Guatemalan Literature
Noche de piedras

by Rodrigo Rey Rosa (Del Pensativo, 2002 - 2. edición). 120 págs. ISBN: 99922-65-12-4.
"El Pensativo" in Antigua"

"Noche de piedras" - the only piece of literature where I recognize nowadays Guatemala. Guatemalans are a very talented people who up until thirty years ago were fanatics for literature. This reflects in Guatemalan first names: Victor Hugo, Byron, Dante, etc. But ever since the civil war period people here waste? their talent in counting jokes.

Rodrigo Rey Rosa for me is the true Guatemalan Shakespeare, humbling even Nobel Prize winning Miguel Angel Asturias. The book is a thin novel about an adopted Belgian child being pursued through Guatemala City by an assassin. All persons are described very vividly, and even 10 pages from the end I could not conceive how the author would manage to close this rich stream of action. And he did so in a most entertaining way.

I cannot understand why such a great book is only printed in a thousand copies. In order to enjoy this book, you need to be fluent in Spanish. And you should have some bond to Guatemala as the author drops a lot of contemporary legends and has some quite acid remarks about his compatriots.

A link to the site of Rodrigo (I can’t wait to get his other books in my hands):

Camino De 4 Rumbos

by Waldemar Godoy Prado (1ra. Edición 3,000 ejemplares, Guatemala, 1,998) Selfpublished, obtainable in Cobán
Bookstores in Guatemala City and Antigua

Cuentos, Leyendas, Crónicas, y Semblanzas.

This book by an author from Tactic, Alta Verapaz is a collection of tales from his youth. Many Maya Q’eqchi legends have found their way to the ladino population and Godoy tells them in a vivid language. Read about a black beast which the Germans led loose in their Coffee plantations at night in order to scare away coffee thieves (Origen del Tronchador). Read Guatemalan dictator Ubico’s absurd appearance in Tactic (La visita del Tirano). About Chinese merchants who got to live in Tactic (Una Tumba en la Colina). About an eastern womanizer (La muerte de Mecho Dieguez).

I do not know whether this is great literature, but the tales are very interesting and entertaining. The Spanish is not difficult, but the author uses a wealth of verbs, read with dictionary at hand.

(Review by David Unger)

An Indian Woman in Guatemala

by Elisabeth Burgos and Ann Wright (Paperback - Jun 1987)

Although it is now known that Rigoberta Menchú incorporated experiences of other indigenous Guatemalans into her life story, this book still is a sad testimony of how the ruling class and the military of Guatemala treated indigenous people until quite recently.
Two of Rigobertas brothers die as infants from malnutrition.

When the Quiche begin their fight to keep the government and big-business people from stealing any more of their land, her family is forced to watch her youngest brother be tortured and burned alive; later her mother is tortured to death, and her father murdered.

Rigobertas Father was an Indigenous leader and was killed when occupying the Spanish Embassy in Guatemala. Rigoberta inherited his boldness and charisma and is now the leading indigenous figure in Guatemala. When she received the Nobel Prize, she became known to city people in Guatemala, who hated her for drawing international attention to the dark sides of Guatemala. There were more biting jokes circulating on Rigoberta than on any of Guatemalan Presidents. She overcame all this and worked her way up to be actually a presidential candidate.

(Review by Jesse Larsen and David Unger)

La Guerrilla Fue Mi Camino

Julio César Mancías (Paperback - Jun 30, 2003)
Bookstores in Guatemala City and Antigua

The auther was an high ranking member of the Guatemalan Guerilla and tells his story with an insaturable desire of acknowledgement. The plot reflects the unsteadyness of a life in the hiding. César often changes names. Every time he does so, he leads the public to beleive that his last identity died. His mother, exiled in Mexico, and reading Guatemalan papers, repeatedly suffers the loss of her son.

There are many very touching side stories in this description of the war between a "good" guerilla and a "bad", atrocious army. Read the sad story of Rogelia, who maintained the Guerilla headquarters in Guatemala City. Read what happened to an American Rambo in Guatemala.

In 1972, Cesar went to the Ixcán forest north of Cobán, with only 15 compañons. They managed to destabilize the whole zone. The Guatemalan army had to establish a base in Ixcán. The government built a road and the forest was distributed to landless people (much landed in the hands of corrupt military functionaries). Eventually, the whole area has been deforested by corn and cattle farmers and the guerilla had to move out.

It is a sign that Guatemala has begun to come to terms with its past that a book like this can be written and sold.

This book is written in easy to understand Spanish for the advanced student. The author gives maps of the areas of onetime influence of the guerilla in certain regions.

(Review by David Unger)

Leyendas de Guatemala

by Miguel Angel Asturias (Paperback - Jun 30, 2005)
Bookstores in Guatemala City and Antigua

These Legends of the Guatemalan Nobel Prize Winner were his first venture into literature. They require good Spanish since Asturias has a huge vocabulary. Also, you need a bit of patience because our man is not using suspense to motivate the reader. You will find your reward in expressionist descriptions like the hurricane that peeled the mountains with its nails.

(Review by David Unger)

El Señor Presidente

by El Senor Presidente by Miguel Angel Asutrias (Septiama Edición 1,998)
Bookstores in Guatemala City and Antigua

Organismo de la Confederación Universal Centroamericana CSUCA, integrada por: Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala, Honduras Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua, Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica, Universidad Nacional de Panamá.

Apartado 64, Ciudad Universitaria Rodrigo Facio.

(Review from

La Divina Reclusa

Máximo Soto Hall (Guatemala: Tipografía Nacional, 2003). 318 págs. 14 x 21.5 cms. ISBN: 99939-60-01-2.
Bookstores in Guatemala City and Antigua

This is a piece of outdated literature, comparable perhaps to a traditional soap opera. It is well written and very devout, counting a love story in Guatemala of 1629 when Antigua was still the capital of Guatemala and the recently conquered province dedicated itself more to Spain and the inquisition than to anything the Mayan Guatemala had to offer.

Read with dictionary at hand.

(Review by David Unger)