11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on March 28, 2006
I thought The President by Miguel Angel Asturias was a beautiful work, but better read in its original language. The English translation was at some times difficult to read and didn't make sense, it was done without care or consideration to the moral the work was trying to portray. The pages where filled with powerful images and symbols Asturias himself could have witnessed. You could tell the author knew what he was talking about and felt passionate about what he wrote, that passion drove the story on and really showed accurately the political oppression the poor where shown at that time. The characters were dynamic, intense and could have represented easily some political figures of the time. He described each and every character as being guilty of something and didn't shine a godly light on anyone, even the victims of the government. He didn't romanticize the world of fear and constant oppression he strove to show, but presented it plainly as what it was. This is a moving read and I would recommend it to anyone. But you have to be prepared to stick with it because I found the way it is written somewhat different from more common novels. It would be best if read in Spanish because then you wouldn't have to deal with the poorly done translation. I had read some information on Asturias and that really gives new insight into the work. Being able to understand the parallels between the life the author lead and the difficulties he went through gave deeper meaning to what happened to the characters.
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on October 3, 2002
Is this a difficult read? yes, and especially if you're not used to latinamerican literature or of 'magical realism'. Is it fascinating, entrancing and a rewarding experince? YES, and then more. After reading a lot of books you come to appreciate it when an author tries a lot of different styles and plays around with time and space and creates fascinating multi-layered characters, characters which are not clean-drawn from the beginning and you never really know their true intentions of their true nature (until the very end of course). This adds a lot of suspense to the novel. Although it is far from being just a suspense novel, it has romance in it, social commentary, statements on human-nature and politics, bits of comedy, lots of dreamlike surrealistic sequences and quirky characters. It is a hard and heavy read though, I found myself rereading complete chapters to fully digest the story and tone, it is all well worth it though. The story is excellent and very involving, so are the characters, but if you relish literature and how far it can reach an audience as an art form, than you will be fascinated by Asturias's prose, it is so dense and thick that when you finish you feel like you read twice as many pages and 'experienced' a lot of varied emotions. The ending could come as a surpise to many, I'm not going to give it away, only to say that you dont notice how much you are fond of the characters themselves till you feel their pain in the last chapters. Beautiful novel and one of the best examples of why the BOOM of latinamerican writers in that period. This is one of the best of that period and it has aged well. If you liked this I would recommend anything from Gabriel Garcia Marquez (who uses a lighter more fun prose) or Juan Rulfo (genius, short novels that pack a punch). Be warned though, take your time with this one, it is well worth your efforts. A solid 9.5 out of 10!
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on November 16, 2007
I have read this book in spanish and in english, and like the author, Im Guatemalan too, soo I've seen the places he describes and I know the historical events behind this book, so my advice to you is to read it, you will love it, even if it is difficult to read sometimes, its worth the effort, but if you want to fully absorb the book, investigate the XX century guatemalan history, that will help you read this book in an easier way.
By the way in spanish the book's name is "El Senor Presidente" wich means "Mr. President", not "The President".
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on January 8, 2004
Poetic. Artful. Devastating. The best aspect of this book lies in the author's ability to so deftly articulate the psychological, nightmare-ish, indeed, surreal aspects of living under a dictatorship. To an outsider such as myself, it was deeply moving to see inside and realize how everyone's actions can be justified under such an extreme system. That's terrifying.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on March 24, 1999
I read this book in Spanish, so I cannot comment on the translation, but the story itself is well worth reading. Nobel Prize winner Asturias tells us the story of the fear that people suffer during the times of a despotic dictatorship. Although the main character is the Presidente himself, the story revolves around Miguel Cara de Angel (Angel face). He is quite possibly the most interesting character I have ever encountered in a literary work. The whole book is a surrealist masterpeace. We are to dive into a fantastic nightmare world whenever we read it. Almost everything happens at night, and the shadows play a very important role in the lifes of the townspeople..., mostly beggars. This is a painfully hard book to read, because Asturia's use of language and imagery are purposely confusing to amphasize the horrors and the nightmares. But overall, I don't think human kind can do without readind this different proposals by one of literature's most under-rated authors. Definetly a must read.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on March 9, 2005
Enormously important book which rightly got the Nobel Prize for Literature. It could also have gotten it for human rights. Sadly meaningful in 2005 also. I don't understand, however, why people keep using "magic realism" or "surrealism" to describe it. Fantasy? No.
on December 24, 2012
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Giving it 2 stars because it's quite long when considering how much is happening. I confused characters and found it difficult to understand what was going on and why -- I had to read the Wikipedia article describing the plot to understand what was happening. This book contains a lot of surrealism; I often found myself feeling for the characters "this can't be happening..." Considering that the book was based off of an actual dictator, it makes it a compelling and frightening read... Again, something I dislike.
Recommended for: people interested in learning about dictatorships, history, surrealism, or Latin America. Good for foreigners, 20something white males.
Not recommended for: kids, narrow minded adults, university students.
on March 26, 2013
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Magical realism always presents us with the everyday made strange, rendered in grotesque yet beautiful ways. The President is not a feel-good book by any means; it presses upon you the anxiety of living under a totalitarian dictatorship. You'll witness atrocities, injustice, corruption. Not a happy book at all, but you'll be left breathless. Its language is poetic and lucid. Really, it's just something you have to experience for yourself.
on December 29, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
It's fascinating and it's written well. It poetic and takes you to a different world with its language. Its great!
5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on June 23, 2008
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
The President is a series of stories connected with the mystery of the murder of a government official, "the man with the little mule," on the steps of a Cathedral. The narrative is interspersed with poem-like and song-like passages in which the same or similar motifs -- songbirds and certain noises -- are oft repeated. As the murder is "solved," characters have weird adventures which are sometimes narrated in the style of fairy tales.
That the mostly dissociative and nauseating narrative style (it involves much confusion, random interludes of obsessive, repetitive onomatopoeia and verse, and deeply affective scenes of brutality and torture) accurately reflects the lived reality under certain Latin American regimes is not questioned here. Yet, I fear that the thoroughly disorienting experience of reading The President will alienate all but the most interested and motivated readers.