Stealing Benefacio’s Roses
“Gaspar Culán the younger did not believe the Sun was a God neither was the Earth a sky for another world beneath, nor was it alive at all”
Thus begins the beautifully narrated, romantic epic of Martín Prechtel’s search for the “deer-like look in a woman’s eye,” and his dramatic getaway with his family against impossible odds during his last years in war torn Guatemala.
A story within a story within a story, the apex in Prechtel’s autobiographical trilogy, Stealing Benefacio’s Roses is an epic adventure that begins in the 19th century Guatemalan highlands and ends in the semi-arid foothills of the Sangre de Cristo mountains of New Mexico of today. In between lay tribal memory, the smell of mule caravans, the fury of the Gods, man-eating birds, bare-footed land moguls, forbidden roses, religious trials and unhappy love affairs, bullets and crenulated palaces, polyester and high heels, guerillas and suburbs, international arms sales, the hope and losses of the diasporas, the amnesia of modernity and Holy Remembrance forced to survive homeless under bridges.
As a political exile within the borders of Guatemala then as a spiritual and cultural exile within the confines of the United States, Prechtel tells a tale of irony and beauty where chaos, terror, love, magic and the unexpected live side by side as fingers on the same hand that curl around a cup holding the wine of one man’s life. Rooted in an ancient mythology passed ritually on to him by a magical generation of Tzutujil Maya now gone, Prechtel reminds us that these kinds of stories, if forgotten, will be lived out in our daily lives but can help us live when they are consciously remembered.
Stealing Benefacio’s Roses is a literary masterpiece in honor of oral indigenous story and the indigenous heart of every person. Though easily read as a logical third in sequence with his other two legendary books, Secrets of the Talking Jaguar and Long Life, Honey in the Heart, it also stands on its own as a classic work of beauty and adventure.
Stealing Benefacio’s Roses
“Once in a decade you read a book that, for a time, renders all other books irrelevant, trivial, or extraneous. Such a deep experience with a book makes it nearly impossible to write about it without sounding like an advertisement rather than an earnest review. However, in this case I must persevere, as Martín Prechtel’s latest book (his fourth), Stealing Benefacio’s Roses, is one of these peak moments in recent literature…” –Richard Grossinger
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“Each of these beautiful stories is full of delicious knowledge and spirit and like all good horses, when they bring you home at the end of the ride, you feel exhilarated and closer to your true self. I enjoyed reading it immensely.”
— Malcolm Ebright, Author of Pueblo Sovereignty, Advocates for the Oppressed, and The Witches of Abiquiu.