Fifty years after the arrival of Columbus, at the height of Spain's conquest of the West Indies, Spanish bishop and colonist Bartolome de las Casas dedicated his Brevisima Relacion de la Destruicion de las Indias to Philip II of Spain. An impassioned plea on behalf of the native peoples of the West Indies, the Brevisima Relacion catalogues in horrific detail atrocities it attributes to the king's colonists in the New World. The result is a withering indictment of the conquerors that has cast a 500-year shadow over the subsequent history of that world and the European colonization of it. Andrew Hurley's daring new translation dramatically foreshortens that 500 years by reversing the usual priority of a translation; rather than bring the Brevisima Relacion to the reader, it brings the reader to the Brevisima Relacion -- not as it is, but as it might have been, had it been originally written in English. The translator thus allows himself no words or devices unavailable in English by 1560, and in so doing reveals the prophetic voice, urgency and clarity of the work, qualities often obscured in modern translations.
An Introduction by Franklin Knight, notes, a map, and a judicious set of Related Readings offer further aids to a fresh appreciation of this foundational historical and literary work of the New World and European engagement with it.
Franklin Knight is Leonard and Helen R. Stulman Professor of History, Johns Hopkins University, and the author of The Caribbean: The Genesis of a Fragmented Nationalism (Oxford) and Slave Societies of the Caribbean (Macmillan). Andrew Hurley is Professor of English, University of Puerto Rico, and the award-winning translator of numerous works of fiction and non-fiction including the Collected Fictions of Jorge Luis Borges (Viking) and several novels by Reinaldo Arenas.