Mario Bencastro

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(112 pages)

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Odyssey to the North

Decades of civil war in Central America, coupled with the need for manpower in the United States, have made the Hispanic inmigrant a fixture in modern American life. This is one such a story: that of Calixto, who comes to the United States "with his stomach empty but his soul full of hope." Showing the heartbreak as well as the humor of missteps and misunderstandings in a strange culture, award-winning author Mario Bencastro creates a sensitive and caring portrait of Calixto as he seeks not only work, but safety from unjust persecution in his homeland. Through conversations, court transcripts, newspaper articles, and letters, Bencastro's novel Odyssey to the North deftly allows Calixto and his fellow Guatemalans, Salvadorans, and South American migrants to tell their own stories as they struggle to survive in the restaurant kitchens, bars, crowded tenements, and detention centers that become Calixto's proving grounds.

"The even-tempered prose of this quietly resolute political novel gives voice to a generation of Central American immigrants. The Salvadoran protagonist, Calixto, flees his native country, where he faces imprisonment for alleged treason. The dangerous journey north toward Washington, D.C., which provides the novel's dramatic tension, emerges through a series of interpolated flashbacks. Through an artful collage of the conversations between Calixto and his friends, news reports, courtroom transcripts, love letters and anecdotes, Bencastro (The Tree of Life: Stories of Civil War) documents the hardships Calixto suffers upon arriving in the promised land. Unpretentious and reportorial, Bencastro's tone is welcomely understated--and his message all the more powerful for it. FYI: Bencastro's earlier novels have been finalist in both the Novedades y Diana International Literary Prize competition (Mexico) and the Felipe Trigo Literary Prize competition (Spain)." --Publishers Weekly

Odyssey to the North
First Edition: Arte Público Press, February 1999, Houston, USA. Translated by Susan Giersbach Rascón. ISBN 1-55885-256-5. 192 pages. Trade Paperback.

Second Edition: Sanbun Publishers, November 1999, New Delhi, India. ISBN 9 783473 695362. 200 pages. Paperback. Copyright © 1999 Mario Bencastro.