Note from TomDispatch editor Tom Engelhardt: If you’ve never read a book by Eduardo Galeano, believe me, your life has been lacking. Read his first book, read his last book, read something he wrote anyway. I offer you the Engelhardt guarantee: you won’t regret it. Start, if you wish, with his final volume, Hunter of Stories, featured in today’s post and then work your way back through a writer to remember. I’ve featured his work many times at this site, always with the deepest pleasure. This, I suspect, is the last time for both of us. The passages below are from his final, touching volume published by Nation Books, Hunter of Stories. And so, let me take this opportunity, one last time, to say goodbye, Eduardo, and thank you for everything, especially for the worlds you captured forever in words.
By day, the sun guides them. By night, the stars.
Paying no fare, they travel without passports and without forms for customs or immigration.
Birds are the only free beings in this world inhabited by prisoners. They fly from pole to pole, powered by food alone, on the route they choose and at the hour they wish, without ever asking permission of officials who believe they own the heavens.
The world is on the move.
On board are more shipwrecked souls than successful seafarers.
Thousands of desperate people die en route, before they can complete the crossing to the promised land, where even the poor are rich and everyone lives in Hollywood.
The illusions of any who manage to arrive do not last long.
Saint Columba was rowing across Loch Ness when an immense serpent with a gaping mouth attacked his boat. Saint Columba, who had no desire to be eaten, chased it off by making the sign of the cross.
Fourteen centuries later, the monster was seen again by someone living nearby, who happened to have a camera around his neck, and pictures of it and of curious footprints came out in the Glasgow and London papers.
The creature turned out to be a toy, the footprints made by baby hippopotamus feet, which are sold as ashtrays.
The revelation did nothing to discourage the tourists.
The market for fear feeds on the steady demand for monsters.
In a community newspaper in Barcelona’s Raval neighborhood, an anonymous hand wrote:
Your god is Jewish, your music is African, your car is Japanese, your pizza is Italian, your gas is Algerian, your coffee is Brazilian, your democracy is Greek, your numbers are Arabic, your letters are Latin.
I am your neighbor. And you call me a foreigner?
Back in the years 1975 and 1976, before and after the coup d’état that imposed the most savage of Argentina’s many military dictatorships, death threats flew fast and furious and anyone suspected of the crime of thinking simply disappeared.
Orlando Rojas, a Paraguayan exile, answered his telephone in Buenos Aires. Every day a voice repeated the same thing: “I’m calling to tell you you’re going to die.”
“So you aren’t?” Orlando asked.
The terrorizer would hang up.
A Visit to Hell
Some years ago, during one of my deaths, I paid a visit to hell.
I had heard that in the underworld you can get your favorite wine and any delicacy you want, lovers for all tastes, dancing music, endless pleasure…
Once again, I was able to corroborate the fact that advertising lies. Hell promises a great life, but all I found were people waiting in line.
In that endless queue, snaking out of sight along narrow smoky passages, were women and men of all epochs, from cavemen to astronauts.
All were condemned to wait. To wait for eternity.
That’s what I discovered: hell is waiting.
Who was it that a century ago best described today’s global power structure?
Not a philosopher, not a sociologist, not a political scientist either.
It was a child named Little Nemo, whose adventures were published in the New York Herald way back in 1905, as drawn by Winsor McCay.
Little Nemo dreamed about the future.
In one of his most unerring dreams, he traveled to Mars.
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