Galeano 's Voices
of Time: A Life in Stories
Trans. Mark Fried/
“O that I were an angel and could…speak with the trump of God” laments
Alma in the Book of Mormon. I know how he feels. His wish is to preach
repentance to the ends of the earth. Me, I’d settle for turning some
people on to Eduardo Galeano, Uruguay’s finest writer.
It was summer; I had just moved to Utah. I rode the ever-late bus home
from BYU each evening. I suppose it was better than a muggy summer elsewhere,
but for a young professor wanting to hang his hat and call it a day,
the wait in the stifling sun was nigh unbearable.
was a fine book to read at the bus stop, to divert my mind from
the heat and fill the spaces in between with wonder. I sat fidgeting
on the grass beside the sidewalk, sidelong-glancing down University
Avenue, hoping to see the 811. When trucks rumbled past my perch, my
seat shook. When words tumbled in my mind, my soul quaked.
The book brought me painful and joyous vignettes of lives observed,
lived, meditated upon, from the inception of the universe to yesterday.
As in many of his previous books, Galeano whittled stories to their
barest essences, squeezing from them the very stuff of life. Three-hundred-thirty-three
times he revealed the universe through a keyhole, retelling true stories,
connecting, intimating, reproaching, encroaching, celebrating.
One such summer day, worrying my eyes down the street, looking for a
sign, I met Avel de Alencar, secretly photocopying classified documents
revealing the crimes and abuses of the Brazilian military dictatorship.
One night, Avel finds a decade-old confiscated letter, still in its
envelope, sealed with a woman’s kiss. The next night, more letters,
successively for weeks. Knowing that many of the addressees will have
moved, gone into exile, or been killed, nonetheless, “At the end of
each night, Avel put the letters in their envelopes, stuck on fresh
stamps, and dropped them in the mailbox.”
And that was only the beginning.
Madden teaches at Brigham Young University. His essays have
recently been published in Northwest Review, Portland Magazine,
and Fourth Genre.