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Márcio Souza: Galvez, imperador do Acre (The Emperor of the Amazon)

Luiz Gálvez is a Spanish citizen working as a journalist in Brazil at the end of the 19th Century. His hasty exit from his lover’s bedroom, on arrival of her husband, leads to his falling on top of the Bolivian consul and three assailants, attacking the consul. Souza’s intention is often serious – attacking both the Brazilian government and the foreign exploiters of the Amazon (American and British in particular) – but you might be forgiven for forgetting this as Gálvez’ gleeful romp round the Amazon is also very funny. The American consul, in particular, comes in for bitter attack. His name is Michael Kennedy and he is consorting with the Bolivian Government to get a better deal for American rubber interests, all the while dreaming of his home and fiancée in suburban Chicago. He gets his comeuppance, wetting himself in Gálvez’ jail.

After finding about the plot between the Bolivians and the Americans, Gálvez plots with the Brazilians to take over the territory of Acre from the Bolivians in the Amazon region and hand it over to the Brazilians. The conspiracy, however, follows more the pattern of other Latin American novels and only succeeds because the other side is even more inefficient. Indeed, Gálvez and his men seem intent on only two things – getting drunk and getting laid (definitely in that order).

Souza viciously but wittily sticks the knife into all participants – the self-righteous ex-nun who assists Gálvez, the English explorer, who thinks the Brazilians too primitive to have built the Manaus Opera House which must, therefore, have been built by aliens a million years ago, Gálvez and his cohorts, concerned more about the quality and quantity of alcohol, the English lady Salvation Army colonel who falls into a pile of bananas but proves an adept sword fighter, the excitable French opera singer. It compares favourably with Vargas Llosa‘s Pantaleón y las Visitadoras (Captain Pantoja and the Special Service, one of the best Latin American boom novels. You’ll enjoy it.

Publishing history

First published 1976 by Editora Brasilia
First published in English 1980 by Avon Books
Translated by Thomas Colchie