Simon Bolivar: A Life

February 19th, 2009 at 11:21 pm David Frum | No Comments |

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Simon Bolivar: A Life by John Lynch. (Yale 2006.) A good modern biography of Bolivar is much needed. This plodding volume is not it. How on earth do you manage to make the life of Bolivar of all people dull? This book offers few fresh insights into the thinking of one of the most arresting intelligencs in Latin American history, barely bothers to explain the seeming contradictions between Bolivar’s authoritarian and libertarian tendencies, has little to say about the social and racial problems about which Bolivar in fact thought so hard and with such frustrating results for himself personally and the republics he left behind. Even the battles are made dull.

I was reading the Library of Latin America’s El Libertador: Writings of Simon Bolivar (Oxford, 2003) at the same time as the Lynch biography. Their introductory biographical sketch does a better job of relating the main facts – and Bolivar’s own writings speak eloquently for themselves about the grandeur and tragedy of his life. As we worry over the fate of Venezuela under the self-proclaimed “Bolivarian Hugo Chavez, it is grimly satisfying to be reminded that nobody more prophetically foresaw Chavez and his ilk – and nobody would have despised him more heartily – than the hero in whose footsteps Chavez ludicrously pretends to follow.

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4 Comments so far ↓

  • Johnnnymac66

    I’ve lived all of my 51 years in Chicago. I learned world politics by reading Gigi Geyer, Evans & Novak, George Will, and many, many others. I learned Chicago politics by reading Mike Royko, Studs Terkel, and many others.
    For me, the tipping point with Evans came when he “outted” Valerie Plame, a crime I believe was treasonous. I wrote him and told him exactly that, and was not surprised when I received no response.
    From that point on, I’d glance at his columns, but never again believed anything in them.
    When Hunter Thompson would inject himself into the stories he was writing, it was funny. Outting an undercover CIA operative because of a personal grudge wasn’t at all funny.
    I still believe Robert Evans committed treason against the United States.

  • WaStateUrbanGOPer

    Novak comes off as a sort of American, Jewish-cum-Catholic verson of Evelyn Waugh: nasty, vindictive and palpably self loathing. But he wasn’t unpatriotic. Moreover, he was correct about the War on Terror and Iraq. Compare his foreign policy views to David Frum’s, and then tell me: who comes out looking better on the geopolitics of the past decade?

  • WaStateUrbanGOPer

    Oh, and by the way Frum, you’d fail your mother-in-law’s course, too: it’s ABC 20/20, not “NBC 20/20.”

  • lolapowers

    Mr Frum, I so wholeheartedly agree with you, Novak was indeed a dark soul !

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