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Old 03-12-2013, 09:15 AM   #16
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I'm working through the first part of this remarkable book. One thing seems clear: Hemming demonstrates how the tragedy of the Inca civilization seems to result from the most perverse set of events imaginable. It seems like Murphy's Law was in full operation!

Spoiler:
1. Smallpox decimates the population and kills a great ruler.Pedro Pizarro himself wrote:
"Had Huayna-Capac been alive when we Spaniards entered this land it would have been impossible to win it."

2. The Civil war following the death of Huayna splits and weakens the country.

3. Atahualpa is captured in a ridiculously easy way through his own ineptitude.

4. The captured Inca makes a series of dreadful decisions and, in effect, becomes a collaborator with the Spaniards in destroying his country. He not only sanctions pillage, he fails to encourage any resistance to the invaders and collaborates in the murder of his brother.

5. The best and most feared general the Incas have gives himself up--only to be tortured and killed by the Spanish leaving the country without any effective leader.


Speaking generally, Hemming does a fine job in creating a sense of immediacy in the analysis of seminal events as well as clearing away the anecdotal--often politically motivated--debris that has accumulated over the centuries. His skill and careful analytical research is especially apparent in the narration of the events and motives actually surrounding the "trial" of Atahualpa and the way in which these were then mythologized by later writers.

Last edited by fantasyfan; 03-12-2013 at 12:07 PM.
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Old 03-16-2013, 11:04 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by fantasyfan View Post
I'm working through the first part of this remarkable book. One thing seems clear: Hemming demonstrates how the tragedy of the Inca civilization seems to result from the most perverse set of events imaginable. It seems like Murphy's Law was in full operation!

Spoiler:
1. Smallpox decimates the population and kills a great ruler.Pedro Pizarro himself wrote:
"Had Huayna-Capac been alive when we Spaniards entered this land it would have been impossible to win it."

2. The Civil war following the death of Huayna splits and weakens the country.

3. Atahualpa is captured in a ridiculously easy way through his own ineptitude.

4. The captured Inca makes a series of dreadful decisions and, in effect, becomes a collaborator with the Spaniards in destroying his country. He not only sanctions pillage, he fails to encourage any resistance to the invaders and collaborates in the murder of his brother.

5. The best and most feared general the Incas have gives himself up--only to be tortured and killed by the Spanish leaving the country without any effective leader.


Speaking generally, Hemming does a fine job in creating a sense of immediacy in the analysis of seminal events as well as clearing away the anecdotal--often politically motivated--debris that has accumulated over the centuries. His skill and careful analytical research is especially apparent in the narration of the events and motives actually surrounding the "trial" of Atahualpa and the way in which these were then mythologized by later writers.
I hope to be starting it in the next few days - my reader broke down, and I am travelling, so my only option for reading is now my laptop with a grand battery life of the whole of 6 minutes! I am trying to finish another book first, and i really do not like reading on a laptop, but there you go. As it is a "thick" book, I presume I won't be the only one spilling into April to finish it in the meantime, thanks fantasyfan for the spoiler alert
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Old 03-16-2013, 02:32 PM   #18
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I enjoy reading this historical narrative with its detailed descriptions. It is very well written; I feel myself drawn in this story. John Hemming must have had a though job reseaching all.
It is a big book though and I'm at page 110 of 551. I guess it will not finish it before the end of April.

The arrogance of the conquerors makes my toes curl and is hard to understand in these days.
Spoiler:
He then delivered a declaration known as the Requirement, in which Spanish captains were supposed to inform native populations that the conquerors had been sent by the Emperor Charles in order to bring them the teaching of the true religion, and that all would be well if they submitted peacefully to the Emperor and his God.(87)

And, not to be too flippant, but I shudder at the thought of travelling in the Andes of that time.
Spoiler:
With no draught animals or wheeled vehicles, the Incas built their roads only for walking men and trains of llamas. The roads climbed the slopes of the Andes with flights of steps or tunnels unsuitable for the horses.(101)
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Old 03-16-2013, 03:22 PM   #19
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[QUOTE=desertblues;2455781]I enjoy reading this historical narrative with its detailed descriptions. It is very well written; I feel myself drawn in this story. John Hemming must have had a though job reseaching all.
It is a big book though and I'm at page 110 of 551. I guess it will not finish it before the end of April.

Spoiler:
He then delivered a declaration known as the Requirement, in which Spanish captains were supposed to inform native populations that the conquerors had been sent by the Emperor Charles in order to bring them the teaching of the true religion, and that all would be well if they submitted peacefully to the Emperor and his God.(87)


I had a similar reaction.

