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on July 28, 2002
...and one to which it would do us very well to listen. Sepulveda's novel -- succinct yet full of beautiful writing -- is entertaining and compelling, but it also has a great lesson to teach about the way we interact with the natural world.
His main character -- the 'old man' of the title -- is very much a loner in his village, on a river on the verge of the dense Amazon jungle. He has experienced much joy and sorrow in his life -- and he has been sensitive enough to learn from what he has seen and felt over the years. He is just literate enough to read the love stories he adores so much -- he has to sound out unfamiliar words repeatedly, savoring them, until he feels comfortable with them. His life has given him the wisdom and patience to give them the attention and respect they deserve -- and he views the world in which he lives, with all of its plants and animals and indigenous people, with the same healthy and reverent respect. It's too bad the same can't be said for the other settlers in the village -- or in most people in the world, for that matter.
The old man is very friendly with and knowledgeable in the ways of the Shuar Indians, who inhabit the forest -- he has even lived with them at one point in his life. His knowledge of the natural world makes him very valuable to his neighbors when a female ocelot goes on a killing spree -- he is pressed into service to hunt her down and kill her.
His thoughts on his world -- and the people around him -- are gently but convincingly communicated by Sepulveda's beautiful writing. This is a novel to savor, word by word -- much as some of the works of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Carlos Fuentes. It contains so much more than this slim volume would indicate at first glance. It's a wonderful read.
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on January 24, 1999
"Old man" is a short but beautiful and poignant story. I cried at one point. It is not a sentimental love story. In fact, it's not a love story at all, so don't be misled. It's a simple and moving story about life set in the Amazon. It felt much like Hemingway's "Old Man and the Sea" and had the same feeling of directness and simplicity combined with profound truth. Sepulveda is much more in tune with contemporary sensitivities than most people would find Hemingway (although I love Hemingway's stories). A major theme of Old Man who Read Love Stories has to do with the destruction of the Amazon. This is not to say the story is any sort of politically correct pablum. It is much more profound than that. I think Hemingway would have approved with gusto.
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Another wonderful book from Luis Sepulveda. He writes from the heart and whether you wish to or not, you will find yourself reading from your heart. He takes simple, every day events and people and "interprets" them (in a way only he can) and gives you magic in return. You will find his characters and locations taking root in your heart.
What wonderful pictures, emotions and relationships he paints; I never wanted it to end.
The only complaint I have -- the only complaint I ever have --- with Mr. Sepulveda is that there is too little of his work available to the public. Every book leaves me wanting more of him.
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on February 1, 1999
It's amazing how hot, moist and intense Sepulveda contrives to make you feel as you discover the old man who read love stories. I enjoyed this book thoroughly, the story is harsh and out of the beaten track, the style is vivid and lively, it has made me feel like travelling to the amazon basin. A book which I can highly recommend.
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on May 10, 2016
A really interesting book I had to read for my english class. I would of thought this was about a love story but it was more of adventure in the jungle kind of book. With some mystery toss in here and there. And dead people. I usually don't finish most of the book I read but this book kept me hooked on the entire time. Definitely a fun book to read on your free time.
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VINE VOICEon January 28, 2016
As someone who tends to primarily read books set in a Euro-centric milieu , I really enjoy coming across a book with a different cultural focus. Such a discovery for me was The Old Man Who Read Love Stories by Luis Sepulveda. Set in fairly recent times (the book was written in the late ‘80’s) and set in the Ecuadorian rain forest, this short but potent novel could be read as a warning about impending ecological disaster, a study of greed and ruthless power, and a paean to all that remains simple and authentic in some people and some cultures.

Antonio Jose Bolivar is the old man of the title. Although only in his early sixties, his harsh and often tragic life has aged him, but also made him wise in ways that keep him alive while other younger, richer, and more powerful men succumb to the many ways of dying the jungle offers in abundance.

An act of senseless poaching followed by an equally brutal murder of an innocent native from the Shuar tribe sets off a series of events in which Antonio is forced to join in a hunt for an enraged ocelot, whose cubs had been slaughtered and who eagerly attacks all men who enter her territory. Knowing the ways of countless jungle beasts, Antonio tries to bring sense and caution to the hunt, but time and again his advice is disregarded, to the endangerment of all. With all his senses and his weapons sharpened, he still finds himself drifting back to memories of his youth, of his wife who died young, of his friendship with the Shuar, and of his once great loneliness, belonging neither to the white man’s world nor to the world of the native peoples.

