(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The Golden Serpent is a poetic description of the daily life of a small village on the bank of the mighty Marañon River in north-central Peru. Rather than having a single central plot, the nineteen chapters are a series of stories or related episodes told by the narrator, Lucas Vilca, a raftsman and farmer of the Calemar Valley. Lucas Vilca both participates in the incidents recounted and serves as an omniscient narrator who chronicles and generalizes. The stories that Lucas Vilca tells include many adventures on the river, descriptions of festivals and religious celebrations, encounters with state troopers, intense dramas of survival amid natural dangers, and accounts of superstitions, customs, and folklore. Many of the episodes are complete short stories in themselves, but their effect is also cumulative: They are all lyric depictions of the unity of man and nature in the Calemar Valley.

The Marañon River dominates the lives of the villagers who live beside it. The cholos (part Indian, part Spanish) of Calemar are fishermen and raftsmen who earn their living by ferrying travelers and cattle across the river. They respect and exult in the power of the huge river as it rushes by them, roaring against the cliffs, churning over the rocks, gliding expansively through open stretches, carrying men and animals to their destinations or to their deaths. Years are measured in terms of rainy seasons, which cause the river to swell and flood, and...

(The entire section is 473 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Early, Eileen. Joy in Exile: Ciro Alegría’s Narrative Art. Washington, D.C.: University Press of America, 1980. Early analyzes Alegría’s narrative style.

Rodríguez Peralta, Phyllis. “Ciro Alegría: Culmination of Indigenist-Regionalism in Peru.” Journal of Spanish Studies Twentieth Century 7 (1979): 337-352. An interesting look at Alegría’s regionalist tendencies.

Urrello, Antonio. “Ciro Alegría.” In Latin American Writers, edited by Carlos A. Solé and Maria I. Abreau. Vol 3. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1989. Offers a comprehensive and critical discussion of Alegría’s life and works. Provides a selected bibliography for further reading.