Sunday, April 11, 2010

Conclusiones de Span 365

I have thoroughly enjoyed this class. I think that the structure of the class - the blogs, commentary, paragraph discussion, etc – created a community in class in which students were able to develop opinions about the readings both in and out of class. I have to say something which I unfortunately can’t say about all of my upper level Spanish courses, Jon established an atmosphere in class where I think the majority of students felt comfortable expressing their ideas no matter what their level of Spanish.

The choice of readings in particular taught us about the evolution of Latin American literature and what led to the magical realism movement. The stream-of-consciousness narration in Leyendas de Guatemala shows how the European surrealist movement influenced Asturias. At the same time, he was very lyrical and poetic in his writing. I think that this experimentation with language and form was more attune to the indigenous Maya culture that he was trying to represent. In this first reading, we start to get a feeling for the importance of the question of Latin American identity in the author’s writing. For Asturias, although he had European parents, he still felt a strong connection to the Maya people. I think he identified with the culture’s spirituality, which inspired him to enter the mind of a Maya character in his book Hombres de maíz. By allowing himself to be influenced by the indigenous cultures of Guatemala, Asturias differentiated himself from the European literary movements.

The question of identity is also prevalent in El reino de este mundo. When I talk about identity, I’m thinking that the authors of the “boom” period were trying to differentiate themselves from European literature. Living in a culture thoroughly permeated by European customs, politics, and power, these authors felt that indigenous civilization and mythology, colonization, oppression, African Diaspora, mestizaje…were themes that were specific to Latin America and could not be properly represented by anyone but themselves and with a new style. While Asturias achieved this by writing about Maya mythology, Carpentier achieved this by telling the bloody political history of Haiti. Not just the history however, he told the story from the perspective of Ti Noel, a black slave who practiced vudu. Like Maya mythology, the vudu spirituality allowed Carpentier to experiment with form and narration style as well.

In 100 años, many common themes of Latin American history were brought together. Maybe we can look at Macondo as a microcosm and condensed history for much of Latin America. And it does represent certain parts of Latin American history and politics quite well. The authors of McOndo cannot disagree with this. I think that they were tired of being pigeonholed into a genre that did not adequately represent them. For that reason, more contemporary authors sought to break the stereotype/identity mold by trying something that nobody expected of them, to identify with North American/European culture. Identity remains a question for the authors as seen and discussed in “La mujer quimicamente compatible”. No matter what the authors in McOndo say, technology does not make them so similar to the rest of the world. Latin America experienced a very distinct colonization in which they were left to build a political/economic/social system by themselves post-independence. In most places this was styled after European governments, but was it viable a region so different? I think the question of identity is an overarching question that permeates all of the books we have read and should not be overlooked. Anywho…wrapping up,

Before I took this class, the idea that I had of magical realism was that that reality and fantasy were convoluted in a narration that exceeded the boundaries of time. Although the experimentation with time is a component in magical realism, I now put much more emphasis on the style of narration than anything. I think that the author of the book I am using for my wikipedia article could not have said it better:

“El realismo mágico es el tono en que se cuenta lo fantástico: lo mágico lo aportan las técnicas periodísticas utilizadas en la narración – todo lleno de datos precisos que concretizan el tiempo, el espacio, los personajes, la situación…-; el realismo lo pone la imaginación del escritor.”

Gutiérrez points to the writer when defining magical realism. I think we similarly have come to the conclusion that it is not so much time, space, and lyricism/rhythm that contribute to the genre (all themes that can be found in other genres as well such as surrealism), but how the writer tells the story. We put trust in the author who, as we have seen, manipulates that trust by making the fantastical normal and reality (ie the historical/politically inspired writing) fantastical.
I think this class was…fantastic! Sorry for not completing every single blog but I definitely put in the effort.

Monday, April 5, 2010

McOndo - Introducción

The Name: McOndo

I think the name of this collection of stories is a little troubling. While Fuguet and Gómez explain they respect GGM for his contribution to Latin American literature, they dislike how it reduced the identity of L.Am literature to the magical realism genre (in the minds of North Americans). It seems that they are concerned with establishing a new identity for Latin American writers by differentiating themselves from their predecessors for a North American audience. WHile they differentiate themselves from magical realism, they compare themselves with North Americans and the stereotypes of our culture. They want us to know that they too have smog, McDonald's, condominiums, five star hotels, MTV, etc. Ok, so their point is that they are not so different from us? Or that they are different from the people portrayed in magical realism-genre'd books? Isn't there a more constructive and imaginative way to create the identity of contemporary Latin American writers? Or was the literary movement based on urban reality and the quotidian?

