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Aguirre: The Re-Creation of a Sixteenth-Century Journey Across South America Hardcover – June, 1994

4.2 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1560 the new Spanish governor of Inca Peru authorized an expedition to find and conquer El Dorado, the hoped-for source of Inca wealth. An enormous force of armed men, horses, supplies and ships were marshalled to navigate the Amazon. It was an ill-fated search fraught with unimagined disasters--ships sank, horses were lost, men were terrorized and starved by the jungles and the uncharted river. A traitor in the ranks, Lope de Aguirre, hungering for wealth and status, fomented a rebellion, killing the expedition's leader and lieutenants, his comrades and his own daughter. In the late 1980s Minta ( Gabriel Garcia Marquez ) set out with a companion to reconstruct the story by following the expedition's route. Their own ordeal on old Inca paths through jungle and over mountains, often on foot for lack of other transport, though dramatic in itself, continuously distracts from the narrative of Aguirre's drama. Nevertheless, Minta's intimacy with past and present Peru evokes the ambience of the conquest and its immediate sequelae, as well as the still palpable imprint of the Inca on contemporary and rarely visited Andean communities.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Minta (comparative literature, Univ. of York) traveled through Peru, down the Amazon, and on to Venezuela in 1987, retracing Lope de Aguirre's journey in the 1500s. Aguirre was a poor Basque in his forties who joined a large expedition in the 16th century in Peru, searching for El Dorado. He mutinied and went on a killing spree while guiding the remaining members down the Amazon, eventually winding up in Venezuela. Minta's trip is a modern travelog, utilizing the chronicles of Aguirre's disastrous expedition. In 1561 Aguirre was shot, ending the career of a ruthless, psychotic soldier. The author makes both Aguirre's expedition and his own memorable.
George M. Jenks, Bucknell Univ., Lewisburg, Pa.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 244 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt & Co (June 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805031030
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805031034
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,159,503 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
As a travelogue the book is both insightful and engaging. As a history excellent; as it retraces the tragic and doomed journey of Pedro de Ursua and Lope de Aguirre through across the South American continent (1560). This book chronicles one of the most bizarre mutinies to rock 16th Century South America. He narrates the grandiose ambition and blinding pride that gripped Spanish Peru in the 16th century; not forgetting to lauds as well the "clever, ruthless and courageous" men and women that invaded and then settled South America.

Stephen Minta, British, and a Senior Lecturer in Comparative Literature at the University of York, writes brilliantly about Peru in the late 1980's and early 1990's (Peru hasn't changed that much since). His writing is full if insights into human nature, and has the occasional biting satire, tongue-in-cheek humor and a candid and critical evaluation of an applaudable travelogue.

This book is in the company of the best modern South America travelogues/history (IE White Rock by Hugh Thomson and Chasing Che by Patrick Symmes - see my reviews). For afficionados and students of South America (especially Peru) this book is a must read. Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
My first introduction to the story of Lope de Aguirre was with the Werner Herzog film "Aguirre - Wrath of God". This I found profound, yes, but also needlessly indulgent and slow. I knew there was more to the story. Then I read this book, and it made me wonder that even if this is "speculative history" (according to the jacket) based on fact (or chronicles - everyone has an agenda), then this is far more interesting than a few people drifting down a muddy river on a raft looking intense. Don't get me wrong - I love Herzog ("Nosferatu", "Heart of Glass", "Fitzcarraldo", et al), and I give him the benefit of the doubt that maybe the source material for this book wasn't available to him, and I can take a lot of meditative shots of trees passing slowly, but when I read that this book is criticised for not being as true as the film, then I say - Herzog clearly had nothing to go by but a raft, a river, and Klaus Kinski in armour. If you are at all interested in this tale (that is all we seem to have now), read this book. It is more informative than the more famous film, and thus more rewarding, unless you like prefer a couple of hours of languid brown water, slow trees, and really cragged faces looking intently at the continually renewed horizon.
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Format: Paperback
This review is going to be much more vague than my other reviews, due to the nature of the subject: Aguirre in books and on film. But as the review centers in the Americas during the great conquests, allow me first to mention two absolutely fabulous must-read books on the subject, both by the same author, Buddy Levy, CONQUISTADOR, the story of Cortés and Montezuma, and RIVER OF DARKNESS, about Pizarro, Orellana and the Amazon.
I've recently read AGUIRRE by Stephen Minta and THE WRATH OF GOD: LOPE DE AGUIRRE by Evan Balkan. Both are slight volumes, both excellent, both detail the adventures of this sadistic psychopath who in no way possessed the vision and intelligence of a Cortés or a Pizarro, although both, like Aguirre, were surely sociopaths. (I have a slight preference for Balkan.) Herzog's film with Klaus Kinski, AGUIRRE, THE WRATH OF GOD, faithfully reconstructs the major incidents as found in both Minta and Balkan's books, with a hideous Kinski who physically represents, to a staggering degree, the real-life, equally hideous Aguirre (whose portrait has survived). For those interested in the `'real-life'' Kinski, I've read W.A. Harbinson's (2011) BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, the biography of Kinski and his equally famous daughter. He went from rags to riches, eventually living in mansions, eating off gold plates and owning dozens of Rolls Royces, Ferraris, et al, sexually assaulting literally anything with an orifice, one of his daughters even accusing him of abusing her from the age of 5. In truth, throughout the whole book, one can't find a single reason to justify the existence of this miserable human scum. Yet, compared to the inhumanity and sheer butchery of a Cortés or, especially, a Pizarro, he comes off as merely a miscreant. The film and all of these books are not for the faint of heart. As for my own books (also not destined for the faint of heart), they can be found on Amazon under Michael Hone.
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