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  • Writer's pictureOlivia Corvisart

"Upside Down: A Primer for the Looking-Glass World" by Eduardo Galeano

Updated: Aug 5, 2023

“A book lying idle on a shelf is wasted ammunition. Like money, books must be kept in constant circulation... A book is not only a friend, it makes friends for you. When you have possessed a book with mind and spirit, you are enriched. But when you pass it on you are enriched threefold.” ― Henry Miller, The Books in My Life

Words that are never truer which is why Upside Down: A Primer for the Looking-Glass World, by Eduardo Galeano makes my good reads list.


The author, a Uruguayan who originally published the book in Spanish in 1998, was deeply affected by the political turmoil occurring in Latin America through much of the 20th century. Galeano was forced into exile in Spain and Argentina by the Uruguayan military regime. It is suggested his exile greatly influenced his fiery yet sarcastic writing style. His words and bits of Renaissance imagery explode across the page making it a book that is hard to put down once started. The themes explored in his book are racism, sexism, capitalism, education, poverty and societal fear to name a few. As you read, Galeano invites you to re-think why we accept the status quo of society; to reconsider how outrageous public societal moments become normalized and are eventually accepted by everyone. Although the focus is on Latin America as a whole, his words ring true for humanity the world over. (Source: Wiki)

A Word About the Author

Eduardo Hughes Galeano (Spanish pronunciation: [eˈðwarðo ɣaleˈano]; 3 September 1940 – 13 April 2015) was a Uruguayan journalist, writer and novelist considered, among other things, "global soccer's pre-eminent man of letters" and "a literary giant of the Latin American left". Galeano's best-known works are Las venas abiertas de América Latina (Open Veins of Latin America, 1971) and Memoria del fuego (Memory of Fire Trilogy, 1982–6). "I'm a writer," the author once said of himself, ""obsessed with remembering, with remembering the past of America and above all that of Latin America, intimate land condemned to amnesia." Author Isabelle Allende, who said her copy of Galeano's book was one of the few items with which she fled Chile in 1973 after the military coup of Augusto Pinochet, called Open Veins of Latin America, "a mixture of meticulous detail, political conviction, poetic flair, and good storytelling." (Source: Amazon)

Prose Style

The book is written with the goal of being a textbook to engender a new way for thinking in its (student) reader. We, human members of societies are in effect the students of our respective societies. We learn the customs, what is and what is not acceptable and we pass this knowledge on to future generations--for better or worse.

Personal Summary

Although at various points during my reading the book felt like a brilliant work of nonfiction, I am keenly aware that it isn't. Surveying this book in 2017 felt eerily timely. Galeano is a modern-day Nostradamus as much of what the book details is on-going in Latin America and is in its infancy in the United States as well. This book has been the best gift received thus far! I grimaced, shouted out loud, laughed and cried as I read. The style is humorous and at moments sarcastic as it highlights the absurdity at times of the modern-day human experience.

If you are into books and authors that take guts to read then this and his other works are for you. One must possess a willingness to suspend one's own preconceived notions of how nations are built, maintained and what is best for your fellow (wo)man to receive what this brilliant work is shouting at you: All is not right (and never has been) in the world and here is the simple way to fix it.

Favorite Quotes:

“Human rights pale beside the rights of machines. Automobiles usurp human space, poison the air, and frequently murder the interlopers who invade their conquered territory – and no one lifts a finger to stop them.”

“Hours spent in front of the television easily surpass those spent in the classroom, when hours are spent in the classroom at all. It is a universal truth that, with our without school, TV programs are children’s primary source of formation, information, and deformation, as well as their principal source of topics for conversation.”

“Every day, the ruling system places our worst characteristics at center stage, condemning our best to languish behind the backdrop. The system of power is not in the least eternal. We may be badly made, but we’re not finished, and it’s the adventure of changing reality and changing ourselves that makes our blip in the history of the universe worthwhile, this fleeting warmth between two glaciers that is us.”


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