The emerging societies of the Caribbean in the seventeenth century were a riotous assembly of pirates, aristocrats, revolutionaries, and roguesoutcasts and fortune-seekers all. Into this New World of bloody chaos and uncertain possibility steps our hero, Jean Smeeks, who at thirteen was taken from Flanders and brought as a slave to Tortuga, the mythic Treasure Island. To his great good fortune, he is initiated into the magic of medicine by le Nègre Miel, an African healer, who is poisoned by an unknown assailant, and later by Pineau, a French-born surgeon, who buys Smeeks out of servitude; but he too is violently murdered under mysterious circumstances.
Grieving for his mentors and uncertain of his own path, Smeeks signs on as a medical officer with the Brethren of the Coast. As he puts his hybrid medical knowledge to use treating everything from rampant diseases to the wounds of battle, he becomes strangely transformed by the looting, violence, and carousing of pirate life, and by his desire to avenge the deaths of his teachers. Smeeks finds himself both doctor and despoiler, servant and mercenary, native and foreigner, perhaps even male and female, and suspended between two worldsthose of freely roaming and raiding “pigs” and law-abiding, tradition bound “cows.”
Written by one of the preeminent voices of the new generation in Latin American fiction, They’re Cows, We’re Pigs
is a brazenly original evocation of ribald and grotesque excesses, of villainy and honor among thieves.
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