Manlio Argueta Edward J. Curtin, Jr. - Essay

Edward J. Curtin, Jr.

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

All suffering is incarnate, doubly so that of the poor and persecuted. Empty bellies, painful early deaths, back-breaking labor, a rifle butt in the face: These are some of the milder tortures administered by the "authorities" to the citizens of El Salvador.

Such oppressive suffering is hard for Americans to visualize, much less believe in or care about, even though their own Government is deeply implicated in the daily carnage. It all seems abstract, unreal, Salvadorans somehow seeming not quite human.

This moving novel, banned by the Government of El Salvador, shatters that illusion. Written by the exiled Salvadoran, Manlio Argueta, One Day of Life palpably presents peasants as they struggle through one terrifying day. Murdered at the present rate of about 100 a week, these persecuted people here find a voice.

And a quietly powerful voice it is, one that reverberates in the reader. (pp. 14-15)

The voices of the poor tell a story of the growth of conscience …, the discovery of rights and the awareness of exploitation….

Despite the terrifying evil that pervades this book, there is a luminous spirit of hope and resistance that miraculously prevails. It is passed on from person to person despite death and torture and great suffering. "Maybe the spirit is the memory that gets into your head," Lupe muses. It is precisely this spirit, generous, loving, but infinitely determined to resist oppression, that Argueta has artfully managed to portray. (p. 15)

Edward J. Curtin, Jr., in a review of "One Day of Life," in America, Vol. 150, No. 1, January 14, 1984, pp. 14-15.