A View from the Mangrove is the final part of the late Cuban writer Antonio Benitez-Rojo’s Caribbean trilogy. Like most of his work, this short story collection deals with the making of the “New World” both historically and in the formation of Creole identity.
The eleven stories span several centuries. The first ones bring to life historical chapters of the Caribbean as the “cockpit of Europe”, with European powers battling each other for a greater share of the loot. The first of these stories is a tale of the notorious slave-trader John Hawkins’s pursuit of Spanish gold. Others involve French buccaneers, a Spanish governor sent to suppress autonomy in the colonies and of a reluctant priest trapped in this struggle. A few centuries later, there is a human drama told by multiple narrators against the backdrop of the final stages of the Haitian Revolution, and later, an infirm and burnt-out soldier wasting away in a mangrove during the Cuban War of Independence. The penultimate story is about Haitians fighting against Batista in the Cuban Revolution and against racism and exploitation at the hands of their comrades. My favourite story of the collection though is “The Broken Flute,” on the last Tezcatlipoca; a tragic tale of an “old god” being swallowed up by the chasm that opens up when worlds crash.
The above excerpt is from an anonymous review by ‘The Book Guy’ of Antonio Benitez-Rojo’s A View from the Mangrove, this week’s addition to the Fresh Milk Books Tumblr – the online space inviting interaction with our collection in the Colleen Lewis Reading Room.
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