In the Language of Kings: An Anthology of Mesoamerican Literature, Pre-Columbian to the Present

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Miguel Leon-Portilla, Earl Shorris
W. W. Norton & Company, Sep 1, 2002 - Literary Collections - 752 pages
3 Reviews
From new interpretations of the glyphic writings of the Maya through the poetic response to events in modern Chiapas, here is a history of Mexico and Central America from the Indian point of view. In these pages the reader will encounter, often in new translations, the deeply affecting Aztec poems, the horrific battles of conquest, and the thoughtful philosophy of the Mayan "bible," the Popol Vuh. Full, clear introductions make this extraordinary material accessible to all readers. In the Language of Kings is a gemstone of cultural strength for those who trace their ancestry to Mesoamerica, as well as an essential resource for historians and anthropologists. Above all, it is literature: intimate, grand, painful, proud, and finally renascent in the new awakening of the original peoples of Mesoamerica. "[A] magnum opus of Mesoamerican literature...achieve[s] nothing less than the human and divine."—Bomb
  

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I too bought this book at Half-Price Books in Dallas, Texas and consult it on a regular basis. As a teacher of Advanced Placement World History, my students have used many of the primary sources from the book. Thoroughly enjoyable and a must for any teacher of pre-Columbian Mesoamerican history.

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I purchased this book in a half-price book-store in Dallas two years ago and have read much of it since then. This is a fantastic resource for many aspects of mesoamerican literature. The ability to read directly the Dresden codex or the Temple of the Sun-Eyed Shield, and observe the continuity with later literatures is very interesting. I found the introduction by Earl Shorris to be both enlightening and also moving.
One thing that strikes you when you read this material, for those raised in the U.S. is that there is a very rich and old literature literally next door. The Nahua and Maya voices are very sophisticated and diverse, and the imagery is strong. It's not like reading early American literature which is so stilted and limited in it's vantage.
The historical content of the material is also very interesting, and the ability to see the accounts from the voices of those on the 'other side' of the conquest is very poignant. I strongly recommend this book to anybody who is interested in the literature of Mexico or Guatemala, or even those who are likely to be pleasantly surprised to see a rich historical and poetic perspective native-grown in North America.
 

Contents

Song of Orphanhood 1 7
1
GENERAL INTRODUCTION BY MIGUEL LE6NPORTILLA
8
FOUR PRECOLUMBIAN DOCUMENTS
42
THE NEW GEOGRAPHY OF MESOAMERICA
70
SONGS AND POEMS
77
SACRED NARRATIVE
182
SACRED HYMNS PRAYERS AND CEREMONIES
208
H U E H V ETLAHTO L L I
230
Maya Literature
393
DRAMATIC LITERATURE
471
POLITICAL LITERATURE
494
Character PredictionsChilant Balant of Mani
504
Maya Chronicles 5 i 4
514
Annals of the Cakchiquels 5 l 7
523
MAYA PROVERBS AND KENNINGS
563
MODERN STORIES FABLES AND POEMS
601

Ceremonies of SacrificeFlorentine Codex
256
PROVERBS CONUNDRUMS AND METAPHORS
267
HISTORICAL NARRATIVES
276
The Conquest of Tenochtitlan
286
NAHUA HISTORIANS OF THE COLONIAL
310
COLONIAL LITERATURE OF DAILY LIFE
356
MODERN NAHUA LITERATURE
371
Other Mesoamerican Literatures i
619
ZAPOTEC
629
OT O M I
636
TLA PA NEC
645
BIBLIOGRAPHICAL ESSAY
674
Copyright

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About the author (2002)

Miguel Leon-Portilla, author of more than forty books including "Broken Spears", is the world's leading scholar on Mesoamerican literature. He lives in Mexico.

Earl Shorris, author of many works of fiction & nonfiction, lives in New York & San Francisco.

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