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on October 11, 1998
Vile language, adultery, human suffering, courage, fear, love, guile--Icaza portrays TRUE HUMANITY in his first book The Villagers (Huasipungo),one of this century's greatest novels. As a professor of French and Spanish literature I have had many students ask me who Jorge Icaza was and why there are no other novels by Icaza available for them to read. The answer is that Jorge Icaza is one of the most complex writers in the Spanish language. Translating him is a task that no one wishes to take on because it may take them their whole lives to complete. It is sad because Icaza wrote some of the greatest novels of this century, ie., El Chulla Romero y Flores. As a translator of 4 novels, I myself am terrified of Icaza's prose. Jorge Icaza is the author of 7 novels (he left behind the draft for an 8th novel), 4 collections of short stories, and 7 plays. Bernard M. Dulsey did a great job in the translation. Of course he had help from Icaza himself, something which no translator can now have since Icaza died in 1972. Readers are fortunate to have this novel available in the English. Perhaps the greatest pre-Magic novel of Latin-America.
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on December 21, 1998
Jorge Icaza had a dream just like Martin Luther King, except his dream was not meant toward the United States, his dream was meant toward his people of Ecuador who, like people in the United States, are prejudiced against people who are of different races, and different economic statuses, etc. Jorge Icaza wrote his first novel The Villagers as the first step (in a series of steps) to make the dream come true. In it he portrays the Indian people of Ecuador as they truly are, as well as the landowners and government leaders, and the ways in which these ruthlessly treat the Indians. Religion plays a big role in this novel. Icaza leaves no prisoners, everyone in Ecuadorean society is criticized, including the mestizoes, persons of both European and American Indian descent. Icaza's 1934 novel is studied in many of the top universities of the United States in classes of Spanish, Comparative Literature, and Anthropology. I suggest this book to those who are interested in learning about Latin America and its peoples. I think people will be shocked and appalled. Icaza is by far the most important Indianist novelist Latin America ever brought forth, as well as one of Ecuador's most finest and important writers.
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"The Villagers," a novel by Jorge Icaza of Ecuador, was first published in 1934. It has been translated into English by Bernard Dulsey. I think of "The Villagers" as a sort of Ecuadoran counterpart to "Uncle Tom's Cabin" (the classic anti-slavery novel by United States author Harriet Beecher Stowe). Like that earlier novel, Icaza's book is an impassioned expose of racially-charged violence and oppression.
"The Villagers" tells the story of the exploitation of Ecuadoran Indians by whites who are intent on taking economic advantage of the Indians' homeland. Icaza paints a fascinating portrait of the conflicts and twisted connections among three major groups: Indians, whites, and "cholos" (those of mixed blood). The "gringos," or white North Americans, form a sinister fourth group that lurks menacingly behind the scenes of the unfolding drama.
The novel is full of vivid, graphic details--lice infestation, a worm-infected wound, rape, suffering, and death. Icaza mercilessly satirizes the lust and greed of the white landowner, Don Alfonso. Icaza also savagely critiques the complicity of the church (in the form of the hypocritical village priest) in the abuse of the Indians. And the author also exposes the insidious debt bondage that turns nominally "free" people into virtual slaves.
Some of the more villainous characters seem a bit one-dimensional, but in my opinion the many strengths of the book outweigh this flaw. "The Villagers" is a powerful work of social protest that deserves a wide readership.
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on September 21, 2015
Quite dark but an important look at history of the area. Hopefully it has improved at least by some measure. The exploitation for oil drilling is
likely along the same lines. Have seen some of the mess they left in the Amazon in other explorations for oil. Not pretty.
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on August 23, 1998
I have been obsessed with this book for four years. The Villagers (Huasipungo) presents some of the most passionate, horrific and sad events ever to take place in fiction. In his most famous book Jorge Icaza shows a part of Ecuadorian society that the entire world refused to take notice of or do anything about.
Don Alfonso Pereira belongs to the property-owning class of Ecuador. The book takes us along his journey to his hacienda and introduces us to his Indian and mestizo peons that work and labor for him in exchange for a piece of land where they cultivate there vegetables, raise there animals, and build their huts - a piece of land called a "huasipungo."
The rape of an Indian woman, adulterous threesomes, savage sex... All this shows that Icaza was holding nothing back. When the book first appeared in Latin America in the 1930s readers were enraged. But despite the rage of Ecuadorians the book was quickly translated into more than 20 other languages: Russian, Polish. Italian... etc. Finally it was translated into the English in the 1960s. There are things in this book which no writer in the world would have dared write about in the 1930s or even today.
This book is so influential that a famous, contemporary hard-core band is named after it: Huasipungo. This book is a must read for those that love profound lyricism and brutal truth.
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on December 4, 1998
I read this book many years ago and it is the only book that has told of that brutality that is endemic and daily in this beautiful, yet sad country of Ecuador. Ycasa is the real heroe in our historical voyage. He has stuck his neck out and has told a story-amongs many- that reveal the destructive, oppresive, and racist nature of his society. His sense of justice and solidarity with the poor and the indians are as powerful as his indignation of the established oligarchy and it's system.
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on December 9, 2008
This is still the best book to read about how the horrid hacienda system of Andean South America operated. Even though the novel was written in 1934, it still has great resonance today. If you want to understand the Rafael Correa's, Evo Morales' and Hugo Chavez' of our South American relatives, you only need read this book. It also helps explain why the Sendero Luminoso rebels of Peru found fertile ground at the start of their guerrilla movement of the 80's and 90's. It makes for great discussion in class and even though students hate to read the tragedy that it represents, they are riveted by the events of the book.
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on July 11, 2014
The reading is challenging, simply because he uses words I have never encountered before, but it is one of the most interesting and fulfilling books that leaves you with a desire to read more. I started the book yesterday, and i'm already half way done through it. It's an incredible story, and Icaza truly demonstrates his ingeniousness as a writer. Very grateful but disappointed at the same time that this is the only novel translated into english. To illustrate his literary art let me leave you with one of my favorite paragraphs so far:

"The man's command, like the thunder of Taita Dios to the children's fright, caused a fearful silence among them,and everything, absolutely everything, became clear in the scene that extended from the shade of the chaparral to the unevenness of the terrain that formed the gully. the distressful mummification of the first vital needs in a prison of coarse woolen swathing--an arabesque of vivid colors woven in the huasipungo. Si. The mummification necessary to stifle the tummy aches caused by the stale porridge and the cold potatoes, necessary to hold and hide the chafed skin of legs and buttocks, the reddened stench of a twenty-four hours' accumulation of urine and excrement."

This paragraph, when placed in it's context, paints a vivid picture of the way babies were mummified with vibrant-colored clothes so tightly that their fecal material and urine would accumulate for hours as their poor mothers would work in the fields.
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on December 14, 2007
Huasipungo(the villagers) truly is one of the best novels to read if you want to understand the transformation South American society was going through at the turn of the 19th and 20th century, as a result of the invasion of the Spanish. The native indians became slaves of their own lands now controlled by the powerful criollos or peninsulares of Spain and their descendants. It is sad to think that if you travel to Ecuador today you will still see the unfair distribution of goods and land relevant to what is going on in the novel. Although definitely there have been strong changes in society, in general those of prominent white background are way better off than the indigenous or the mestizos. This novel is one of those novels that stand the test of time and feel as fresh as when it was written in the middle 1930s. Very entertaining reading, and at the same time, compelling and sad. Very highly recommended especially for students of latin american studies and history and worldly people in general.
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