Eduardo Barrios was born in Valparaiso, Chile, the son of a Chilean father and a Peruvian mother. He lived in Peru and in various other countries of Latin America, where he traveled extensively and worked at odd jobs. He was a prolific writer of short stories, plays, and novels. Such versatility may have contributed to his careful, detailed literary style.
Brother Ass initiated in Latin America a literary trend that may be called the psychological novel. Within the realist mode focused on social critique, the psychological novel presents an analytical study of the human psyche by means of well-delineated characters, each of whom represents traits common to all people. The interaction and the clash of these types illustrate how human behavior works, including the ways in which people relate to each other in friendship. Psychological analysis such as this also includes a didactic approach to improvement of life in society at large. As a byproduct of the carefully orchestrated case study, the psychological novel offers a strong social comment on a particular problem in contemporary society.
In an analytical approach, Barrios’s characters are important components of what could be viewed as a psychological behavior experiment, with close documentation of their reactions toward each other. Characters, therefore, stand as abstractions of the impact of strong personality traits when people find themselves together in society. The title, Brother Ass, incorporates the concept of human beings viewed as animals in their personal interaction. Life in a formal social setting, along with the rules and restrictions imposed by groups, clashes against people’s animal-like feelings and emotions. That conflict reveals the metaphorical message: Each human being’s struggle to keep “Brother Ass” under control constitutes the greatest challenge for all members of society.
The choice of setting, a Franciscan monastery in an isolated town, illustrates Barrios’s intention to create a controlled environment for his psychological experiment. One could argue that...
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