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The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts Paperback – July 29, 1997

4.2 out of 5 stars 55 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Louis de Bernières's sardonic pen has concocted a spicy olla podrida of a novel, set in a fictitious Latin American country, with all the tragedy, ribaldry, and humor Bernières can muster from a debauched military, a clueless oligarchy, and an unconventional band of guerrillas. There's a plague of laughing, a flood of magical cats, and a torture-happy colonel. The cities, villages, politics, and discourse are an inspired amalgam of Latin Americana, but the comedy, horror, adventure, and vibrant individuals are pure de Bernières. This masterpiece, the first of a trilogy, is followed by Señor Vivo and the Coca Lord, and The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman.

From Publishers Weekly

A blend of scathing political satire and magic realism, De Bernieres's furiously sardonic, intensely lyrical first novel portrays an imaginary, impoverished Latin American country run by an oligarchy, terrorized by fascist army officers and propped up by U.S. support while Yanqui corporations suck its economy dry. No better than the rapacious and murderous military, the revolutionaries loot and kill in the name of an abstract ideal. The motley cast includes Dona Costanza Evans, an upper-class housewife kidnapped by guerrillas, who actively joins the revolution; Olaf Olsen, a Norwegian industrialist whose innocent daughter becomes one of the "disappeared"; Aurelio, a jungle Indian versed in magic, and Don Emmanuel, oddball son of a progressive English educator. About halfway through, friendly, charming cats, which grow to the size of pumas, invade the narrative and do magical things that confound even fascist generals. De Bernieres, who taught in Colombia, captures the beauty, hope and desperation of Latin America as few other writers have done.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (July 29, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375700137
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375700132
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #589,271 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
De Bernieres' first novel owes a great deal to Gabriel Garcia Marquez's 100 YEARS OF SOLITUDE. It's to de Bernieres' credit that this novel goes beyond mere pastiche and claims its own intellectual and artistic territory.
At once grim and hilarious, THE WAR OF... traces a swirl of events that occur within a fictional (and unnamed) South American country, focusing on the inhabitants of a single village. The language is strong, the imagery clear and effective. The story is drenched in absurdism and magic realism (two favourite subjects of mine), occasionally going a little too far with such (particularly towards the end).
Pacing is uneven - a persistant problems with first novels - and it may take a little work and effort to get past the first 50-odd pages, to where the book's energy and direction takes form. But soldier on - despite its flaws, this is an intelligent, well-written book, solidly worth your time.
(I've yet to read de Bernieres' other novels, but I plan to track them down, based on the strength of this book. That's one of the best recommendations I can give, frankly.)
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Format: Paperback
Perhaps it's not fair to compare a first novel like this with a later, more acclaimed novel from the same author some years later. But as I had just finished "Captain Corelli's Mandolin" before starting "The war of Don Emmanuel's nether parts", I cannot help relating the two. 'Don Emmanuel' is a dazzling patchwork, seemingly encompassing all aspects of every Latin-American country you can think of. De Bernieres makes it abundantly clear he comes prepared for the topics he wants to tackle; there is evidence of meticulous research throughout the book. As such, each chapter is brilliant in its own right, though there seems to be a certain desire to show off, perhaps understandably so in a debut novel. Some of the threads are overdone, and some are inflated to the point of becoming ridiculous. Personally I could have done without the many scenes of excessive violence and torture. "Corelli" also has its grim share of atrocities, but these are not being exaggerated, and they are a logical and even inevitable part of the story. Besides restraint, what "Don Emmanuel" lacks is coherence. The wild and woolly sequence of brilliant chapters somehow does not quite add up to a story. At least I could not figure out where the book was trying to go to. This is not being helped by the insufficient development of the main characters. Whereas in "Corelli" one can readily identify with Pelagia, the doctor, and the captain, it's not quite clear who are the main persons here. Having said all this, "Don Emmanuel" is still a hugely enjoyable book, sharp, funny, educating and thought-provoking. Though not for the faint-hearted or those with a romantic disposition.
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Format: Paperback
The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts is one of the most original books I have ever read. It is, in turns, witty and horrific but always engaging. Having travelled throughout South America myself, I found myself nodding and laughing at his cultural refrences such as the Ford Falcons. De Bernieres writing style evokes Garcia Marquez but with edgier prose. This book left me smiling and wanting more.
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Format: Paperback
Brilliant! A captivating and funny book filled with romance, passion and confrontation. Tender in parts ,aggressive in others truely a typical DeBernieres novel. Those familliar with his later written ,and more well known "Captain Correli's mandolin" may find this book a little more violent and political than his later peices, also the romance element is far less prominent. Unfortunately those who like their fictional novels to take a non-fictional slant may be put off by some of the more outlandish plot developements, however this shouldn't put you off the book completely. If anything the "weird and wonderfull"(yet sometimes not so pleasant) events of the book help to accentuate the passionate emotions present throughout the novel. A great read for anyone who appreciates a little peculiarity, adventure and suspense in a novel.
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Format: Paperback
Great characters. Magical story. Corruption, greed and salvation. Humans being humans.
This book has everything and I really can't recommend this book highly enough. I found Correlli's Mandolin convoluted and dragged out, although a brilliantly written book. I found this and the other two books in the trilogy to be masterful works full of passion, truth and wit. The theme of magic running throughout is fantastical and fantastic, the characters real and lovable. When a character dies, as they have a habit of doing, you are taken aback and upset, you care about them and is there a higher praise than that?
Anyone who thinks that this book lacks gravitas is mistaken; De Berniere's pen is so light that he is able to fully deal with the political situation in South America without becoming bogged down in moralising or political dogma.
De Berniere deals with life and death and the injustices that surround us as only a gifted writer with a soaring imagination can. I read in other people's reviews that he has borrowed heavily from other works, but seeing as I have never read these works this book is as crisp and fresh to me as "Rock around the clock" must have been when Bill Haley released it.
I did have problems with the list of characters that De Berniere introduces in this book, but I started again when I got to page 50 and wrote out who was who whenever anyone new was introduced. My friend who lives in Spain just reckons it is that I am not used to Spanish names as opposed to poor characterisation that led me to this confusion, and I have to agree.
I read this book on a cliff top overlooking the Atlantic in May during a heat wave and was taken to South America with the heat and dust, the valleys and forests. I even developed a worrying accent in the pubs at night. A hard read, but once you enter it, it is one of the easiest books you will ever read.
I loved it.
Watch out for Hectoro, a character who gets better and better throughout the trilogy.
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