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Summary Book

I the supreme -Augusto Roa Bastos

In spanish “Yo el supremo” or in english “I, the supreme” is a book written by Augusto Roa Bastos and published in 1974. Here the perspective of the Paraguayan dictator named José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia, who was the main actor in cruel acts, deaths, humiliations, racism of a nation. It also shows us with reliable evidence, with real documents, letters, investigations, among others, the events of a time when there was no respect or tolerance.


Characters from “I the Supreme”

The protagonist of the novel is the dictator of Paraguay José Gaspar Rodríguez of France, where the negative aspects of his mandate are revealed as historical events that set the tone in that nation. We also find Policarpo Patiño, who was secretary and scribe of the dictator, within the work.

Summary and synopsis of the work:

This story is about a Paraguayan dictator and revolutionary named Jose Gaspar Rodriguez of France, who led the nation for a long time. This work shows us all the negative aspects of his leadership, where the injustices that took place at this time are highlighted.

This president commanded for 26 years and very little is said about his historical record, and all the atrocities that occurred under his mandate. In this novel the exploitations are exposed, the hardships that the citizens went through, racism, murders and persecutions. But the momentum of rebellion grows with the passing of the years.

This work talks about the relationship between the character and the dictator, where cruel reality mixes with fiction to recreate a literary discourse full of feeling and truth. Here the information is exposed with evidence, the documents that prove the events that occurred during Gaspar’s mandate are disclosed. In this way, the narrator rebuilds an era, pointing out the social reality of a people, in its socio-economic and cultural process.

In this sense, the narrator focuses on giving details about the events of this time, in a practical and dynamic process that is easy to understand. In the same way, the author seeks to capture the reader’s attention, searching the documents for links with events, also looking for signs and pieces, really important aspects that may have any meaning and that are not seen as a mere fictional plot.

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Finally, the author uses the life and mandate of a historical figure to recreate a literary novel that mixes fiction with real events that significantly marked an entire nation, which lived 26 years of oppression, where freedom was undermined by the authoritarianism of a person who, according to data found in the letters, enjoyed and was pleased with his decisions and established orders. He delighted in his actions and did not question the chaos he was causing in his tenure. Which leads us to think that he enjoyed the suffering of others. He did not see the consequences of his actions, blinded by the lust for power.

Analysis of the work:

The work “I the Supreme” according to critics is the best novel written in Spanish by Augusto Roa Bastos during the 20th century. This is a book that imposes a new narrative style through the exchanges in the narration, so that the intertextuality between its different parts can be noticed.

 Furthermore, the novel combines reality with fiction and makes use of excerpts written by the dictator himself and intruding on the classic style of discourse. Therefore, the chapters of the work alternate very diverse narrative forms. One of them refers to the “Private Notebook of El Supremo”, where a kind of newspaper is shown in which the dictator writes to praise himself. Another is the one entitled “Perpetual Circular”, which shows us the orders that he was assigning to his inferiors. We can also find the notes copied by his secretary Policarpo Patiño.

In the same way, this work offers us testimonies, letters, memoranda, among others that make a global conglomerate about the absolute authority of a character who left his mark on the nation of Paraguay. However, the protagonist character of the novel is not shown to us as a wicked and demonic man, but the author reveals him in a more objective way, as a historian and researcher, portraying his personality and authority.
Finally “Yo el supremo” is a very interesting work that presents us with a literary discourse full of history, research, documents and testimonies about the cruel mandate of a dictator man who led a nation for 26 years, keeping it oppressed and without exit. It also offers us a literature full of feeling and truth, where the freedom of the human being is yearned for and therefore its integral development. This author also offers a strong criticism of authoritarian systems and their way of creating dependency throughout a society.

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The central theme of this wonderful work is injustice, the desired freedom, cruelty, abuse of power, oppression, racism. Very controversial topics both for that time and for today, since we do not escape from that implacable reality, where evil positions itself to fill an entire nation with suffering.

Verbatim quotes from the work:

“The most sensible and virtuous man is only in appearance thanks to the small follies that he allows himself in private”

“Human madness is usually cunning. Chameleon of judgment. When you think you are cured, it is because it is worse. It has only become another more subtle madness ”

“There is not a single species of men. Do you know, have you heard of other possible species? The ones that were. The ones that are. The ones that will be ”
“Tyrant, said the wise king, is one who, under the pretext of progress, well-being and prosperity of his governed, substitutes the worship of his people for that of his own person”

“The great principle of justice: avoid crime instead of punishing it. Executing a guilty party requires only a platoon or an executioner. Preventing the culprits requires a lot of ingenuity ”