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Upside Down: A Primer for the Looking-Glass World / Patas Arriba. La Escuela Del Mundo Al Revés

Posted by Dreamer

In Upside Down: A Primer for the Looking-Glass World famed Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano takes an irreverent look at modern society and persuasively tells us what’s so damn wrong with it. Combining creativity and research, Upside Down is a unique social commentary that shakes the foundations of everything we never questioned before.

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Provocative could be one word to describe Galeano’s treatise, regardless of whether you agree with his analyses or not. And in his zeal to rethink society’s assumptions, Galeano provides us with sentences like “The world economy is the most efficient expression of organized crime,” which he often – but not always – backs up with examples, metaphors, statistics, reports, and anecdotes designed to leave no one indifferent. But no matter which side of the ideological fence you’re on, there seems to be one thing everyone the world over can agree with Galeano on: The world is really fucked up!

In a nutshell, Upside Down is Galeano’s striking portrait of the world as we know it. He takes his metaphor of the nonsensical mirror world and the “upside-down school” from none other than Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, sequel to the children’s classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Taking it one step further, the book is ironically organized like a school textbook, and is weird and wonderfully illustrated with small black and white drawings from Mexican artist José Guadalupe Posada, who died almost a century ago.

You could say that Upside Down takes a “no-holds barred” approach, raining down condemnation right and left. The rich, the middle-class, the poor, nations, companies, systems, individuals: no one escapes his critical eye. Especially not Latin America or the First World, though every corner of the globe is represented here. Fear, consumer culture, world economics, the role of the state, power, justice, racism, sexism, eugensia, and crime represent only a small selection of the topics Upside Down takes head on. But his mixture of wit and irony on very serious issues is a double-edged sword: sometimes his passages make me want to laugh, but it’s a guilty laugh at something that’s not really funny at all.

The language Galeano uses in Upside Down is poetic, dramatic, ironic, and above all, crystal-clear in its biting accusations. The original Spanish version, Patas Arriba. La Escuela Del Mundo Al Revés, requires an intermediate level of Spanish or higher; the grammar Galeano uses is not difficult, but some of his vocabulary may send you looking for a dictionary. If you can, it’s well worth the effort to read in its original language.

All in all, Upside Down is a book that never fails to surprise the reader with its accounts of all the atrocities of daily life. Though Galeano provides no solutions, he does challenge us to hope for a better world, leaving the reader to hope that other readers do too.

(Reviewer’s note: This is a review of the Spanish version, Patas Arriba. La Escuela Del Mundo Al Revés.)

English version:
Upside Down: A Primer for the Looking-Glass World by Eduardo Galeano. New York: Picador, 2001. 368 pages.
Buy the book in Europe or buy the book in North America.

Spanish version:
Patas Arriba. La Escuela Del Mundo Al Revés by Eduardo Galeano. Mexico: Siglo XXI, 1998. 365 pages.
Buy the book in Europe or buy the book in North America.

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In Upside Down: A Primer for the Looking-Glass World famed Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano takes an irreverent look at modern society and persuasively tells us what’s so damn wrong with it. Combining creativity and research, Upside Down is a unique social commentary that shakes the foundations of everything we never questioned before.

Upside Down: A Primer for the Looking-Glass World / Patas Arriba. La Escuela Del Mundo Al Revés

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