Hunter of Stories


By Eduardo Galeano

Translated by Mark Fried

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The internationally acclaimed last work by the legendary Latin American writer

Master storyteller Eduardo Galeano was unique among his contemporaries (Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Mario Vargas Llosa among them) for his commitment to retelling our many histories, including the stories of those who were disenfranchised. A philosopher poet, his nonfiction is infused with such passion and imagination that it matches the intensity and the appeal of Latin America’s very best fiction.

Comprised of all new material, published here for the first time in a wonderful English translation by longtime collaborator Mark Fried, Hunter of Stories is a deeply considered collection of Galeano’s final musings and stories on history, memory, humor, and tragedy. Written in his signature style — vignettes that fluidly combine dialogue, fables, and anecdotes — every page displays the original thinking and compassion that has earned Galeano decades and continents of renown.


Translator’s Note

HUNTER OF STORIES WAS WRITTEN DURING THE LAST THREE years of Eduardo Galeano’s life, most of it a few hours every day sitting quietly alone, pad and pen in hand, as he traveled across Latin America, Europe, and the United States for public appearances. A consummate performer, Eduardo drew energy from his readers even as the drudgery of travel exhausted him.

I last saw him in 2013 on his final visit to New York City, when he was already being treated for an aggressive return of the cancer that had cost him half a lung a decade before. Though he did not look well, his spirit was undiminished. He excitedly recounted what he had recently seen or heard, tales that confirmed his habitual optimism about the human condition and his eternal pessimism about the course of civilization.

When an early draft of the book arrived on my desk at the beginning of 2014, sprinkled as it was with reflections on death, I realized how quickly his health was failing. By then, Eduardo had given up his itinerant lifestyle and was closeted at his home in Montevideo. He continued to rework and expand Hunter of Stories for much of that year, and I imagine his compulsive attention to detail and his delight in writing helped keep his mind off his illness.

Eduardo must have felt some urgency to tell the stories he had collected or imagined and to share the insights from a life fully lived. Yet the book retains his familiar tone of calm and delighted reflection, even when contemplating the prospect of leaving behind the world he critiqued so trenchantly and loved so dearly.

Mark Fried

Note from the Editor of the Spanish Edition

EDUARDO GALEANO DIED ON APRIL 13, 2015. WE HAD signed off on the final details of Hunter of Stories the previous summer, including the cover image, the monster of Buenos Aires, which, as was his wont, he chose. He had spent 2012 and 2013 working on the book. Given that his state of health was not good, we decided to delay publication in order to protect him from the many tasks involved in any book launch.

During his last months he continued rewriting and polishing his texts, again and again, something that had always given him pleasure. He also began a new book, which he wanted to call Scribblings, a few stories of which he completed. After his death, when it was possible to move ahead with publishing Hunter of Stories, we reread the stories in that unfinished work and felt that a number of them had so much in common with those of Hunter of Stories that they should be incorporated into this volume. Some twenty of these “scribblings” are included here.

Eduardo was always a sober man, perhaps paying homage to the Welsh genes he so often denied, and he would rarely complain about his illness or his pains, even during his final days. A handful of the new texts seems to outline what he thought or imagined regarding death. They are so strong and beautiful that we took the liberty of adding a new section to the original manuscript and giving it the title of the poem he had chosen for the book’s ending, which in fact ends the book: “I Crave, I Covet, I Yearn.”

Besides these additions, we followed all of his indications, which, as usual, were obsessively and kindly detailed.

It is not easy to write the final word on this project, which benefited from the valuable commentaries and observations of Daniel Weinberg and the professionalism of Gabriela Vigo and the rest of the Siglo XXI team during the long editing process, all of whom must have been particularly motivated by the affection they felt and still feel for Eduardo.

I thank Helena Villagra for her priceless assistance in giving Hunter of Stories its final shape. Editing this book was a pleasant task, a reencounter with a beloved writer, and at the same time it was unavoidably difficult.

Carlos E. Díaz

Windmills of Time


Wind smooths over the tracks of gulls.

Rain washes away human steps.

Sun bleaches the scars of time.

Storytellers seek the footprints of lost memory, love and pain that cannot be seen but are never erased.

Elegy to Travel

In the pages of A Thousand and One Nights, this advice appears:

“Get going, friend! Drop everything and get going! Of what use is an arrow if it never flies from the bow? How good would the melodious lute sound if it were still a piece of wood?”


By day, the sun guides them. By night, the stars.

Paying no fare, they travel without passports and without forms for customs or immigration.

Birds are the only free beings in this world inhabited by prisoners. They fly from pole to pole, powered by food alone, on the route they choose and at the hour they wish, without ever asking permission of officials who believe they own the heavens.


