The archetypal creation story of Latin America, the Popol Vuh began as a Maya oral tradition millennia ago. In the mid-sixteenth century, as indigenous cultures across the continent were being threatened with destruction by European conquest and Christianity, it was written down in verse by members of the K'iche' nobility in what is today Guatemala. In 1701, that text was translated into Spanish by a Dominican friar and ethnographer before vanishing mysteriously.
Cosmic in scope and yet intimately human, the Popol Vuh offers invaluable insight into the Maya way of life before being decimated by colonization--their code of ethics, their views on death and the afterlife, and their devotion to passion, courage, and the natural world. It tells the story of how the world was created in a series of rehearsals that included wooden dummies, demi-gods, and eventually humans. It describes the underworld, Xibalba--a place as harrowing as Dante's hell--and relates the legend of the ultimate king, who, in the face of tragedy, became a spirit that accompanies his people in their struggle for survival.
Popol Vuh: A Retelling is a one-of-a-kind prose rendition of this classic that is as seminal as the Bible and the Quran, the Ramayana and the Odyssey. Award-winning scholar of Latin American literature Ilan Stavans brings a fresh creative energy to the Popol Vuh, giving a new generation of readers the opportunity to connect with this timeless story and with the plight of the indigenous people of the Americas.
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About the Author
"Ilan Stavans is an inventive interpreter of the contemporary cultures of the Americas.... Cantankerous and clever, sprightly and serious, Stavans is a voracious thinker. In his writing, life serves to illuminate literature--and vice versa: he is unafraid to court controversy, unsettle opinions, make enemies. In short, Stavans is an old-fashioned intellectual, a brilliant interpreter of his triple heritage--Jewish, Mexican, and American."
--Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
"...in the void created by the death of his compatriot Octavio Paz, Ilan Stavans has emerged as Latin America's liveliest and boldest critic and most innovative cultural enthusiast."
--The Washington Post
"Ilan Stavans has done as much as anyone alive to bridge the hemisphere's linguistic gaps."
--The Miami Herald
--The Chronicle of Higher Education
"Ilan Stavans is a maverick intellectual whose canonical work has already produced a whole array of marvels... His incisive essays are redefining Jewish literature."
"Ilan Stavans is the rarest of North American writers--he sees the Americas whole. Not since Octavio Paz has Mexico given us an intellectual so able to violate borders, with learning and grace."
"In the multicultural rainbow that is contemporary America, no one may be more representative of the state of the union than Ilan Stavans."
"Ilan Stavans may very well succeed in becoming the Octavio Paz of our age."
--The San Francisco Chronicle
"A virtuoso critic with an exuberant, encyclopedic, restless mind."
"Ilan Stavans has the sharp eye of the internal exile. Writing about the sometimes reluctant reconquista of North America by Spanish-speaking cultures or the development of his own identity, he deals with both the life of the mind and the life of the streets."
"Lively and intelligent, eclectic, sharp-tongued."
"I think Stavans has one of the best grips around on what makes Spanish America tick."
"Ilan Stavans is a disciple of Kafka and Borges. He accepts social identity broadly, in the most cosmopolitan terms... His impulse is to broaden, not to narrow; he finds understanding through complication of identity, not through the easy gestures of ethnic politics."
--The New York Times
"Ilan Stavans has established himself as an invaluable commentator of literature."