Marie Arana makes a gripping tale from the life story of Simon Bolivar, the dramatic but controversial son of Spanish America.
Finally, Bolivar gets the sweeping biography he deserves. He was the greatest leader in Latin American history, and his tale is filled with lessons about leadership and passion. This book reads like a wonderful novel but is researched like a masterwork of history.
Thrilling, authoritative and revelatory, here at last is a biography of Bolivar, the maker of South America, that catches the sheer extraordinary unique adventure and titanic scale of his life with accessible narrative and scholarly judgement.
Inspired. . . . Arana ably captures the brash brilliance of this revered and vilified leader.
Arana's account of Bolivar leading his rag-bag army across the dizzying heights of the Paramo de Pisba - a virtual wall of ice and scree - is gripping stuff...Equally compelling are Arana's accounts of Bolivar's countless affairs, especially with his principal mistress, Manuela Saenz, whose ambiguous sexuality and scandalous behaviour earned her notoriety across Bolivar's vast fiefdom.
Arana is an indefatigable researcher, a perceptive historian, and a luminous writer, as shown in her defining, exhilarating biography of the great South American liberator Simón Bolívar.
Arana's zestful biography is as action-packed as it is authoritative
In "Bolívar: American Liberator," Bolívar emerges as a complex and confounding human being. He was the essential figure in the revolutionary wars that created five South American countries. Brilliant and erudite, he was an idealist and also a ruthless military leader as well as a deeply charismatic a man of letters
Now we have this splendid new biography by Marie Arana, a Peruvian scholar long established as a literary journalist in the United States.
Marie Arana has done a superb job...with a biography that is as enjoyable as a novel, capturing the imagination with its fluid prose and the power of the drama that unfolded as the age of revolution reached Spanish America.
With the eye and ear of a novelist, Marie Arana chants the epic of Bolivar with love, zest, and compelling authority.
I suspect that one reason why her biography is so plausible and engagingly told is that the Peruvian-born Arana is herself a writer of fiction. Like Garcia Marquez (who memorably fictionalised Bolivar in The General in his Labyrinth), she has an instinct for the vitalising detail...As well, his sad and contradictory story demands a novelist's empathy.
"Bolivar" is a monumental achievement destined to win some major literary prizes. Like most recent books on the North American founders, it assumes that all icons are also flawed creatures. All of Bolivar's flaws are on display here - his inveterate womanizing, periodic bouts of arrogance, flirtation with Napoleonic versions of omnipotence. But if Jefferson is eventually proved right, and democracy does come to Latin America in full form, the man so brilliantly recovered in these pages will be shouting hosannas from the heavens.
The case for Bolívar as one of the world's most extraordinary 19th-century leaders is well made by Marie Arana ... Arana's prose is often beautiful. A novelist turned historian, she tells Bolívar's story wonderfully ... Two centuries after his death, Bolívar inflames passions that better-known characters no longer ignite. Arana's biography explains why.
Simon Bolivar has found the perfect biographer in Marie Arana, a literary journalist, brilliant novelist of South America, and wise historian as well. Her portrait of Bolivar is human and moving; she has written a powerful and epic life and times.
Simon Bolivar, the Liberator, still casts a long shadow in his native Latin America, almost too mythic to have been an actual man. Beautifully written, Bolivar reads like a great work of fiction, yet this book is a well-researched major work of history.
The George Washington of South America cuts a dashing though dark-edged and ultimately tragic figure in this rousing biography. Peruvian journalist Arana (American Chica) chronicles Gen. Simón Bolívar's struggle against the Spanish Empire in the 1810s and '20s through several dizzying cycles of battlefield victory, triumphal procession, demoralizing reversal, and squalid exile, before he finally drove imperial forces out of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. Her vivid portrait shows us a charismatic man of high ideals, fiery oratory, unflagging energy and resolve, bold strategies, and a romantic aura-"he rode, ragged and shirtless... his wild long hair riding the wind"-that women found irresistible.
This is a magnificent story. Deeply researched and written with clarity, honesty, and verve, Marie Arana's book tells the life of one of the greatest heroes and founders in world history. North Americans who know only of George Washington will thrill to read the epic adventures of his South American counterpart. As fantastic as Bolivar's life appears, 'it is not,' as Arana says of Latin America's bloody past in general, 'magical realism. It is history. It is true.
Marie Arana has read all the extant archives and has written an admirable, action-filled life. She follows Bolivar from his rich, aristocratic birth, early losses of mother and then child-bride, to his political awakening and rush into action. Her biography is so close to experience that we are back with Bolivar himself, "exuberant mustache and dazzling smile", almost feeling the wind as he passes.