dictatorship, abuses by the rich and powerful, the latest military outrages, and the author’s own encounters with all manner of living matter, including generals, bums, dissidents, soccer stars, ducks, and trees. Out of these meditations emerges neither anger nor bitterness, but a celebration of a blessed life in a harsh world.

Poetic and passionate, scathing and lyrical, delivered with Galeano’s inimitable mix of gentle comedy and fierce moral judgment, Voices of Time is a deeply personal statement from a great and beloved writer.


Praise for Voices of Time

"This Uruguayan writer has a way of producing stories reminiscent of folktales, testimonials, and reflections, and of stitching them together into vast historical tapestries, a technique seen to greatest effect in his trilogy Memory of Fire. The current collection, subtitled A Life in Stories, includes excursions into the Mayan concept of time, Peruvian cave paintings, and child laborers in Pakistan, and feature walk-on appearances by Hernán Cortes, Diego Maradona, and Michael Jackson. Galeano can be fierce and defiant, as when he inveighs against the I.M.F., the World Bank, and assorted dictators, but there is always something celebratory to his style. Evoking the call of poets and singers, and the mysterious voices of wind, moon, trees, and dreams, Galeano remains, first and foremost, a wonder struck raconteur."—The New Yorker
"The simplicity of these 300 vignettes belies their complexity. They read less like stories and more like prose poetry: each word carefully chosen, each phrase evocative of an entire action or mood. 'This book recounts the stories I have lived or heard,' states Uruguayan writer Galeano, who has previously authored Upside Down and the trilogy Memory of Fire, which won him the 1989 American Book Award. Here, he entwines family history with highly subjective and selective accounts of geological events, South American history, scientific discoveries, and anthropological observations. The results are disturbing; human inhumanity is a frequent topic. But rather than browbeat readers, Galeano excels in controlled irony; what is stated shouts through the stunned silence following each ending. One is reminded of the work of Jorge Luis Borges. Not all is negative, however—some stories offer hints of hope. This anthology may prove popular in public libraries, although busy students in academic libraries will enjoy taking intelligent breaks from arduous studies with Senor Galeano's keen insights."—Library Journal
"Never mind James Frey's modest inventions. Uruguayan writer Galeano, with delightful daring, assumes that his story is universal, and that our stories are, too—and they need not even be strictly true. Galeano's book, a series of mostly impressionistic vignettes never more than a page long, starts with ponderings on blue-green algae and jumps at once to protohominid footprints along an East African lake. Gradually, historical figures appear, denizens of Iberia and elsewhere in Europe—but wait, for here comes the soccer hero Diego Maradona streaking across the sky, illuminating the ancient houses of Cordoba. Well, time is time, always malleable; and, as Galeano writes, 'We are made of time. / We are its feet and its voice. / The feet of time walk in our shoes.' Time is a theme to which Galeano frequently adverts and reverts; historical figures such as Isaac Asimov (pondering why it rains at sea), Christopher Columbus and John Paul III are merely along for the ride. Throughout, Galeano makes cameos, as when he serves as a judge in a sixth-grade writing contest, glad to hear that one little girl loves her teacher because 'he'd taught her not to be afraid of being wrong.' As for the real wrongdoers: Suffice it to say that George W. Bush would not be pleased to read these headlines, written as if channeled through Borges, Faulkner, García Marquez and Guevara. The news the author brings consists of anecdote and reminiscence, but more in little-known pieces of history and observation that instruct and admonish. Children suffer and have always suffered, the poor will not inherit the earth and the killers at Columbine 'wanted to hijack a plane and crash it into the twintowers in New York.' Readers unfamiliar with Galeano's kaleidoscopic presentation may be baffled. Fans of his style will find this a gem."—Kirkus Reviews 

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Eduardo Galeano is the author of Upside Down, the Memory of Fire trilogy (for which he won the 1989 American Book Award), Open Veins of Latin America, and many other works. He lives in Montevideo, Uruguay.
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  • Eduardo Galeano; Translated by Mark Fried

  • Eduardo Galeano is the author of Upside Down, the Memory of Fire trilogy (for which he won the 1989 American Book Award), Open Veins of Latin America, and many other works. He lives in Montevideo, Uruguay.