'Devastation': a new translation about the Indies

BOOKS&AUTHORS

April 26, 1992|By James H. Bready

If you mean to read up for October's trans-Atlantic quincentennial, do try one modern book (your choice) and one old one -- "The Devastation of the Indies," by Bartolomeo de Las Casas (Seville, 1552). He was a Spanish priest back from 40 years in the New World; he knew Cortes, Pizarro, other explorers. The treatment of the natives that he witnessed, and abhorred, makes for "a story of greed, hypocrisy and cruelties" that rival the worst in our own blood-soaked century.

"Devastation" is now out in a new translation and with an introduction by Bill M. Donovan (Johns Hopkins University Press, paperback, $11.95). Dr. Donovan, who teaches Latin American history at Loyola College, sketches the life of Las Casas and relives the furor across Europe when that scorching book first came out.

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The works of Josephine Jacobsen require a sizable shelf already; here's an addition, with a difference: "Distances" (Bucknell University, Appletree Alley Press, Box 608, Lewisburg, Pa. 17837). The press run is 150 copies, and the price is 150 dollars. "Distances" offers linocut illustrations, hand-set type on 48 dampened Frankfurt White laid paper, hand binding (two copies a week) -- and poems both old and new.

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How, in a nation dedicated to that radical doctrine, liberty, did the old order manage so easily to continue the patterns of traditional culture? Because, Larzer Ziff of Johns Hopkins University points out, the printing press and electoral politics flourished so early and so companionably. His study of early U.S. authors, "Writing in the New Nation" (Yale University Press, $25), carries the theme forward to the point where Emerson, Melville, Thoreau and Whitman reasserted "the primacy of flux over form."

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May 15 is the deadline for the annual $1,000 Towson State University Literature Prize, funded by Alice and Franklin Cooley. An entry must be a book of "fiction, poetry, drama or imaginative nonfiction," published 1989 through 1992, by a Marylander who is 40 or younger. For nomination forms: Annette Chappell, Towson State University, Towson 21204.

May 1 is the deadline for the Baltimore Writers' Alliance's annual literary awards. Categories are fiction (2,500 word maximum), non-fiction (ditto) and poetry (30-line maximum), unpublished, and labeled with the writer's Social Security number. Entries (one per category; for non-members, $5 fee per entry) go to BWA, Box 410, Riderwood 21139.

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A Summer Writers' Conference will be held June 7-13 at Loyola College "for beginning and experienced writers of fiction and poetry." Faculty: Jane Hirshfield, David St. John, Joanna Scott, Stephen Berg, Francine Prose, Denis Johnson. For applications: Karen Fish, Writing Department, Loyola College, 4501 N. Charles St., Baltimore 21210.

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Chatter: Rafael Alvarez, a Sun metro reporter, won first prize in Oceana Magazine's short story contest; other winners: Robin Tierney of Ocean City, Gary D. Wilson and E. C. Vojik. . . . Linda Hayes, Columbia literary agent, will be the Maryland Romance Writers' speaker May 20 at Howard County Library's Miller Branch. . . . Roger A. Godin of Bel Air is the author of "The 1922 St. Louis Browns: Best of the American League's Worst" (McFarland & Co., Box 611, Jefferson, N.C. 28640; $24.95 plus $2 postage).

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