In the Honduran novel, The Ships by the Honduran author, Roberto Quesado, the protagonist, Lopez Guillermo is proud to be working on the pineapple plantation for the Standard Fruit Company despite being a city person. That is because there are not many jobs that pay well in the city.
What he would like to do is write but he is not sure if that too will bring in the money. However, that does not stop him from always thinking about how to write about certain things that are happening around him such as when he visits the town of El Porvenir, he thinks about how to write about that town where one is greeted by headless hands. He is always thinking about how to make his writing interesting and unique even though we do not really see him writing.
At the plantation, he meets a bunch of supportive workers who help him adjust from Chon, an old man who he met in the bus to the plantation on his first day to work; Chago, who is full of terrible stories from his army days and who Guillermo becomes close friends with; Luyi, a friend of Chon’s and many more who go through the same rituals of work, payday and fighting off the terrible weather of the plantation that could potentially kill you.
There is another story of how the protagonist meets his grandpa who lives deep in the forest and to whom he recites this very story that he tells us in the rest of the novel.
Parallel to that is also a story about how two people, a man and a woman, are committing a crime that is of thinking! This is perhaps in a reaction to the events that are happening in the background of Guillermo’s work at the plantation and that is the war with Nicaragua.
The novel, The Ships, perhaps therefore presents stories within a main story which shows that Guillermo has decided to pursue his passion of writing and is telling the story that we read to his grandfather.
This would then qualify The Ships as a kunstlerroman. A kunstlerroman is a book which traces the growth of an artist to his maturity.
Another aspect that stands out in the novel is the story’s ode to the city, La Ceiba which is refreshing to see since we generally are often exposed to the typically European and American city bigwigs such as NYC or Paris! The descriptions are so detailed that it is as if we are in a travel book. So I would have actually loved a map along with the book for some good old vicarious traveling.
All in all, The Ships, is highly recommended because of its unique narrative style and presentation of a story and many other stories through the eyes of the potential writer in the novel.
Read The Book Cafe’s review on Quesado’s other novel, The Big Banana, here!