Customer Reviews


16 Reviews
5 star:
 (7)
4 star:
 (1)
3 star:
 (5)
2 star:
 (2)
1 star:
 (1)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ¡Pura Vida! A Superb Insight into the Soul of Costa Rica
This small compilation of short stories was a priceless companion on my trip to Costa Rica. The philosophy of the "Traveler's Literary Companion" series is terrific: one of the best ways to really understand a country and its culture is through that country's literature. I highly recommend this book for anyone planning a trip to Costa Rica, or just curious...
Published on May 3, 1999 by matthew@bowlby.com

versus
34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Fleeting Impression
BEFORE TRAVELLING overseas, I always try and read some literature from the places I'm visiting, so I certainly applaud the spirit of the "Traveler's Literary Companion" series. As there doesn't seem to be much in the way of Costa Rican literature available in translation, this anthology is invaluable. However, I'm afraid I didn't find it as illuminating as the...
Published on October 10, 2001 by A. Ross


‹ Previous | 1 2 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ¡Pura Vida! A Superb Insight into the Soul of Costa Rica, May 3, 1999
By 
matthew@bowlby.com (Minneapolis, Minnesota) - See all my reviews
This small compilation of short stories was a priceless companion on my trip to Costa Rica. The philosophy of the "Traveler's Literary Companion" series is terrific: one of the best ways to really understand a country and its culture is through that country's literature. I highly recommend this book for anyone planning a trip to Costa Rica, or just curious about this glorious and inviting place. ¡Pura Vida y Tuanis!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Open up the country....., February 23, 2004
The two most invaluable books I read prior to vactioning in Costa Rica were this one, and a social history with magnificent photos called, "Costa Rica: The Last Country the Gods Made."
The funny thing is that they compliment each other almost exactly in their selection of the geographical areas in Costa Rica that they both chose to explore; so you can read the essay, "Travels from the Interior" in "Last Country" then read the corresponding short story set in the highlands of the central plateau in "Literary Companion"!
I read both books alternating back and forth like that....talk about opening up the country before your eyes!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't leave home without it, March 14, 2000
By 
Georgina M Schrock (Spokane, Washington) - See all my reviews
A fascinating variety of styles and topics. We especially enjoyed the way the stories are arranged, by region. Sleepy, pick a short story. If you wonder what it might be like to labor with a machete or to live in a small house in the jungle. If you want to know what it might be like to be the only white girl, or the only brown boy. Read this. This book will change the way you see the uniformed schoolchildren, the mysterious round rocks, the lizards... There is more to Costa Rica than identifying birds and eating mangoes.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Fleeting Impression, October 10, 2001
BEFORE TRAVELLING overseas, I always try and read some literature from the places I'm visiting, so I certainly applaud the spirit of the "Traveler's Literary Companion" series. As there doesn't seem to be much in the way of Costa Rican literature available in translation, this anthology is invaluable. However, I'm afraid I didn't find it as illuminating as the reviewers below. While the idea of grouping the 26 short stories by geographical region sounds like a good idea, in practice, I didn't find regional differences embodied in the stories to be distinctive enough to warant such arrangement. Perhaps a better grouping would have been coastal, inland, mountainous, and urban, I'm not sure. Another possible reason I might not have found the selections very evocative is their length. There are 26 stories by 20 authors (six have two stories in the collection) over 220 pages, so one gets more a sense of vignettes with fleeting impressions than a solid sense of what the people or places are like. The one aspect that does appear in the many of the stories is the importance of nature in Costa Rica, both as a source of beauty and as something to struggle against.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars One of the Few Collections Devoted to Writing from Costa Rica, July 5, 2009
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This book came out in 1993 and was one of the first publications in this traveler's literary companion series, a beautiful attempt to introduce a wide range of foreign writers to English-language readers. It contained 26 works by 20 writers. There were 23 short stories and 3 excerpts from novels.

The oldest writers in the collection were Carmen Lyra (1888-1949), Mario González Feo (1897-1969) and Max Jiménez (1900-47). The most recent were Alfonso Chase (1945-), Alfredo Aguilar (1959-) and Uriel Quesada (1962-). Others included Carlos Luis Fallas (1909-65), a writer of the working class and social protest who's been called one of the nation's most widely read authors; Yolanda Oreamuno (1916-56); Joaquín Gutiérrez (1918-2000); Fabián Dobles (1918-97) and Julieta Pinto (1922-), who were called major voices; Carmen Naranjo (1928-), who appears to be among the writers most frequently translated into English; Abel Pacheco (1933-), recently the nation's president; and Quince Duncan (1940-), who was described as a chronicler of Costa Rica's blacks. Of all the authors, five were women.

As far as could be determined, the pieces ranged from the 1930s (Lyra, Jiménez, Oreamuno) to the 1990s (Naranjo, Chase). Three-fourths of the works came from the 1960s to 90s, the rest from the 1930s and 40s.

The works covered the north and south, the Caribbean and Pacific coasts, the capital/the central valley, and a mountainous area in the north. A final section contained stories on the nation as a whole and was one of the strongest sections. In general, the longer pieces were most enjoyed.

The introduction provided little background on the nation's literary development. Judging from info on the Internet, the modern literature dates to the late 1800s. Trends over the following decades have included influence from European literary traditions; an opposing preference for local themes; nationalism and social protest; modernism (with less impact than elsewhere in Latin America); realism; and occasionally magical realism.

