Paraíso portátil / Portable Paradise


by Mario Bencastro, English Translation by John Pluecker

ISBN: 978-1-55885-516-8
Category: Fiction
Published: 31 Mar 2010
Bind: Paperback
Pages: 219

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A stirring collection of stories bring to life the impact of war and the need to leave one’s country due to violence and poverty

The watchman feels very fortunate to have a job in El Salvador after the civil war, when so many people are unemployed. It’s boring but easy work, taking care of a new house that belongs to a Salvadoran couple living in Los Angeles. When he thinks about his previous jobs—day laborer, coffee harvester, highway construction worker—he’s even more grateful. All he has to do is water the plants and cut the grass, and of course, keep thieves from stealing all the furnishings. And once a month, he reassures the owners that their beautiful home in their beloved homeland remains in good condition until their next visit. Then one day, everything changes.

Acclaimed Salvadoran writer Mario Bencastro examines themes of war, dislocation, and longing in this bilingual collection of stories, poetry, and one novella. Many of his characters are forced to leave their homelands because of violence and poverty. But once in the Promised Land, separated from family and friends and in a country whose language and culture they don’t understand, many find themselves overwhelmed by feelings of loss and nostalgia.

In “Dragon Boy,” a group of children orphaned by El Salvador’s civil war band together to survive, even as they are exploited by predators. In “The Plan,” a successful Swiss millionaire returns to his native El Salvador—which he left as a defenseless orphan—and executes his ruthless plan to take revenge on those responsible for the brutal killings of his family. And in “From Australia with Love,” a Salvadoran émigré plans to marry a countryman she met on the Internet, until they realize that they have met before.

Readers will not soon forget Bencastro’s moving images fueled by the horrible realities of war and the painful need to leave behind all that is dear.

Click here to listen to an interview with Mario Bencastro about his book, Paraíso portátil / Portable Paradise.