Eduardo Galeano reads from Mirrors at Berkeley Arts & Letters

Eduardo Galeano reads from MIRRORS

I’ve been braggin’ all week to folks that Barb scored tickets to the sold-out Eduardo Galeano reading at Berkeley’s First Congregational Church. Sadly, most people smile nicely at me and ask, “Who’s Eduardo Galeano?”

I would be more indignant except for the fact that up until Barb first introduced me to Galeano’s work a few years back, I didn’t know who Galeano was either. Second confession, I also was not immediately wowed by his work. I read Walking Words and really didn’t get it. Not until I saw Galeano’s Lannan Literary video did I become a fan of his work, speaking voice, politics and process. To date, I’ve seen the video about four times and will probably keep borrowing it from my library when I need some inspiration.

As for last night, you know the reading is going to be off the hook when a lady is outside with a handwritten sign that says I Need One More Ticket. Not only was the event sold-out but book sales where off the chart with a runner coming back every other minute with another stack of pre-signed hardcovers every five minutes. In all the craziness, Barb and I managed to get some great seats in the first row center balcony and were promptly treated to everything we expected: fierce politics, unapologetic humanitarianism, wry delivery and meticulously crafted storytelling.

Galeano described Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone as “the history of the Universe in 600 short stories.” A bold claim from any writer but during his reading Galeano shared tales regarding West African sculptors, the Trojan War, pre-historic cave artists, the French Revolution, the first nations of the Américas, DW Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation,” Hernán Cortés, the Lincoln Brigade, George W. Bush & William McKinley, Ambrose Bierce, Alan Turing, Scheherazade, the Berlin Wall and Che Guevara. Now that might not be the entire universe but he did only read for an hour.

One of my favorite moments was Galeano speaking on how his education came not from universities but from life: “What I know about the art of writing and storytelling I learned from the cafés of Montevideo. This is how I learned to capture the past. How the story that happened centuries or millenia ago is also happening right now, as you are telling it. This I learned in the cafés. My masters were anonymous.”

Very fitting when you take into account that the main protagonist in the stories Galeano read for us were not the historical figures listed above, but the anonymous, the invisible, the disappeared, the forgotten, the jiabro, the fulano, the nobodies, the faces we see but do not engage.

More Eduardo Galeano
Preview of Mirrors

The Literary President’s Library Grows


(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

At summit, Obama gets friendly with Chavez
By Mark S. Smith

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (AP) — President Barack Obama extended a hand of friendship to America’s hemispheric neighbors on Saturday at a summit where he offered a new beginning for U.S.-Cuba relations and accepted a book about the exploitation of Latin America from Venezuela’s fiery, anti-American leader.

As the first full day of meetings began on the two-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago, Obama exchanged handshakes and pats on the back with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, who once likened President George W. Bush to the devil. In front of photographers, Chavez gave Obama a copy of “The Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent,” a book by Eduardo Galeano, which chronicles U.S. and European economic and political interference in the region.

Later, when a reporter asked Obama what he thought of the book, the president replied: “I thought it was one of Chavez’ books. I was going to give him one of mine.”

Full article can be found here.

I Speak of the City: Eduardo Galeano


Montevideo, 2006
Originally uploaded by isabelir

[Currently watching the Eduardo Galeano reading from the Lannan Literary video series. Galeano is bouncing back and forth between English and Spanish readings which is even cooler when he decides to read the story of Tracy Hill from Connecticut in Spanish because in Galeano’s world La Hill’s story can happen anywhere or in any language.

Galeano has a wonderful reading style—expressive, detailed, no nonsense, ironic and so very focused. He’s also can be dryly hysterical like when he dedicates “Window on a Successful Man” to the World Bank in a personal letter but wonders why the World Bank hasn’t written back.

Another one of Galeano’s poems has me thinking about the murder of Oscar Grant and how this is not an isolated incident. This happens all over the world, regardless of government, in the country, definitely in the City, and in every language and most times without the benefit of a reliable witness but always a reporter (or chismoso) who is willing to paint an easy portrait of the street kid, jibaro, homleless, fulano, homeboy, cualquier, clocker, gangbanger, illegal, mojado, junkie, tecato. You know, a nobody. The nobody who, Galeano reminds us, is far from nothing.]

The Nobodies

Fleas dream of buying themselves a dog, and nobodies dream
of escaping poverty: that one magical day good luck will
suddenly rain down on them- will rain down in buckets. But
good luck doesn’t even fall in a fine drizzle, no matter
how hard the nobodies summon it, even if their left hand is
tickling, or if they begin the new day with their right foot, or
start the new year with a change of brooms.
The nobodies: nobody’s children, owners of nothing. The
nobodies: the no ones, the nobodied, running like rabbits,
dying through life, screwed every which way.
Who don’t speak languages, but dialects.
Who don’t have religions, but superstitions.
Who don’t create art, but handicrafts.
Who don’t have culture, but folklore.
Who are not human beings, but human resources.
Who do not have names, but numbers.
Who do not appear in the history of the world, but in the
police blotter of the local paper.
The nobodies, who are not worth the bullet that kills them.

© Eduardo Galeano