Yet having learned in middle age to slowly and painstakingly decode the words in a book, Antonio’s world had forever expanded and his loneliness disappeared. Of all the books in the world, Antonio most cherished love stories, with lots of misery and conflict in the middle, but with happy endings. An unusual choice, perhaps, for a world-hardened, much-suffering old man, who had always known poverty and rarely known friendship; but lost in his few books which he had read many hundreds of times, Antonio found a kind of transcendence.

Reading The Old Man Who Read Love Stories is a kind of transcendence for the reader, taking us from our civilized, quotidian world to a world rich in sensory beauty, sudden savagery, and through the magic of Sepulvada’s words, startling poetry.
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on May 12, 2013
The South American author Luis Sepulveda, who sometimes lives in Germany and the former Yugoslavia, having been cast out of most of South Ameica, is a master in the use of language (although very likely some of the plaudits most go to his translator). The lead character in the short novel is a backjungle recluse, who, having discovered that he can read, even though he wasn't sure he could, finds new life in books. He takes six months a volume, which might be a lesson for the rest of us who rush through books in a day or so, and having tried all different kinds of books, finds that he much prefers love stories. When an injured jungle cat threatens his village, the old man is forced to set his books aside, and, call on the skills learned from the Indians during a former life.

I discovered this wonderful volume when it was mentioned in the foreign film, "My afternoons with Margueritte" which I would also like to recommend.
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on March 26, 2002
i picked up this book, without any expectations for it, because it looked like a thin and easy to read book; but i was thoroughly surprised by its beauty and its fluent translation. i learned much from this incredible novel, about ecuador, about ocelots; but most importantly i learned what we are doing to the depleting rain forests in the world, and how this is affecting both those who inhabit it and ourselves. this book is poignant and picaresque, and it seems to evoke a sense of passing of a world and a self that find it increasingly difficult to continue to exist in the current environmental conditions. i think everyone who loves animals, who is disturbed by the way technology is destroying the natural world, and who is fascinated with cultures and peoples should not give this book a miss.
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VINE VOICEon August 15, 2013
Chilean author Luis Sepulveda was jailed for several years when dictator Pinochet seized power, then was later under house arrest. Eventually exiled, he worked briefly for UNESCO, living for seven months with the Shuar Indians of the Ecuadorian Amazon before moving to Germany in 1980.

His highly readable and quite delightful short novel, The Man Who Read Love Stories, is clearly influenced by his Amazonian experience with the Shuar. Antonio Jose Bolivar, his main character, is an old man whose wife many years earlier had died in the Amazon. Instead of returning to his own people, Antonio chose to live for many years with the local Indians, learning how to survive in a jungle environment.

The book begins after the man's Indian experience, when he now lives in a small and remote Amazonian village, which has a dumb fat mayor known as Slimy Toad, and is visited twice a year by a dentist who pulls teeth and also brings Antonio his favorite books to read- love stories. Sepulveda's occasionally enlivens his vivid description of life in the Amazon and its eccentric characters with humor - such as Antonio's attempt to imagine what ardent kisses are like (since he and his wife had remained woefully inexperienced) or to guess what gondolas are and picture a city of canals.

Antonio's life is challenged when a number of mutilated bodies are found, which have been killed - as only he is able to determine - by an ocelot on the loose. (An ocelot is a mottled jaguar-like cat which according to Wikipedia can grow as long as three feet, but which Sepulveda refers to here as six feet in length). Preferring to be reading love stories, but feeling compelled to use his knowledge of the jungle and hunting experience to kill the ocelot, Antonio faces this new challenge and becomes a hero himself.

Close to the spirit of magic realism, but a bit more believable than Marquez' One Hundred Year of Solitude (and in my opinion, more readable and enjoyable as well), The Man Who Read Love Stories is highly original, and a marvelous introduction to the work of this talented Chilean author.
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on April 2, 2012
This novella examines the interrelationship between man and nature. It looks at the delicate balance provided by man when he respects the natural world, and the destructive forces that work against it when disrupted by the ignorant. Luis Sepulveda illustrates his story beautifully. He employs a cast of colorful characters with dramatic events that ultimately end in an explosion of sorrow. Do not be deceived by this books small size. Sepulveda has filled his narrative with layer upon layer of understated connections that leave the reader thinking well beyond its reading.
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