The world is on the move.

On board are more shipwrecked souls than successful seafarers.

Thousands of desperate people die en route, before they can complete the crossing to the promised land, where even the poor are rich and everyone lives in Hollywood.

The illusions of any who manage to arrive do not last long.


It spreads seeds, guides clouds, tests sailors.

Sometimes it cleanses the air; sometimes it dirties it.

Sometimes it brings close what was far off and sometimes it scatters what was close by.

Invisible and untouchable, it caresses or strikes, whispers or roars.

Some think it says, “I blow wherever I wish.”

But no one really understands.

Does it announce what is to come?

Weather forecasters in China are known as “mirrors of the wind.”

Rice’s Journey

In Asia rice is cultivated with meticulous care. At harvest the stalks are gently cut and gathered into bunches, so that evil winds do not carry off its soul.

The people of Sichuan remember the fiercest flood that has ever been or will be: it occurred in ancient times and it drowned the rice, body and soul.

Only a dog survived.

After the flood finally turned and the angry waters began to abate, he managed to reach shore, swimming hard.

The dog had a grain of rice stuck to his tail.

In that grain lay the soul.

Lost Breath

Before the before, when time was not yet time and the world was not yet the world, we were all gods.

Brahma, the Hindu god, could not bear the competition, so he stole our divine breath and concealed it in a secret hiding place.

Ever since, we have lived in search of our lost breath. We seek it in the depths of the sea and on the highest peaks.

From his great distance, Brahma smiles.


On the banks of the Platte River the Pawnee Indians speak of the origin.

Not even once had the paths of the evening star and the morning star crossed.

They wanted to meet.

The moon agreed to guide them to a rendezvous, but halfway there she threw them into the abyss, then spent several nights chuckling at her joke.

The stars were not discouraged. Desire gave them the strength to scale the precipice back up to the high heavens.

There, far above, they embraced so passionately that no one could tell which was which.

And from that incomparable coupling we wanderers of the world arose.


Tezcatlipoca, Mexican god of the night, sent his son to sing alongside the crocodile musicians of heaven.

The sun was against it, but the black god, the outlawed beauty, paid no heed and brought together the voices of heaven and earth.

Thus were united silence and sound, chants and music, night and day, darkness and color. And thus they all learned to live together.

The New World

Ulysses, driven by the wind, might have been the first Greek to see the ocean.

I can only imagine his astonishment when his ship passed through the Strait of Gibraltar and before his eyes lay that immense expanse, guarded by the ever-open maws of monsters.

It would not have crossed the mariner’s mind that beyond those salty waters and roaring winds lay a mystery even more immense and still without a name.

Satanic Diversity

In Peru, in the middle of the seventeenth century, the priest Bernabé Cobo finished writing his History of the New World.

Cobo set out in that voluminous work the reason why indigenous America had so many gods and such diverse versions of the origins of its peoples.

The reason was straightforward: the Indians were ignorant.

A century before, the scribe Juan de Betanzos, principal advisor of conquistador Francisco Pizarro, had revealed another, more powerful reason: Satan dictated what the Indians believed; that was why they did not share one religion and why they confused Good with Evil and had so many conflicting ideas.

“The Devil sends them thousands of illusions and ruses,” he decreed.

Barbaric Customs

The British conquerors were cross-eyed with astonishment.

They came from a civilized nation, where women were the property of their husbands and owed them obedience, as the Bible insists, but in America the world was upside down.

They suspected the Iroquois women were libertines. Women had their own opinions and their own possessions. They had the right to divorce and could vote in community decisions. Husbands did not even have the right to punish the women that belonged to them.

The white invaders could no longer sleep in peace, for the customs of the pagan savages might prove contagious.


Indigenous divinities were the first victims of the conquest of America.

“Extirpation of idolatry” is what the victors called the war that condemned the gods to silence.


How did Europe view us in the sixteenth century?

Through the eyes of Theodor de Bry.

An artist from Liège who never set foot in America was the first European to draw the inhabitants of the New World.

His engravings were a graphic version of the chronicles of the conquistadors.

The images depicted a favorite dish of American savages: the flesh of Europeans, roasted over coals.

Seated in a circle around red-hot grills, they devoured arms, legs, ribs, and bellies and then licked their fingers.

Pardon the bother, but were those people hungering for human flesh really Indians?

In de Bry’s engravings, all of them are bald.

In America, not a single Indian was bald.

The Monster of Buenos Aires

This is how the French priest Louis Feuillée saw it, or imagined it, and that is what he called it.