Spoiler:
But an interesting point made by Hemming was that there were a number of far more compassionate and enlightened Spaniards than were represented by the Conquistadors. A Dominican Friar made the following impassioned statement:
"You are in mortal sin . . . You live and die in it, because of the cruelty and tyranny you practise in dealing with these innocent people. Tell me, by what right or justice do you keep these Indians in such cruel and horrible servitude? On what authority have you waged a detestable war against these people who dwelt quietly and peacefully in their own land?"


This is one of the things I like about Hemming. He may have positions of his own but he doesn't just give black and white judgements--he shows the more complex grey areas.

Last edited by fantasyfan; 03-16-2013 at 03:24 PM.
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Old 03-16-2013, 03:37 PM   #20
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.......
This is one of the things I like about Hemming. He may have positions of his own but he doesn't just give black and white judgements--he shows the more complex grey areas.
Yes, I agree with you there. I know that it is extremely difficult to be objective when writing about things like colonization and war.
When reading this story I find myself judging, weighing, thinking how some things could have been prevented.
Interesting.
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Old 03-16-2013, 03:53 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by desertblues View Post
And, not to be too flippant, but I shudder at the thought of travelling in the Andes of that time.
Spoiler:
With no draught animals or wheeled vehicles, the Incas built their roads only for walking men and trains of llamas. The roads climbed the slopes of the Andes with flights of steps or tunnels unsuitable for the horses.(101)
Since I am reading on my iPad, I have frequently been using wikipedia to look at images of the places mentioned so that I can visualize what it must have been like.

Spoiler:
I found the description of the Incas as civil engineers and the sophistication of the roads that they built as well as their organized system of "rest stops" and runners to carry messages very interesting. But those suspension bridges sound terrifying!


I find it sad to think about the great loss of artifacts to history as they were broken and melted down into gold and silver for their monetary value and the destruction of various Inca temples for the same purposes. There must have been some superb works of art. This quote had an impact on me.

Spoiler:
The King - who is considered a great patron of the arts - recorded no pleasure over these few lovely objects. They were entrusted to the royal jeweller after their brief public display, and were melted down, as were the other objects left in Seville.
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Old 03-16-2013, 04:07 PM   #22
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Spoiler:
I found the description of the Incas as civil engineers and the sophistication of the roads that they built as well as their organized system of "rest stops" and runners to carry messages very interesting. But those suspension bridges sound terrifying!


I find it sad to think about the great loss of artifacts to history as they were broken and melted down into gold and silver for their monetary value and the destruction of various Inca temples for the same purposes. There must have been some superb works of art. This quote had an impact on me.

Spoiler:
The King - who is considered a great patron of the arts - recorded no pleasure over these few lovely objects. They were entrusted to the royal jeweller after their brief public display, and were melted down, as were the other objects left in Seville.
Those suspension bridges, yes, that would be a no-go for me, if I knew it beforehand. But....when one has to cross, one crosses.....even me with my fear of heights. Who wants to be left behind?

I was thinking exactly the same thing about the golden objects....what a shame.
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Old 03-16-2013, 05:03 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bookworm_Girl View Post
Since I am reading on my iPad, I have frequently been using wikipedia to look at images of the places mentioned so that I can visualize what it must have been like.

Spoiler:
I found the description of the Incas as civil engineers and the sophistication of the roads that they built as well as their organized system of "rest stops" and runners to carry messages very interesting. But those suspension bridges sound terrifying!


I find it sad to think about the great loss of artifacts to history as they were broken and melted down into gold and silver for their monetary value and the destruction of various Inca temples for the same purposes. There must have been some superb works of art. This quote had an impact on me.

Spoiler:
The King - who is considered a great patron of the arts - recorded no pleasure over these few lovely objects. They were entrusted to the royal jeweller after their brief public display, and were melted down, as were the other objects left in Seville.
Quote:
Originally Posted by desertblues View Post
Those suspension bridges, yes, that would be a no-go for me, if I knew it beforehand. But....when one has to cross, one crosses.....even me with my fear of heights. Who wants to be left behind?

I was thinking exactly the same thing about the golden objects....what a shame.
Yes--the fate of the artifacts was dreadful. Most of the few wonderful examples that survived exist only because the Conquistadores didn't find them.

Last edited by fantasyfan; 03-16-2013 at 05:07 PM.
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Old 03-17-2013, 09:03 AM   #24
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This is a great read, like something out of H. Rider Haggard, with the kicker that it all really happened.

I've been especally fascinated by Atahualpa.

