The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts chronicles the liberation of a people from a cruel tyranny. The first novel published by Louis de Bernieres, it is one of several of his novels to chronicle Latin American life in a fantastic vein. Although it begins realistically, de Bernieres quickly establishes that fantasy and imagination are necessary in order to transform the lives of the characters.
Don Emmanuel is a large landowner who, though very powerful, is not a part of the country’s governing party and is accustomed to going his own way. When another landowner, Doña Constanza, tries to divert the course of a nearby river in a way that will cause Don Emmanuel’s crops to be ruined, he protests and tries to avert the action. The local campesinos, or peasants, are even more affected by Doña Constanza’s plans and begin to organize in order to undermine and forestall the diversion of the river. The government, which stays in power by arousing paranoia about the threat of communist subversion, becomes alarmed. The army, seeing the insurgency as much as an excuse for brutality as a genuine threat, sends a corps of soldiers under Comandante Rodrigo Figueras, a cruel, illiterate, and sadistic man, to quell the insurgency.
Not only the peasants but also the Indians in the mountains are oppressed by the government. Aurelio, an antigovernment guerrilla, has taken refuge with the Indians and has come to understand their...
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