john beverly

Inca Garcilaso & Contemporary World-Making



Edited by Sara Castro- Klarén & Christian Fernández

Review by g emil reutter

Royal Commentaries of the Incas and General History of Peru by Inca Garcilaso was published in 1609. Editors Sara Castro- Klarén and Christian Fernández have assembled in this collection eleven essays by Garcilaso scholars providing insight into the development of the Royal Commentaries, of Andean culture and the European influence. This volume cements the influence of Garcilaso as it has been published following the four-hundredth anniversary of the publication of the Royal Commentaries.

In the introduction, Sara Castro- Klarén, sets the stage for the essays that follow:

The scholarly perspectives and topics selected for inclusion in this book constitute a serious attempt to bring to the English-speaking academy a sense of importance of Garcilaso’s work on historiography. They also present up-to-date analyses of the maneuvers that he operated on both Andean and Renaissance archives to find appropriate frames of representation for Andean culture. This came at a time when the work of the coloniality of power had already heaped derision and misunderstanding on the European perspective on Amerindian cultures. 

Garcilaso who was  Andean/Spanish was in a unique position to write the revolutionary Royal Commentaries at a time when Europeans had little to no knowledge of the history of the Andean people and its publication brought to light the cultures that had already existed in the lands that Spain had so brutally conquered.

Each individual essay is compelling in its own right. The essays range from rhetoric and politics, semantic and symbolic aspects, translations of Garcilaso’s work, race, European expansion and theory of practice and politics. They offer insights into the Royal Commentaries that documented pre-Columbian history and culture and the ensuing colonial period. The essays capture Garcilaso’s reframing of the history of native non-alphabetic cultures that undermined the colonial rhetoric of his time reflecting his boldness in doing so.

In the essay, Signifyin(g), Double Consciousness, and Colonaility, Gonazlo Lamana writes of Garcilaso’s ability to use European superiority combined with their inferior view of Indians to enhance his work:

Knowledge of Eurpoean humanist theory and subaltern thinking help each other. While it grounds his competence as a philology-informed translator, (Durand; Zamora), playing the card of being an Indian throughout the text is also the key to the success of Garcilaso’s subversion: it masks. Thus, for instance, when discussing the question of the crossing-over of climate zones, he writes: “Because this is not my main intents, not the strength of an Indian can presume that much … we will briefly go over them to arrive elsewhere, to where I am afraid of not making it.” Far from simply commenting and translating, Garcilaso often contradicts, discredits, or ridicules Spanish ideas, yet every time he does so, he deauthorizes himself, confirming a western readers’ certainty of superiority and Indians’ inferior, feeble condition. 

These essays bring Garcilaso into the modern world still a relevant and bold writer.

You can find the book here:

You can find The Royal Commentaries of the Incas and General History of Peru here:

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