Voices of Time is different. In fact, it’s not even what you’d call a proper novel. For your usual bibliophile, this book will be a tough challenge. No set plots, no set characters or even a set theme. What you have is 330 vignettes usually delivered over a single page, sometimes even a single paragraph. Galeano talks about all the intricate layers of our existence in short dosages of history intertwined with the poetry of our everyday lives. Starting from blue algae as life began to take shape, he takes us on a voyage through time and through the countless emotions that helped shaped the continents. One moment you are in the hovels of Rio wading past the grime, the next you are in the arena of politics, casually glancing over the casualties of war. There is a singular uniqueness in the idea of the book. The only thing that comes close is Jack Kerouac’s Book of Sketches, but Voices of Time is more than just a compilation of transient thoughts. It’s embedded deeply in history and the vignettes progress quite interestingly.
On to the prose.You’d be hard-pressed to find a writer more adept at turning prose into poetry swimming with potent imagery. Maybe it’s a South American thing, because the lyrical nature of Galeano’s words is not unlike that of Marquez. Indeed, at times Galeano rambles on a lot like the harmless town drunk, nostalgically reliving all his past misadventures, hunched at the bar, long after last call is over. This book is a must read for everyone who enjoys Latin American literature. It’s something that’s affected me deeply on a personal level and I can pay it no higher tribute than the fact that I fully intend to never return it to the friend I borrowed it from.