A number of the stories in the collection showed a great sensitivity to nature, focusing on the harvesting of fan palms, the screeching of cicadas, tropical rain, steam rising from the earth, the sound, smell and taste of the sea, as well as descriptions of trees, flowers, frogs, birds and lizards (Jiménez, Oreamuno, Quesada, Dobles, Rima de Vallbona, Aguilar, Naranjo, Fallas).

A few employed magical realism -- applying to reality some exaggeration and absurdity, or blending hallucination and reality (Jiménez, Oreamuno, Naranjo, Aguilar). Others drew attention directly or in passing to social inequity or untoward foreign influence (Lyra, Dobles, Vallbona, José León Sánchez, Pacheco). One of these, by Sánchez, was written from the point of view of a young girl trying to escape poverty and showed well the many obstacles: lack of health, sanitation, nutrition, money, learning, sexual education, role models, and protection from those who meant harm.

Another piece (Ducoudray) managed to combine protest with magical realism, in the form of mysterious pairs of wings brought by an unnamed company from overseas 90 years before, which claimed occasional victims and spread contagious diseases. Other stories were concerned more with urban alienation and sexual frustration (Samuel Rovinski) or the inability to fathom another person's motivations (Chase).

Stylistically, among the more interesting pieces for this reader were one by Dobles, in the form of a diary kept by two Americans competing against an unnamed fruit conglomerate in the early 1900s. One by Pacheco, in the form of voices telling their stories in a manner akin to Spoon River Anthology. And a monologue by Gutiérrez, in which a man at the end of his rope recounted his adventures and rued the passing of time.

In one connection or another, a handful of the stories mentioned the unnamed conglomerate, which the introduction identified as the American-owned United Fruit Company. One of the largest employers in Central America before World War II, it appears also in the pages of authors like Asturias, Neruda and García Márquez. In the present collection, it was shown building railroads to the interior, setting up company towns, driving small competitors out of business, and buying on favorable terms from local banana farmers. An excerpt in the collection from a novel by Fallas--Mamita Yunai (1941)--showed the comradeship of the hard-working construction gangs it employed.

Readers who enjoy all these things ought to enjoy this collection, it's fine as a travel guide, and it's a very useful introduction to the nation's writing over the 20th century, for which there appear to be no other widely available collections in English.

There wasn't the social satire of writers like Brazil's Machado de Assis or Mexico's Juan José Arreola, the concern with humorous tales and social customs of Peru's Ricardo Palma and the Dominican Republic's Juan Bosch, or the concern with Indian subjects of a writer like Mexico's Rosario Castellanos. The tragic sense of life in some of the pieces wasn't conveyed quite as powerfully for this reader as in the best writing of Uruguay's Horacio Quiroga, Brazil's Graciliano Ramos or Mexico's Juan Rulfo. And other pieces weren't as dazzling as the best magical realism from writers of the 1960s boom like Fuentes and Cortázar, a precursor such as Borges and successors like Puig and Arenas, or experimental on the order of Lezama Lima, Cabrera Infante, or Sarduy. Still, there was much to enjoy.

Other collections containing Costa Rican writers include When New Flowers Bloomed: Short Stories by Women Writers from Costa Rica and Panama (1991) and Contemporary Short Stories from Central America (1994).
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful read, April 28, 2009
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I purchased this book before a trip to Costa Rica, read it and then read it again when I got back. The stories are fabulous, well-written, and give a wonderful insight into this glorious country. I will probably read it again.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dual language version would be 5 stars!, November 6, 2012
By 
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I've enjoyed the stories I've read so far-- am saving most for when I am in Costa Rica. I just wish this were offered in a dual-langauge version.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars very disappointing, January 19, 2012
By 
Rowan Fairgrove (San Francisco Bay Area, CA USA) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I liked the idea of this book. The first few stories had some boring parts, but hey they're short. Most of the stories were sad in one way or another, but hey, some people think that is literary I guess.

Then at 21% is "The Adventure" by Samuel Rovinski which I found to be an unreadable rape fantasy. I suppose in a machismo country it isn't too surprising but this is not literature, it is violent pornography. I felt ambushed by this sudden departure from the previous tone.

So between the fact there is wasn't a story so far that I loved and The Adventure, I really don't think I'll finish this collection and I really cannot recommend it.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Costa Rica: A Traveler's Literay Companion, May 14, 2010
By 
Stacey Lake (Santa Cruz, CA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This book was in very good shape, you could not tell it was used. The book was very interesting and gave me a locals view of this beautiful country. Costa Rica has always prided itself for making education one of it's top priorities and this book shows the results. All the stories were well written, some had historical importance and all were very insightful. I would recommend this book to anyone, whether they are traveling to Costa Rica or not.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Visiting Costa Rica, March 13, 2007
A good read when visiting the country. I enjoyed/understood the stories much more when I visited Costa Rica and therefore the context in which they were written albeit that many of the stories were written in the earier part of the 20th century. Short stories were a good idea when travelling around
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

Costa Rica: A Traveler's Literary Companion
Costa Rica: A Traveler's Literary Companion by Barbara Ras (Paperback - December 28, 2012)
Used & New from: $22.13
Add to wishlist See buying options
Search these reviews only
Rate and Discover Movies
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.