The River of Lost Voices: Stories from Guatemala (Paperback)

Stories from Guatemala

By Mark Brazaitis

University of Iowa Press, 9780877456421, 200pp.

Publication Date: September 1, 1998



Guatemala is a country of extremes -- a place of terrible cruelty, apparent in its thirty-six-year civil war, and incredible beauty in its dramatic landscapes and indigenous cultures. The stories in Mark Brazaitis' The River of Lost Voices capture both the magic and the sorrow of life in Santa Cruz Verapaz, a small town in the northern mountains of Guatemala.

In stories such as "Jose del Rio" and "Bathwater, ' Brazaitis blends magical realism with political intrigue to realize the impact of the country's civil war and its roots in the Spanish Conquest. "A Detective's Story" reveals the influence of the United States in the shaping of Guatemalan politics. In a dreamlike story entitled "The Whale", the narrator laments the destructive nature of homophobia in Guatemalan society. Yet this prize-winning collection is not a political work. Rather, it is a book about men and women struggling to overcome hardship and misfortune in their own lives.

In each of these stories, Brazaitis gives voice to Guatemala's indigenous population -- people who speak Pokomchi and Cakchiquel, languages and cultures often buried in the crush of assimilation. Through their voices, the author uncovers stories of lives redeemed and lost in the tumult of history and circumstance.