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The Monkey's Paw: New Chronicles from Peru Paperback – November 21, 1997

3.4 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Drawing on Peru's rich history, journalist Robin Kirk combines interviews and personal narrative to present a vivid portrait of this turbulent country. The book opens with her first trip to Peru in 1983, just as the Shining Path guerrillas plunged the nation into sudden, violent change. Amid the horror and loss of war, she finds moving and often marvelous human stories of people from all walks of life. She ends her narrative with the bittersweet return of peasant refugees to their war-ravaged Andean villages.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press (November 21, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1558491090
  • ISBN-13: 978-1558491090
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,475,248 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
In the first few pages of her book, Kirk writes: "It takes stubbornness, perhaps arrogance, and a certain faith in the face of long odds to write about someone else's country." The country Kirk has chosen, moreover, is a vastly complex and changing place. Nonetheless, she has succeeded remarkably well in detailing Peru's many facets, in capturing the grand schemes and the day-to-day struggles, in recounting the varied and fascinating Peruvians who cross her path with all their strengths and all their weaknesses, in avoiding simplistic conclusions, and in making me feel as if I myself lived in "someone else's country." The book is a must for anyone interested in the people who live in Peru and its complicated web of social struggle. Her clear, evocative writing recreates Peru on the page for readers who can't go there themselves, and adds to the experience of those who can. I loved it.
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Format: Paperback
This is not a comprehensive, academic account of the Shining Path or of Peru's recent social & political history, so readers who are looking for something along those lines will be disappointed. What it is, however, is a fascinating story of the author's experiences investigating the impact of Peru's social and political upheavals on poor Peruvians from the mid-1980s to mid-1990s. The role of the Shining Path naturally takes a prominent central place in that story. Robin Kirk has produced a highly readable and engaging book that paints portraits of individual Peruvians' lives, as they deal with their country's troubled recent history. From her account of the Tunnel Six 'ronda campesina,' to the search for justice in their son's murder by Cromwell Castillo & Carmen Rosa, to the stories of women in the Shining Path, Kirk's anecdotal approach makes reading this book as enjoyable as a good novel.

As a past and future visitor to Peru, I found this book helpful in relating something of the substance of Peruvian society to me, as it has been experienced by a fellow American in her work as an investigative journalist and past resident of the country.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The travel journal/journalistic account of Peru during the last gasps of the Shining Path era and the destruction that was caused because of deaths caused by the revolutionary group and the military's response. The young journalist began her time in Peru almost wide eyed and wanting to believe in the group. By the end, she appeared that she was completely against it as she had witnessed so much needless killings and destruction of towns caused by the Shining Path members.

Perhaps because of her youth, her writing is somewhat naive, but her journalistic talent is pretty good in her descriptions of people, places, feelings and thoughts. This is not a deep book. She complains about everyday problems and personalities as personal attacks on herself. Perhaps this adds to what life and living was like during the 1980-1992 era of fear caused by the Shining Path.

I enjoyed this book as it concentrated on the micro level and not the more bland macro level. It helps fill in pieces of Peruvian history that might not be found elsewhere, so for that, the time spent reading this book was worthwhile.
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Format: Paperback
Flor de retama, the broom flower with its yellow shoots flourishes from soil nourished by blood. Peru's Shining Path fanatical cult, devolved from earnest Maoism into indoctrinated millenarian warriors determined to bring down their corrupt nation and destroy it in order to rebuild it into a utopia, chose this weed as their logo.

Robin Kirk, in her collection of rather disparate chapters, charts her Peruvian encounters with the senderistas, their pursuers, and the victims left by both sides--'internal refugees' forced off their land by those who claimed to fight for and protect them, whether government or guerrillas. Beginning with her 1983 first visit to Orin Starn as he was writing his dissertation about a Piura hamlet, Tunnel Six, that grew around the spew from an irrigation works near the Ecuadorian border, she records various stints spent in the country over the next decade and more, as the war with Abimael Guzmán's disciples intensified and spread to the cities.

I read her account after having studied her translation of Gustavo Gorriti's history of the SP. I wondered, from an English-language vantage point, why so few reporters from outside Perú had produced book-length works for a popular audience on the movement. Why? In large part, the hostility towards 'Western' gringo observers, not only by the army and police suspicious of collaborators, but from the SP itself.

Kirk, like previous chroniclers to a land of harsh weapons and forbidding walls, finds herself trapped. Her white skin, San Franciscan provenance, and education distance her from her subjects. They mistrust her, and she finds herself caught between pity and contempt more than once as she listens to guerrilla prisoners.
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By A Customer on June 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
I was very disappointed by this book. I'm from Peru and I expected a sharp, original account. Instead, I learned lots about the author and her struggles with my country. I understand her frustrations but in the end I felt that she simply realized that Peru is not Berkeley or Manhattan. It's too bad she didn't capture good things such as people's resourcefulness or sense of humor. I also got lost between different sections. Too bad. I know that many gringos will enjoy this. Peruvians will dislike it, even those who fight against violence and inequality.
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