Bolívar, the Liberator is a straightforward biography that is suitable for any young reader. Syme takes the facts of Bolívar’s life and recounts them in a manner that is sensible and easy to follow. In doing so, he necessarily simplifies many of the complex concerns of such an influential leader as Bolívar, such as his mixed racial back-ground, his family’s wealthy heritage, and the conflicts between his idealism and the realities of South American politics. Such issues are not overlooked, but they are mentioned and given attention only as they relate to the sequence of biographical detail.
Syme treats Bolívar’s adolescence and young adulthood in detail, giving importance to his youthful reputation as a carefree playboy millionaire and to the transformation that he undergoes as he becomes a single-minded soldier. While touching on the influence of Rodriguez Carreño and his liberal ideas, Syme describes Bolívar’s transformation from the outside, with little insight into the leader’s thoughts, convictions, and inner struggles. Conversely, at the end of Bolívar, the Liberator, Syme chooses to dwell on the heartbreak that Bolívar feels as he sees his vision of a federated South America fail under the pressure of petty, ambitious politicians and to give fewer details about the specific political maneuvers and machinations causing that failure.
Syme attempts to maintain an objective attitude toward his subject, but occasionally his tone becomes adulatory, waxing broad with the rhetoric of revolutionary struggle and military glory. He evaluates the various theories regarding...
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