Las Aventuras de Juan Planchard is a book that turned into a phenomenon and through word-of-mouth, became a mandatory read. Press and public have praised Jonathan Jakubowicz’s book for its sharp, no-holds-barred satirical portrayal of chavismo and, particularly, bolichicos, the small clique of pragmatic entrepreneurs who, with innate opportunism, have turned into the new ruling class.

Juan Planchard, the book’s narrator and protagonist, is a shady creature from that wildlife. Once a Procter & Gamble employee living with his parents, we meet him in his Las Vegas suite in a daytoday of coke-fueled orgies and fishy million-dollar businesses with the Venezuelan government.

All it took was for him to realize that, in a country where everyone bends the rules, the key to success is to cheat, swindle, abuse, and hamper everyone, in the name of the people. In his words:

“In this land of cannibals there’s no reason to be honest. No virtue on respecting others. No punishment for the bad guys. No reward for the moral being. Only the hustler succeeds, the abuser, the one who doesn’t break for anyone else.”

I’ve been curious about books written in the shadow of chavismo. After all, our dictatorships forced Rómulo Gallegos, Miguel Otero Silva and Teresa de la Parra to make a stand and condemn their reality. As such, it’s easy to see why this book is so popular; it’s a weekend read with some Wolf of Wall Street quality that makes you both appalled and attracted to that amoral realm where Juan is a demigod. You can’t help but feel sympathy for the devil.

I know I’ll get some backlash for this but Jakubowicz, better known as the director of Secuestro Express and Hands of Stone, is not that great of a writer. He falls hard in telling things instead of showing them particularly in sex scenes , and clutches to obvious tropes, even if they are tongue-in-cheek.

In this land of cannibals there’s no reason to be honest… Only the hustler succeeds, the abuser, the one who doesn’t break for anyone else.

The humor, by the way, didn’t work for me; it relies on how outrageous the bolichico world is. I mean, I believe most of what is portrayed has happened one way or the other, but for me is more enraging than amusing. Likewise, the narration never misses the chance for a wisecrack observation and, at times, the line between Planchard’s views and the author’s blurs. Also, I’ll never forgive Jakubowicz for that awful Cohen/Coen Brothers joke.

But there are many shining spots. The Cementerio description hits the spot, and Planchard’s parents’ subplot was fine, somewhat jarring compared to the rest.

Juan Planchard, in a way, represents every single thing we hate about those who, again and again, avoid justice and live opulent lifestyles, profiting off of misery while repeating it’s for our own good. It took me over a month to read it because of the sheer indignation of each chapter. Had the book focused on the human element and dropped the comedic angle, it would have been much more thought-provoking. Instead, it just preaches to the choir about how chavismo is bad, and jerks profit from it.

14 COMMENTS

  1. “In this land of cannibals there’s no reason to be honest. No virtue on respecting others. No punishment for the bad guys. No reward for the moral being. Only the hustler succeeds, the abuser, the one who doesn’t break for anyone else.”

    And not surprisingly, they’re the fat ones.

  2. “All it took was for him to realize that, in a country where everyone bends the rules, the key to success is to cheat, swindle, abuse, and hamper everyone, in the name of the people. In his words.”

    Everyone here, of course, does not bend the rules to become successful. Though after years of learning the culture, I now understand why an overwhelming majority of Venezuelans automatically assume that someone who arrives in this country having amassed wealth elsewhere, did so via less than legal means.

  3. “Had the book focused on the human element ”

    Isn’t the “human angle” of chavismo represented already in every single story of a family that’s been disgraced by the regime one way or another? Examples are endless, from the family that was torn asunder by migrating children, ranging through the people who has a relative at the verge of death by easily curable diseases, and those who’ve been had their lives irreversibly ruined after they had their businesses destroyed or their children were murdered by the dictatorship.

    A book like this is uncomfortable because it portays chavismo as the TRUE opposition should have done it years ago: As the bunch of ruthless criminals that have been destroying the country since the era of the communist guerrillas and only for the sole purpose of getting rich, and then hide among the people they disgraced all while giggling behind their backs of their misfortune.

    chavismo is the epitome of the “viveza criolla” (“venezuelan wit”), which is an euphemism given to the most disgusting and atrocious criminal opportunism, guilty of every single bad thing about Venezuela today.

    In fact, this book describes so accurately chavismo’s inherent evil that it should be considered mandatory reading in school once the dictatorship’s been ousted.

  4. Ula, agree with everything, but “viveza criolla” is more “creole cunning”, and usually lacks in wit (“Wit is the surest sign of wisdom”.). Wikipedia has a great summary of the characteristics of “viveza criolla”, which is endemic to most/all of Latin America. It becomes major criminal/inhumane, of course, when causing mass suffering, as in the case of Venezuela.

  5. Speaking of creole cunning, just received my first 100,000 bs note. Jesus, if that thing isn’t perfect for counterfeiting, I don’t know what is.

  6. Yep, I just saw my first one too. Something is definitely wrong with this picture, the only thing different is the word “mil” and a little yellow ink. Also the 20,000 note is very close as well. I predict mass counterfeiting of the old 100 into 100 “mill” notes until everyone stops taking the 100 “mil” notes cause they are scared of them. Also the newest thing is banks are not accepting marked bills, those which have been written on. Those bastards are up to something else, just can’t put my finger on it yet.

    • MZ, as you’re probably aware, it’s getting harder and harder to find a bill that’s not marked. When I bind my bills in packs I prefer to have a clean bill on top and it often takes some schuffling to find one. Also, I recall being on Margarita Island 10 years ago and the banks there then were not accepting marked bills. Don’t know if that changed in the years since.

  7. Te book reads like a shitty Two and a half men fanfic made by a 17 year old Dross fan ,

    it is cringe worthy and trying to hard to be edgy at every sentence, everything is a quip from a one dimensional fantasy mary sue, and it seems made clearly to entice the morbidity of people jealous of that lifestyle, or even to promote it, it is full of machismo criollo. One thing is to be satire, other to have the entire god damn book written in that perspective without innuendo of irony.

    “his green marihuana colored eyes”

    No, i would not recommend it or have it as “mandatory read” . This is as educational as trap music.

    • Thanks for perspective, in my view it confirmed how Venezuelan reality is much more astounding than fiction. Writing is not the best, but that is the last thing I would grade on this book. The topics selected are about .1% of all different stories that can be created on this topic and about .001% of the horror.

    • Heh, it’s too painful to accept the fact that chavista big pus-filled sacks are laughing their asses off snorting coccaine while venezuelan children starve to death?

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