Mike Gonzalez

Red April

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Santiago Roncagliolo, Atlantic Books, £10.99

The Peruvian city of Ayacucho is a meeting point between very different cultures - its Spanish architecture echoes the colonists who conquered and dominated Peru. But the high Andes that surround it contain an indigenous community who were its victims, yet who still speak the languages of the pre-Hispanic world.

First aid, then poverty

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Aid organisations pose as the noble saviours of the needy. In fact they often reinforce and deepen exploitation

Bob Geldof was recently invited to Australia to talk about world poverty. His fee was £100,000 - and of course he flew first class. It was one small chapter in the story of an industry whose gross earnings put it fifth behind the world's largest economies - the aid industry.

The issue has dramatically entered the news again, with the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile and the continuing drama of Darfur. It confronts you every day as the charming young "chuggers", with their umbrellas and yellow jackets, deliver their charity scripts with a smile.

Haiti - repression and resistance

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The staggering poverty in which the vast majority of Port-au-Prince's population live is a shock to anyone. Yet it is not because of some peculiar Haitian backwardness but the result of centuries of exploitation.

At the end of the 18th century Saint-Domingue (as Haiti was then known) was the wealthiest colony in the Caribbean, and its then capital, Cap-Français, was one of the world's richest cities.

When the French Revolution began in 1789 the island had nearly 800 sugar plantations and 3,000 coffee, cotton and indigo plantations, all destined for France under a colonial trade monopoly. Its population of 35,000 whites and 27,000 mulattoes (people of mixed race) controlled the island economy, while 1 million slaves were brought from Africa to work the land.

Haiti - the making of a catastrophe

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After the earthquake struck, the people of Haiti needed food, water and shelter - instead they got US troops and predatory corporations. Haiti's problems are not just a result of a natural disaster, Mike Gonzalez argues, but are rooted in the country's history of slavery and exploitation

The numbers are almost incomprehensible, the devastation and loss impossible to imagine. At least 100,000 people lie dead under the rubble, and 2 million are homeless and abandoned. The news footage of whirring helicopters and aircraft carriers outside the ruined ports created a mirage of action - but as the days passed nothing changed in the devastated slums of Port-au-Prince.

2666

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Roberto Bolaño, Picador; £20

This is a bewildering book. Like its predecessor, The Savage Detectives, it is an exhausting journey backwards and forwards across the globe, in and out of bars and brothels, leaping from culture to culture.

In fact, 2666 is not one but five novels, intended by its author, who died in 2003, to be published separately. In the end they were put together in a single volume, although the link between them is very tenuous.

Nazi Literature in the Americas

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Roberto Bolaño, Picador, £16.99

Roberto Bolaño's runaway success has as much to do with the man as with his books. Born in Chile, he spent some time in Mexico before moving to Spain where he died at the age of 50 while awaiting a liver transplant. Beyond those basic facts, the rest is rumour and possibly fiction: his arrest by Augusto Pinochet's police followed by his release when he is recognised by an old friend in the police, his sexual odyssey through Spain, his drug addiction and recovery.

Field of Honour

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Max Aub, Verso; £12.99

"See these Spaniards, broken, defeated, wounded, sleepy, half dead, still hoping to escape - never forget that they are the best the world has to offer. It's not beautiful, but it is the best in the world." These are the last words of the six-novel cycle set in the Spanish Civil War called "The Magic Labyrinth".

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