Contest Winner!!!

Recent Visitors Sept. 21, 2010

Back in August I ran a contest inviting readers to submit a feature for AMB.
The winner is…

Ryan Fuentes, Puerto Princesa, Philippines

The Devil to Pay in the Backlands is more than a story of bandits, wars and loves. It is also a novel of ideas, as the humble narrator philosophizes on various topics: love and friendship, good and evil, mortality and death. The book contains consequential events on leadership, politics, and power; how to seize it, how to wield it. It is like a reluctant hero’s reluctant book of philosophy, filled with double-edged aphorisms.

As the novel’s structure is confessional, the narration is centered on self-examination. The novel condenses a unique way of thinking, a worldview, a “jagunço code.” Though the book is less a manual on the art of fighting wars than a guide to natural stoicism, a paradoxical treatise on living as “a dangerous business.”

The following lists some of my favorite quotes in the book (from the translation by James L. Taylor and Harriet de Onís). The majority of the quotes were taken from the second half of the book, from page three hundred and onward. The double meanings of some of the quotes may have been lost, as the context in which they are situated is not reproduced.

“The truth is not in the setting out nor in the arriving: it comes to us in the middle of the journey. (52)”

“In real life, things end less neatly, or don’t end at all. To strive for exactitude makes one blunder. One shouldn’t seek it. (70)”

“He lies little who tells the whole truth. (299)”

“The world is like a stage: one in the royal box, the others trained to keep quiet. (299)”

“Fear is something that grows inside a person, something planted there; at times it stirs and shakes, and we think it is for some reason, because of this or that, when these things are only holding a mirror up to ourselves. The purpose of life is to destroy these bitter dregs of fear. (301)”

“The sertão is not to be subdued by force; on the contrary, little by little, it does the subduing. All who ride high and handsome in the sertão hold the reins for a short time only: they find they are riding a tiger. (307)”

“We only know well that which we do not understand. (310)”

“Always fear a man who has no power and no money! I’ll say more: it is best never to mix with people too different from ourselves. Even when they have no avowed evil intentions, their lives are bounded by their habits, and being an outsider, you run subtle dangers. There are many places and many kinds of people. I learned about it from old-timers. The wise thing is to flee from everything to which we do not belong. Keep the good far from the bad, the healthy far from the sick, the living far from the dead, the cold far from the hot, the rich far from the poor. Don’t neglect this rule, and hold on to the reins with both hands. Put gold in one hand and silver in the other, then close them tight so no one will see. (318)”

“As long as there is one fearful soul in the world, or a frightened child, everyone is in danger—fear is contagious. No one has the right to instill fear in another, no one. My greatest right, the one I cherish most, is that no one is entitled to make me afraid! (322-323)”

“A crazy idea is one that doesn’t work. But you won’t know it’s crazy until you’ve tried it. (347)”

“The first thing a person who wants to rise in life must learn is to override the envy of others. (351)”

“If I were to get cautious, I would develop fear right at the start. Courage comes from other practices. You have to believe in the impossible—just that. (365)”

“Life is full of surprises! You start something, without knowing why, and then you lose control; life is like a stew, stirred and seasoned by everybody. (375)”

“It is only when the river is deep, or has deep holes in it, that you build a bridge across it. (376)”

“Life is a motley confusion. Write it in your notebook, sir: seven pages. (406)”

“The only thing I can swear to, that I know, is that a toucan has a craw! (407)”

“The sertão is neither mean nor kind, son; it takes away or gives, it pleases or embitters you, according as you treat it.” (423)

“I know: one who loves is always a slave, but he never truly obeys. (447)”

“To command is just that: to remain still and have greater courage. (449)”

“The fact is, courage is something you can always absorb more of—like air: you can take more and more of it into your lungs, no matter how full, by breathing deeper. (449)”

“Man exists like the tapir: he lives life. A tapir is the most stupid of animals. (452)”

“Hatred displaces fear, just as fear comes from hatred. (464)”

“It is the future that matters. To buy or to sell, sometimes, is almost the same thing. (492)”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s