By Ahmed Latif
I am a person who enjoys the dichotomy that comes from reading the works of very talented ideological opposites or rivals or stylistic antonyms. I enjoy Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner, Averroes and Al-Ghazali, Mario Vargas Llosa and Gabriel García Márquez, John Dos Passos and Martin Andersen Nexø or Maxim Gorky. I enjoy all of their works not equally but on the same level. But there is no one like Eduardo Galeano; he has no rival because who could match him? To me Eduardo Galeano, who sadly died a few days ago, was more deserving of the Nobel Prize in Literature than the last four winners combined. With all due respect to Tomas Tranströmer, Mo Yan, Alice Munro, and Patrick Modiano they did not have the eclectic depth I revered in Galeano’s writing. The passing of such a legend is a tremendous loss to all of society as it was with Nelson Mandela.
To know what Eduardo Galeano means you ought to start with his fans; they are legends in their own right. World leaders such as former Chilean President Salvador Allende, former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, former Uruguayan President José Mujica, and current Uruguayan President Tabaré Vázquez. Artists and intellectuals such as Chilean photographer Orlando Lagos, Chilean-American writer Isabel Allende, Peruvian Nobel Laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, Uruguayan writer Mario Benedetti, Cuban poet Roberto Fernández Retamar, English-Pakistani intellectual Tariq Ali, and Argentine human rights activist and pacifist Adolfo Pérez Esquivel. Eduardo Galeano meant a lot to a whole continent and many peoples. Eduardo Galeano articulated, starting in the 1960s, the dynamic, complex, and evolving history of Latin America. He articulated the hopes, dreams, fears, and aspirations of all the peoples of Latin America as they struggled with dictatorship, revolution, repression, bloodshed, violence, civil war, and the long shadow of imperialism.
To me Eduardo Galeano was so eclectic in his work and created such a rich tapestry that I don’t know in which single work I delight more so I delight in the rhythmic totality of his work. He was a maestro of words with essays on football (soccer), journalistic articles on politics and policy, non-fiction about history, novels with innumerable characters and plots that last for centuries. His obsessions were so many and we the readers were left to indulge in the fiery tempos of his latest obsession and his newest style. He was a writer who knew no bounds and only wrote that which was the quintessential truth of his human soul.
I have one thing to say about Eduardo Galeano and it is a reference to an cartoon as eclectic and wild as he was. In an episode of Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends one of the more ferocious imaginary friends, Eduardo who was really very kind and gentle, found out that his rich purple fur coat is infested with fleas. The fleas had made him their new home and he was gentle and loving that he would not be rid himself of the nuisance and pain because how dare he evict another creature. And every time Eduardo protected the fleas from a shampoo or a brush they sang, with a feverish pride, of the compassion of their host. “We love you Eduardo!” was their synchronized cry. And now it is my cry, and that of every single individual ever moved or touched by the writings of a giant of our time. I now leave you with some quotes from Eduardo Galeano’s works and I urge you to read, read all that you can find of his. You will not regret reading the words that inspired generations.