A highly acclaimed book and different in many ways, which is a good thing, since we are talking after literature after all. The Old Man Who Read Love Stories by Luis Sepúlveda takes the reader to an exotic place, a place nearly no one ever visits.
The book is set in the Ecuadorian jungle, far away from everything and everyone. It is set so far away that the village is only visited by the dentist every six months. The dentist brings the old man, Antonio Bolivar, romance novels when he visits the village of El Idilio. The books fills a void in his life, after his wife passed away due to malaria. When Antonio realized he could read he felt like it was the most important thing that had ever happened to him. Quite frankly, we should all feel this way, if you ask me.
The book is dedicated to the memory of an ecological activist who got murdered. Ecology is indeed one of the main themes in the book. Antonio has lived in his hut for over forty years. He has learned to live in peace as part of nature from the Shuar Indians. The mayor makes Antonio take part in a hunt for an ocelot who hunts men, because a gringo killed her cubs. What could describe better human behaviour towards wildlife and nature? Destroy. Slaughter. Torture. Disrupt.
I think this is a book which can be read in two different ways; it can be a quick read, you get the message, because it is simplistic at best, but it can also be read with thought, peeling it like an onion, layer by layer. It is a short novel, a novella to be exact, but it’s not the quantity, it’s the quality…
My own love for wildlife and nature has taken me to become some sort of an expert on humans slaughtering wildlife and destroying nature, and it is for sure not a pretty picture. In the end I think Antonio really needed the cheap romance books he got every six months, because we all need an outlet, a way to escape the cruel reality.
I wish more books were written about this important subject. Fiction is easier for many of us to absorb, and it gives an overview of the times we live, or times gone by. So does nonfiction as well of course, but in many cases we need to hear about what happened in a special setting to fully be able to appreciate the details.