The monster was but one of the fearsome images that illustrated the account of his journey through South American lands, “kingdoms of Satan,” from 1707 to 1711.


A few natives came out to meet the Spanish conquistadors who first set foot on the sands of Yucatán.

According to Fray Toribio de Benavente, the Spaniards asked, in the language of Castile, “Where are we? What is this place called?”

The natives answered, “Tectetán.”

The Spaniards understood them to say, “Yucatán.”

And ever since, that is what the peninsula has been called.

But what the natives had said in their language was, “I don’t understand you.”

The Mighty Zero

Nearly two thousand years ago, the symbol for zero was engraved on stone stelae at Uaxactún and other Maya ceremonial centers.

The Mayans had gone farther than the Babylonians and the Chinese in developing the key that unlocked a new era in the history of science.

Thanks to the zero, these children of time, astronomical and mathematical sages, created precise solar calendars, becoming prophets able to predict eclipses and other marvels of nature.


Chocolate, ancient drink of the Indians of Mexico, provoked mistrust and even panic among the foreigners from Europe.

Physician Juan de Cárdenas proved that chocolate caused flatulence and melancholy, and the foam impeded digestion and provoked “terrible sorrows in the heart.”

It was also suspected of abetting sin. Bishop Bernardo de Salazar excommunicated the ladies who drank chocolate during mass.

They did not give up the vice.

The Passion According to Cochabamba

When the child kissed his mother’s nipple, a gush of milk and honey burst forth, but the breast ran dry when the father tried to suck.

And when mosquitos bit the father on his bald pate, the child caressed it, and from his scalp sprouted a rather handsome white hat of woven straw.

And when there was no work at the carpentry shop and they had nothing to eat, the child turned his body’s excretions into empanadas of cheese and spiced chicken.

And when the family crossed the desert, suffering great thirst with not a drop to drink, the child kicked a pebble and from the earth flowed a spring of clear waters.

And when they reached fertile ground, he allowed the land to devour him, and down he sank and disappeared.

And on the third day, from the depths of the earth he reappeared, and he knew everything, absolutely everything that had occurred in his absence.

Thus it was in olden times, according to what I was told by truth-speaking women and men in the valley of Cochabamba.

The Explanation

Dominican friar Antonio de la Huerte wrote in 1547, regarding the strangeness of America: “One could say that on the day of Creation, the Lord’s hand trembled a little.”

Mother Nature Teaches

In the Amazon, mother nature gives classes in diversity.

The indigenous peoples identify ten soil types, eighty plant varieties, forty-three ant species, and three-hundred-ten species of birds, all within one square kilometer.

We Were Walking Forests

Every day the world loses a forest, murdered while only a few centuries old and still growing.

Barren deserts and uniform plantations spread far and wide, burying the world of green. Only a few peoples have been wise enough to keep up the language of plants that allows them to communicate with the fortress of the oak and the melancholies of the willow.

The Ceiba

In Cuba and other parts of the Americas the ceiba is a sacred tree, a tree of mystery. Lightning dares not touch it. Neither do hurricanes.

Inhabited by gods, it germinates at the center of the world and sends up the immense trunk that sustains the sky.

To cure the sky of its arrogance, every day the ceiba asks: “What feet would you stand on, if it were not for me?”

The Aruera

Warning to travelers: in the South American countryside, watch out for a tree called the aruera, from the indigenous ahué, meaning “evil tree.”

A very touchy fellow is the aruera, who neither forgets nor forgives an affront.

One should not, one must not, cut a branch or sleep under its leafy crown without asking permission. Above all, it is forbidden to walk by it without offering a greeting.

If it is nighttime, you say, “Good morning.”

If it is daytime, you say, “Good night.”

Whoever fails in these obligations will be condemned to prolonged swellings and savage fevers, which sometimes kill.

Nobody Can Beat Grandpa

Good news for old folks still alive in this world: those who believe young trees have more and better wood are mistaken.

Giving testimony in California and other parts are sequoias, the largest trees in the world. These majestic grandfathers can live for three thousand years and still produce two billion leaves. They are the ones that best withstand lightning storms and six months of snow, and no disease can bring them down.

The Skin of Books

He gives us great pleasure, though he received little or none.

Ts’ai Lun, eunuch and member of the Chinese imperial court, invented paper. It was in the year 105, after much experimentation with mulberry bark and other plants.

Thanks to Ts’ai Lun, today we can read and write as we caress the skin of books and believe the words they speak belong to us.


In 1961, while several international experts recommended outlawing the cultivation and consumption of coca leaves, there came to light in northeastern Peru the remnants of such leaves chewed thousands of years ago.

