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Life in the Damn Tropics
A Novel
David Unger
Foreword by Gioconda Belli

The Americas
Ilan Stavans and Irene Vilar, Series Editors

Life in the Damn Tropics is a witty book, ebullient in its observations about the human heart and mind, and the caprices of destiny. It is a sharply intelligent, passionately written novel.”
—Oscar Hijuelos, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love

Set in strife-torn Guatemala City in the early 1980s, this sophisticated, quasi-comedic tale depicts the decline and near-fall of a prominent Guatemalan Jewish family. The Eltaleph family is accused of setting up a dummy corporation in Panama in order to avoid paying Guatemalan taxes. Hence, middle-aged Marcos Eltaleph, a playboy whose lust for life is matched only by his lust for women, has been placed under “hospital arrest.” As older brother Aaron tries to obtain his release, Marcos ponders his scapegoat role in the family and the two-timing machinations of his new girlfriend, Esperanza, a fiery Colombian former prostitute who, in this hour of need, Marcos believes has taken up with his former business partner. In the face of military rule, terrorism, and sabotage Marcos learns the truth about his brother, only to find that sibling secrets can be every bit as dangerous as civil unrest.


David Unger was awarded Guatemala's Miguel Angel Asturias National Prize in Literature in 2014 for lifetime achievement—the first author writing exclusively in English to win a major Latin American literature award. He is the author of Life in the Damn Tropics; The Mastermind; El precio de la fuga; La Casita; The Price of Escape; Para mi, eres divina; and Ni chicha, ni limonada.





“Three Jewish brothers struggle to keep their family’s business ventures alive through a period of political unrest and upheaval in Unger’s satisfying debut novel, set in Guatemala in the early 1980s. . . . Unger puts his unique setting to good use as he layers his unusual story line, building the suspense.”
Publishers Weekly

“The Jewish experience in twentieth century Central America. . . enlivened by innocent eroticism and comic absurdity.”
Kirkus Reviews



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May 2004
302 pp.   6 x 9

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Paper $15.95 t
ISBN 978-0-299-20054-1
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