Spoiler:
He had just won a savage civil war and yet was blindsided by Pizzaro. Revered as a deity whose men struggled to keep his litter upright even as they were hacked to pieces, he had no compunction about selling out his people and depleting his country's weath, despoiling temples, just to save his own sorry hide. He could have been great and no doubt thought he was after wresting control of the country from his brother, but he turned out to be a tinpot despot. Being tricked by Pizarro was one thing, as Hemming points out only the Spanish knew why they were there, but he was unable to come to grips with the reality of the situation and his likely demise and organize a rebellion while he still could. The disaffection of the peasantry for the ruling class as a result is part of the tragedy.


Quote:
Originally Posted by fantasyfan View Post
This is one of the things I like about Hemming. He may have positions of his own but he doesn't just give black and white judgements--he shows the more complex grey areas.
The narrative is thrilling, but he doesn't hesitate to interrupt it when he has to elucidate different points of view and conflicting evidence. It's a heady combination of scholarship and a great read, which I would argue is one of the criteria for literary nonfiction; no doubt we'll have more to say about that as we read.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bookworm_Girl View Post
I find it sad to think about the great loss of artifacts to history as they were broken and melted down into gold and silver for their monetary value and the destruction of various Inca temples for the same purposes. There must have been some superb works of art. This quote had an impact on me.
I know; the epitome of art of a culture used as ransom by a king, and treated as so much scrap metal by another. Sic transit gloria mundi, indeed!

I love the detail which creates such a fully realized world. The women eating Atahualpa's hairs! Clothing made from vampire bat skins!
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Old 03-18-2013, 09:50 PM   #25
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My copy just arrived in the mail! Back soon.
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Old 03-23-2013, 08:31 PM   #26
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Availability -
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A quick thumbs down on the kindle version in case you have not yet bought the book - I started reading the book properly only yesterday, and there is no link to endnotes or footnotes - for a non fiction book, this is a terrible no-no! Had I known this, I would have gone for the paper version, even if it meant waiting a bit longer before being able to start the book.
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Old 03-23-2013, 08:43 PM   #27
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The Apple iBooks sample had the endnotes broken into chapter headings in the ToC. The Kindle version just has an endnotes category in the ToC. What I have done in the Kindle version is create a bookmark at the chapter I'm reading within the endnotes so at least I can move back and forth using the bookmark. Hope that helps a little.
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Old 03-23-2013, 09:08 PM   #28
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Unfortunately, I have to say that the Nook book has the issue as the Kindle version. What I'm doing is following the footnotes with the Nook app on my iPod Touch, so I can refer to them quickly without using bookmarks. This might be a strategy for those with smartphones or tablets, if it's not the device being used as reader. I agree, though, it's inexcusable not to have live footnotes. And in something touted as the revised 2012 version, too!
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Old 03-23-2013, 09:23 PM   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fantasyfan View Post
I'm working through the first part of this remarkable book. One thing seems clear: Hemming demonstrates how the tragedy of the Inca civilization seems to result from the most perverse set of events imaginable. It seems like Murphy's Law was in full operation!

Spoiler:
1. Smallpox decimates the population and kills a great ruler.Pedro Pizarro himself wrote:
"Had Huayna-Capac been alive when we Spaniards entered this land it would have been impossible to win it."

2. The Civil war following the death of Huayna splits and weakens the country.

3. Atahualpa is captured in a ridiculously easy way through his own ineptitude.

4. The captured Inca makes a series of dreadful decisions and, in effect, becomes a collaborator with the Spaniards in destroying his country. He not only sanctions pillage, he fails to encourage any resistance to the invaders and collaborates in the murder of his brother.

5. The best and most feared general the Incas have gives himself up--only to be tortured and killed by the Spanish leaving the country without any effective leader.


~snip~

Quote:
Originally Posted by desertblues View Post
~snip~

The arrogance of the conquerors makes my toes curl and is hard to understand in these days.
Spoiler:
He then delivered a declaration known as the Requirement, in which Spanish captains were supposed to inform native populations that the conquerors had been sent by the Emperor Charles in order to bring them the teaching of the true religion, and that all would be well if they submitted peacefully to the Emperor and his God.(87)

~snip~

Quote:
Originally Posted by fantasyfan View Post
~snip~
Spoiler:
But an interesting point made by Hemming was that there were a number of far more compassionate and enlightened Spaniards than were represented by the Conquistadors. A Dominican Friar made the following impassioned statement:
"You are in mortal sin . . . You live and die in it, because of the cruelty and tyranny you practise in dealing with these innocent people. Tell me, by what right or justice do you keep these Indians in such cruel and horrible servitude? On what authority have you waged a detestable war against these people who dwelt quietly and peacefully in their own land?"


