Springtime in a Broken Mirror

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 30 Apr 2019

Member Reviews

If you go to war to win what you know will only be a moral victory, are you still a revolutionary, or are you a mad man?  

The story is told from multiple perspectives, a man in prison in Uruguay and his wife, daughter, father and friend in exile in Argentina.  As Santiago fights to stay alive and sane in his prison cell, his family struggles to adapt to life in exile, and life without him.

“Springtime” is a poetic reflection on the Uruguayan revolution and its repression.  I was surprised and enlightened by the historical aspects of the book. 

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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As someone who has only recently waded into Latin American literature, and who to date has associated Latin American literature almost exclusively with magical realism, Springtime in a Broken Mirror was a highly welcome expansion of my understanding of the genre. I'd instead classify this book as literary/political/historical fiction, both deeply funny and deeply heartbreaking, with bits of dark humor and star-crossed romance thrown in between.

One of the strengths of this book is its employment of multiple perspectives, with each chapter representing a different character, from the darkly funny political prisoner Santiago (who reminds me of the protagonist from Viet Thanh Nguyen's The Sympathizer, or Paul Beatty's The Sellout), to the romantic playboy Rolando (who would be at home in any Marquez novel), to the young child Beatriz , through whose eyes we see someone both struggling to understand exile/political revolution, and basic vocabulary (the latter of which is often employed to comedic effect).  By telling the story of multiple generations and the various ways they are impacted by political revolution in Uruguay, Benedetti did an excellent job of showing the vast and rippling effects of political upheaval, even while only focusing in on the microcosm of a single family and their friends. 

Beyond that, the writing in this book is simply superb. Springtime in a Broken Mirror probably has the highest ratio of text to highlighted text in recent memory.  Some particularly stand out quotes are: 
"the dictatorship had decided to open, not a door, but a crack, one that was so small that only a single syllable could enter, and so the people saw that crack and without giving it a second thought slipped the syllable 'No' inside it."

"anibal isn't a number esteban isn't a number ruben isn't a number/ they wanted to turn us into numbers but we screwed them we refused to become things"

"What a great goddam con trick Puritanism is, thinks Rolando Asuero, pulling a face. And he pauses as he considers the fine example north of the Rio Grande. Another great con trick. A moral campaign against the daily evening martini or bourbon, but hurrah for the daily morning napalm."

I could go on and on and on. 

Thank you to NetGalley for providing an advance copy for me to read and review (in exchange for an unbiased opinion), thank you to the New Press for issuing an English translation for the first time, and thank you thank you thank you to Mario Benedetti for writing this book.
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3.5 stars.
I picked this book fascinated by the beautiful title, and the fact that it has Uruguay as its backdrop (a first for me). It delves into the life of a political prisoner in Montevideo named Santiago, his wife and daughter, his father, and a couple of more gripping characters. The book intricately explores the themes of political turmoil, marriage, intimacy and nationalism. It also contains elements similar to Tayari Jones' The American Marriage. I found Graciela and Rafael to be beautifully crafted characters. And I absolutely loved the chapters with Beatriz's POV!
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I have loved most of Mario's books in their traditional Spanish versions.  But translated versions never sum it up for me, the meaning are lost in translation, both culturally, and literally,

I would not be able to make a decent feedback on this book.  I miss Mario Benedetti !

I wanted to visit the streets described in his book but the images would not come up  this first edition had a lot of missing characters  making it even more difficult to read

Sorry but this will not mak e the book shelves in it's present form perhaps it needs a more colorful description although not Benedettis style, he is more morose but down to earth, he speaks from the core of his being drawing life to what is not.
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Uruguayan Mario Benedetti (1920-2009) is regarded as one of the most important Latin American writers, and this novel is an impressive introduction to his work. It tells of Santiago, imprisoned after the military coup in Uruguay in 1973. Benedetti himself was forced into exile for his political activities and it was while he was living in Mallorca in the 1980s that he wrote this novel about political repression, with his own experiences giving an added authenticity to the story. Santiago’s partner Graciela, their daughter Beatriz and his father are now in Buenos Aires along with his friend Rolando. In alternating chapters we hear from each of them in turn as they express their own feelings and thoughts, plus there are chapters in the third person from the author himself chronicling his own experiences of exile and that of the people he meets. So it’s a multi-layered tale, exploring themes of political oppression, exile, imprisonment, loyalty, betrayal and loss, and the cost of political opposition, a constant theme in Latin American literature, and one presented very sympathetically here. I became more and more absorbed in the novel as time went on and I came to know the characters in more depth. I found them empathetic and their plight moving. Well-written and well-paced, I found the book very interesting and thought-provoking and it’s one I heartily recommend.
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