x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Darkness made visible on the high plains of Venezuela

Rómulo Gallegos was Venezuela's first democratically elected president - and also a novelist of deservedly high repute, as his Doña Barbara shows.

Dona Barbara by Romulo Gallegos.
Dona Barbara by Romulo Gallegos.

By turns, Rómulo Gallegos has been one of Venezuela's most respected writers, political activists and its first democratically elected president in 1948.

First published in 1929, Doña Barbara is considered a Spanish-language classic, its plot often likened to Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary and having inspired a host of movies and telenovelas.

The story begins with the arrival of Santos Luzardo at Altamira, a traditional South American ranch situated in the Apure plains, where life could best be described as rough. Initially prepared to sell off the land, Luzardo changes his mind after the intervention of the much-venerated Doña Barbara.

The Doña, a woman of great intrigue and suspected witchcraft, holds most of the surrounding land in her thrall. And unfortunately for Luzardo, she plays by her own rules.

Doña Barbara is a spellbinding combination of magical realism and deep character study.

Despite the desolation of the surrounding land, Gallegos' lyrical depictions of its inhabitants, both those fighting to ward off the darkness and those steeped in it, render them deservedly memorable.