Want to know the secret of contentment?
I Hunger, I Thirst
Ich habe Hunger. Ich habe Durst
Mama Soto lives on a small goat hill in South America with her 7 children. Her ancestors settled on this land when conditions on the mountains became difficult. Her husband passed away soon after the birth of the last child. Mama Soto nevertheless lives a simple and contented life. The grass on the hill is enough for the goats. They provide milk for her children and cheese, which is sold. The money is used to buy things that can’t be grown. Occasionally they cut a chicken. The children spend their day playing on the hill and helping the mother run the house. Relatives, who stay nearby, help when a strong hand is needed. They look out for each other.
All is well, till a rich fabric owner takes fancy to the hill. She is forced to sell her land. As compensation, he offers her a sum which seems large to her. She later realizes that she has been cheated. She is unable to get a land of the same value. Her relatives advise her to move into the city. There she explores a new lifestyle: The children go to school, learn how to read and write; they wear uniforms and carry school bags; they learn the expectations of the rich and try to conform; they learn to sit on sofas and walk wearing shoes. She also takes in an old man who is homeless and a young woman with two children, whose husband is jailed.
All goes well till the money runs out. They shift to poorer quarters and Mama Soto has to find work. She is still not able to make ends meet working 3 jobs. Her oldest daughter drops out from school and runs away with a dancing troupe. One of the boys becomes the leader of a gang who steals things from warehouses. One day morning, they find the woman she has taken in missing, along with the rest of the money that Mama Soto had.
They are reduced to abject poverty and start living in a garage. Conditions of living are so poor that she loses her job, all the children have dropped out of school except one and the baby falls sick and dies. Mama Soto swallows her pride and returns to her village to stay with her relatives who would look out for her.
The story is written in a beautiful way. It portrays poverty and contentment very realistically. The poor are often blamed for their conditions and their lack of proper financial planning. We fail to realize their ignorance, lack of proper guidance and their simplicity of mind. Another theme in the story is community living- as cities increase in size, the interpersonal relationships deteriorate and looking out for others becomes scarce. We see how pride is lost with a loss of role in society and the means it takes to regain what is lost.
A book really worth reading.
I, unfortunately, couldn’t find an English translation.
The German version of the book can be found here.