Doña Inés vs. Oblivion, by Ana Teresa Torres, translated by Gregory Rabassa

Winner of the 1998 Pegasus Prize for Literature, this novel is both a family saga and a fictionalized account of the history of Venezuela, focusing on the relentless conflict between races and classes over land ownership. A long list of historical figures march through its pages, including Simón Bolívar and a series of military dictators. These men spawn storms of violence that buffet the fictional characters, who are also beset by such natural disasters as earthquakes and plagues. By the book's end, class and race are of little significance: the descendants of former slaves have risen to and fallen from power, while the descendants of the ruling class have alternately lost and regained their money. Loyalty is based on expediency, and property rights outweigh human rights. Oblivion—the total loss of memory and of ties to the land—wins.

 

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