Book review: Children of the Days by Eduardo Galeano

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 July, 2013, 5:05pm


Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History
by Eduardo Galeano (translated by Mark Fried)
Allen Lane
2 and a half stars
Ian Sansom

Eduardo Galeano chronicles events and anniversaries from the history of oppressed nations, adding the odd dash of philosophical musing and fictional fun.

This book comprises 365 sad and strange and shiny little fragments, placed adjacent to one another to form a seemingly coherent whole.

All of Galeano's usual obsessions are vividly represented here: US imperialism, the pharmaceutical industry, western governments, the military, the church, advertising, business, Hollywood.

The entry for February 29 reads: "In routine fashion, on 29 February Hollywood gave nearly all of its awards, eight Oscars, to Gone with the Wind, which was a long sigh of nostalgia for the good old days of slavery."

The death of Winston Churchill on January 24 is marked sourly with an excerpt from his statement to the Palestine Royal Commission in 1937: "I do not admit that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia … by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race … has come in and taken their place."

There is a tendency throughout to sweeten the bitter pill and to balance the bad news not so much with good but with odd little whimsical baubles. On January 1 we are reminded: "Time allows us, its fleeting passengers, to believe that this day could be the very first day, and it gives us leave to want today to be as bright and joyous as the colours of an outdoor market."

On January 27, Mozart's birthday, it is stated: "It has been proven time and again that newborns cry less and sleep better when they listen to Mozart."

The book is at its finest when refusing to obey even its own rather arbitrary arrangements. When Galeano can find no connection whatsoever between a particular day and some great offence or some little crumb of comfort he simply prefaces his remarks with the phrase "One day like this …", or adds, "maybe on a day like today or who knows when". This is a book of days, not for every day but for any day.

Guardian News & Media