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In 1935, at the young age of twenty-three and in the immediate aftermath of the Chaco War, Oscar Cerruto published his first and only novel, Aluvión de fuego (Torrent of Fire), which blended political critique, realist social description, and penetrating subjective portraits. Cerruto depicts the external battle fought on the front lines between Bolivians and Paraguayans and even more so the internal battle between a repressive government, indigenous communities subject to landlord violence and forced military recruitment, and the persecuted working class and political left with which he identified. Aluvión de fuego would become one of Bolivia’s most celebrated novels, and Cerruto (1912–81) went on to a distinguished career as a poet, short-story writer, journalist, and diplomat. The novel includes letters written by a wounded middle-class soldier who is a friend of the protagonist. In a poetic and reflective vein, the following letter captures the shift from civilization to savagery that the soldier undergoes at the front, and tells of the humanity and violence in the relations between Paraguayan and Bolivian soldiers in the trenches.

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