Chewing coca has long been a healthful custom in the high Andes. Coca calms nausea and dizziness and is the best remedy for exhaustion and certain diseases.

Besides, and this is not the least of it, the coca leaf is a symbol of Andean identity that only ill will confuses with the sorry chemical manipulation called cocaine.

Another chemical concoction, heroin, can be made from poppies. But to date, as far as we know, poppies remain a symbol of peace, remembrance, and patriotism in England.



  • "This is Galeano's parting gift, arriving to us, like a message from another dimension, from beyond the grave. It is more generous, wise, and wonderful than I dared hope."—Naomi Klein,author of No Is Not Enough
  • "Galeano was a master of the shattered story. He had a way of making realism magical without being a magical realist. This book is yet another demonstration of his brilliance."—Arundhati Roy, author of The God of Small Things
  • "Story-hunter and -gatherer Galeano has captured a covey of extraordinary tales from the wise everybodies of the world and from his own wise observations. They are medicine for our times-tales to break our hearts open and restore us our humanity. To experience them alone is transformational. But to watch them soar to their full potential, they must be released from captivity and read aloud."—SandraCisneros, authorof House on Mango Street
  • "Like a magician, combining on the page the arts of reading, storytelling and civic ethics, Eduardo Galeano conjures up for us long-forgotten images of our many worlds. If, as we have always suspected, our geographies spring from our stories, Galeano is our master geographer."—Alberto Manguel, author of The Dictionary of Imaginary Places
  • "Meticulously sculpted...with the lively and inimitable voice of a passionate rebel and storyteller... With a keen sense for ironic reversals and equal measures of sly humor, empathy, anguish, and hope, this compendium of bite-size stories of resistance (elegantly translated by longtime collaborator Fried) is a worthy addition to the celebrated oeuvre of a writer who remains a towering figure both as an artist and a voice of conscience across Latin America and the world."—Publisher's Weekly, Starred Review
  • "Bittersweet it is to read the final offering of a beloved, erudite, and wholly gifted author... In his nearly 75 years, Galeano continually spoke truth to power, yet also fostered beauty and a stylistic legacy all his own... Hunter of Stories is a fitting, final work of a man who spent his days (and undoubtedly so many nights) envisioning a finer world for all."

    Jeremy Garber, Powell's Books
  • "A fitting final flourish for a literary giant of the Latin American left."—Kirkus Reviews
  • "[Galeano's] trenchant social critique and playful style suffuse these posthumously published vignettes: some deeply personal, many fiercely political, others simply wise and penetrating, and nearly all humorous, whether satirical or self-mocking... A swan song from one of Latin America's greatest storytellers, this work is rich with social conscience, humor, insight, outrage, and love. Recommended to all."—Library Journal, Starred Review
  • "Arranged with a novelist's gift for narrative sequence, a journalist's skepticism, and a storyteller's flair for dramatic tension... Each brief entry provides a snapshot into the rich imagination of one of the twentieth century's finest writers... A fitting finale for a lifetime of incisive writing."—Booklist, Starred Review
  • "Hunter of Stories is a fitting bookend to Galeano's impressive literary career and a necessary book for all those who, like the author, care for the suffering of others and believe in the power of words to change minds and, perhaps, the world."—World Literature Today
  • "A highly satisfying final collection of the great Latin American writer's ­signature ­vignettes, a swirling mix of history, philosophy, fable, poetry, ­humor, memory and conscience."—Wall Street Journal

On Sale
Nov 6, 2018
Page Count
272 pages
Bold Type Books

Eduardo Galeano

About the Author

Eduardo Galeano (1940-2015) was one of Latin America’s most distinguished writers. A Uruguayan journalist, writer, and novelist, he was considered, among other things, “a literary giant of the Latin American left” and “global soccer’s preeminent man of letters.” He is the author of the three-volume Memory of Fire, Open Veins of Latin America, Soccer in Sun and Shadow, The Book of Embraces, Walking Words, Upside Down, and Voices in Time. Born in Montevideo in 1940, he lived in exile in Argentina and Spain for years before returning to Uruguay.

His work has been translated into twenty-eight languages. He is the recipient of many international prizes, including the first Lannan Prize for Cultural Freedom, the Casa de las Americas Prize, and the First Distinguished Citizen of the region by the countries of Mercosur. Galeano once described himself as “a writer obsessed with remembering, with remembering the past of America and above all that of Latin America, intimate land condemned to amnesia.” Isabel Allende, who said her copy of Galeano’s book was one of the few items with which she fled Chile in 1973 after the military coup of Augusto Pinochet, called Open Veins of Latin America “a mixture of meticulous detail, political conviction, poetic flair, and good storytelling.”

Learn more about this author