Octavio’s Journey contains an allegory for Venezuela’s history and you will probably get a lot more out of it with some prior knowledge. I know next to nothing about Venezuela but can only assume it’s had the same problems of colonisation as the rest of South America.
The scene where a burglar politely expects a homeowner to disclose the location of a key or otherwise destroying something they both hold dear feels very much like it’s referring to a specific event. In a more general term I can see it portraying the relationship between the indigenous people and the Spanish; the oppressed having no choice but to give in to the oppressor.
Without the knowledge of the country’s history, it read more like a collection of fable-like stories, connected by Octavio’s presence. It talks of the introduction religion and the modernisation of Venezuela.
At the start of the story Octavio is illiterate. A visiting doctor forgets his prescription pad and writes on Octavio’s table instead. Unable to decipher the scenarios but unwilling to admit his ignorance, his resulting actions go to show the lengths people will go, to hide their illiteracy.
Octavio is fascinated by the ancient symbols he sees in a friend’s house. As circumstances make him travel far from his home, he grows, helps others and learns to read. Perhaps inspired by the culture that has been wiped away by the colonists. I would love to hear from people who read this knowing more about Venezuela than me!
Originally written in French by Miguel Bonnefoy, Octavio’s Journey has been translated into English by Emily Boyce for Gallic Books. It will be available in ebook format from 13th March 2017 and in paperback from 17th March, although swing by Belgravia Books and you’ll be able to get an early copy. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.
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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.
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