EL SALVADOR: One Day of Life by Manlio Argueta

Banned books, especially works of fiction, always pique my interest. One Day of Life by Manlio Argueta, published in 1980 and shortly banned in El Salvador, is set in the years leading up to the Salvadoran Civil War (the 60s or 70s). Argueta was in exile from El Salvador when One Day of Life was published, as his leftist activities brought him into sharp conflict with the American-backed right wing government.

One Day of Life follows Lupe, a middle-aged peasant grandmother in rural El Salvador. Poor and illiterate, it follows her attempts to feed and protect her family as the “authorities” (the ORDEN paramilitary) increasingly crack down on real and suspected Communist and revolutionary activity – in which her husband and granddaughter have been involved.

I will not spoil it, but it is a quick and powerful read, punchy in the same way One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is. There is a tenseness of waiting in the heat for something terrible to happen – much like how it must have felt for those living then as the civil war was growing on the horizon.

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