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José Eustasio Rivera: La vorágine (The Vortex)

This is a mishmash of a novel which has perplexed Latin American critics, while receiving praise as one of the great Latin American novels. Is it about the brutal exploitation of the rubber workers, so eloquently portrayed by Rivera, and picked up by the critics as the key theme of the novel? In reality, given the quotations at the beginning of the novel and the passion with which he describes this exploitation, it is clearly an important aspect of the novel for the author but, in reality, only becomes an issue around half way through the book. Is it the adventure story, which runs the gamut from Arturo Cova – the hero and narrator – and Alicia eloping (and Arturo immediately regretting doing so) to the fight with Barrera which results in Alicia leaving with him, probably (though not definitely) unwillingly and Arturo’s long and ultimately unsuccessful search for her? Is it the story of Arturo, prig, flirt, bourgeois, but also loyal companion, defender of the downtrodden? Or is it the lush poetic descriptions that Rivera the poet gives us of Amazonian Colombia? Of course, all of these make for a fascinating novel and a classic of Latin American literature, so enjoy it for all that Rivera has to offer us.

Publishing history

First published in Spanish 1924 by Editorial Cromos
First published in English 1935 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Translated by John Charles Chasteen