This is one of the things I like about Hemming. He may have positions of his own but he doesn't just give black and white judgements--he shows the more complex grey areas.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Bookworm_Girl View Post
I find it sad to think about the great loss of artifacts to history as they were broken and melted down into gold and silver for their monetary value and the destruction of various Inca temples for the same purposes. There must have been some superb works of art. This quote had an impact on me.

Spoiler:
The King - who is considered a great patron of the arts - recorded no pleasure over these few lovely objects. They were entrusted to the royal jeweller after their brief public display, and were melted down, as were the other objects left in Seville.
Quote:
Originally Posted by desertblues View Post
I was thinking exactly the same thing about the golden objects....what a shame.
Quote:
Originally Posted by fantasyfan View Post
Yes--the fate of the artifacts was dreadful. Most of the few wonderful examples that survived exist only because the Conquistadores didn't find them.
Quote:
Originally Posted by issybird View Post
This is a great read, like something out of H. Rider Haggard, with the kicker that it all really happened.

I've been especally fascinated by Atahualpa.

Spoiler:
He had just won a savage civil war and yet was blindsided by Pizzaro. Revered as a deity whose men struggled to keep his litter upright even as they were hacked to pieces, he had no compunction about selling out his people and depleting his country's weath, despoiling temples, just to save his own sorry hide. He could have been great and no doubt thought he was after wresting control of the country from his brother, but he turned out to be a tinpot despot. Being tricked by Pizarro was one thing, as Hemming points out only the Spanish knew why they were there, but he was unable to come to grips with the reality of the situation and his likely demise and organize a rebellion while he still could. The disaffection of the peasantry for the ruling class as a result is part of the tragedy.




The narrative is thrilling, but he doesn't hesitate to interrupt it when he has to elucidate different points of view and conflicting evidence. It's a heady combination of scholarship and a great read, which I would argue is one of the criteria for literary nonfiction; no doubt we'll have more to say about that as we read.



I know; the epitome of art of a culture used as ransom by a king, and treated as so much scrap metal by another. Sic transit gloria mundi, indeed!

I love the detail which creates such a fully realized world. The women eating Atahualpa's hairs! Clothing made from vampire bat skins!
------------------

So I have finished this. At times it was a bit of a chore to keep going, that is when it read like a textbook for the history of the Spanish conquest of the Incas. On the other hand it was nice to have such a detailed picture painted of events and of the major players involved, and all the interesting tidbits of color.


As others have mentioned it seemed that God was really on the side of the Spaniards the way a confluence of lucky circumstances allowed Pizarro and the Spanish to so quickly overcome the Inca. Of course in addition to the fight for secession that Pizarro was lucky enough to encounter at the time of his arrival there was the fact that much of the Inca empire consisted of other tribes that the Inca had only relatively recently subjugated, and often very brutally. So these people were actually willing to assist the Spaniards against the Inca, figuring to replace the rapacious brutal overlords that they knew with the at the time the unknown Spaniards. Much the same as what allowed Cortez to achieve so much success in Mexico against the Aztec Empire. The indigenous people could not have known how much worse the cure was going to be.

I too was also struck by the fact that there were a number of Spaniards that at least had and expressed moral doubts about what they were doing. It did not actually much restrain their actions, but at least some of them were reflective about it. In the end of course they could justify just about anything in the name of the Church.

When reading over and over about how a relative handful of Spaniards were able to rout much larger (sometimes by a factor of 5 to 10 times) Inca armies all because of the Spaniards being mounted on horses it really led me to a what if reflection. What if the horse had not become extinct in the Americas before mankind first arrived? Might the entire history from the first European arrival played out in an entirely different way?

As far as the loss of such artwork and cultural artifacts just to get the gold and silver, yes, indeed we can look back now shudder.

“Whenever I hear the word culture I remove the safety from my Browning.” From the play Schlageter by Hanns Johst. And associated with the Nazis since it was first performed in 1933 in honor of Hitler's birthday. Modified to “Whenever I hear the word culture I reach for my checkbook” spoken by a character in the Jean-Luc Godard film Contempt.
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Old 03-24-2013, 05:22 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by Bookworm_Girl View Post
The Apple iBooks sample had the endnotes broken into chapter headings in the ToC. The Kindle version just has an endnotes category in the ToC. What I have done in the Kindle version is create a bookmark at the chapter I'm reading within the endnotes so at least I can move back and forth using the bookmark. Hope that helps a little.
I'm finding that the iBook version is fairly easy to navigate because it is a simple matter to move back and forth from text to note within specific chapters. Even here it would be handy to have direct immediate links to and from the endnotes (as, for instance, one finds in the Burton Arabian Nights}.

I tend to browse the notes to a specific chapter first and place a bookmark at any explanatory reference that looks interesting {many are simply source references}. But that's only my personal approach--which I do for a hard copy version as well.

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