They emphasize their mestizo culture, the introduction of technology, the balance between old and new but this is what GGM was doing in 100 años except for 30 years before. In 100 años we see all of these aspects minus lame corporations like McDonalds and in a rural setting.

La introducción

The name of the book aside, i thought their search for a new literary movement/identity was pretty interesting. Even though the writers all had current technology and lived in big cities, they were not yet connected. This project brought them together and made them not only aware of each other but aware of a similar goal. i don't think its necessarily possible to "create" a literary movement or a revolution per se. I think that humans evolve together (more or less) and new movements and ideas come into conception. So while I don't think they have created a new genre, or something really interesting, they have moved together and forward. I think these writers are more in a transition generation. it kind of reminds me of the literature written by young mexicans in the 60s from "la onda" movement (check out "literatura de la onda" on wiki if you are interested). there weren't doing anything amazing or different but they were talented writers with an very blunt style ie they talked about drugs, rock n roll, promiscuity, etc. In fact, it reminds me a little too much of Jose Agustin's ciudades desiertas in which a group of latin americans go to a writing work shop at a university in the states. has anyone else read this? it was written in the 80s i think......hmmm and Fuguet and Gómez compiled this book in 96? were they really doing something that hadn't been done before. i would say no.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

100 años - parte cuatro y comparaciones

To conclude with 100 años and magical realism as we have come to understand it, i will make some comparisons between the three books we have read and their treatments of time, narration, history, and of reminding us of our origins (maybe not "our" origins per se, but the origin and evolution of different latin american cultures).

Time is a very important concept to magical realism. It is divided into 3 categories in Leyendas de Guatemala: before the conquest, during, and after. At the same time, the short stories bring history alive in the present because they are "historias olvidadas". The purpose of the myth is to remind people of their origins by repeating a story, no matter how fantastical, that explains to us where and from whom we came from.

In comparison, the prophecy of Melquiades - which we can assume to be the book we have just read - serves a similar purpose; the book/prophecy teaches us where the Buendía family came from. Instead of repeating the story in order to pass knowledge from one generation to the next, Marquez has history repeat itself within the story. In that way, the repetitions present in both the books are different yet represent a connection between past, present, and future (in no particular order).

I find that Don Chepe and Doña Tina in Leyendas can be compared to Melquiades and his book of prophecies. In both books, the characters remind us of a narrator that exists outside of the story. In Leyendas the don and doña count time with grains of maiz as they repeat the stories of their antepasados in a rythmic repetition representing the knowledge of those who came before them. Time exists in the shop with these two people as it does inside the stories they tell of the past. In this way, history exists in the present. Similarly, Melquiades knows the inevitable trajectory of the Buendia family. Marquez plays a similar role in that he too knows the beginning and end of the story before it happens. Maybe Marquez created Melquiades as a character that represented himself. in this way, his character reminds us of the world outside the story. which reminds me of the glass house spoken about by Jose arcadio buendia at the beginning of the book. its is almost as though we are watching the story transpire through the glass walls created by the narrator.

A similar sort of control is given to the protagonist in El reino de este mundo. Ti Noel as well as Mackandal hold the power to step outside of reality by transforming into different animal camouflages. (i would talk more about el reino more if i had the time because it definitely shares some of the themes i have discussed).

In conclusion, I think it is really interesting to notice that all three stories have told the story of a part of Latin American history. With Leyendas telling the Maya story of creation, the arrival of the Spanish, and the conquest. For Carpentier, he told the story of Haiti's fight for independence as well as abolition, the first black ruler come dictator, and the second arrival of the French. And finally, 100 años which takes place in no particular Latin American town tells the of the progression of events that much of the continent went through since the arrival of the Spanish. Time's fluidity is so important to magical realism because, as i have mentioned before, it bring the past alive in the present and future. By blurring the lines between these three categories we are reminded of how close we are to our ancestors and by hearing their story, we learn from their mistakes and are reminded of our roots. this has special relevance because Latin American history has had repetitions of its own in which one culture (european/spanish/french/american) is transposed on top of another (maya/mestizo/african). with each sobreposicion de culturas, a part of the culture is either lost succumbing to colonization, or strengthened in retaliation.

Friday, March 19, 2010

100 años - parte tres

I know, very late post. However, better late than never.

I was really interested in what we were talking about today in class but was so groggy that I couldn't figure out what I wanted to say. Now I have a somewhat better idea. We were discussing the political aspect of magical realism in 100 años as well as in the other books we have read. Whether or not this has anything to do with history being subjective (it is because history writing is inevitably subjective) or not, does not really matter.

How does GGM make a commentary on Latin American politics with his inclusion of the Banana Massacre? I will get to that in a minute.

FIrst, what immediately came to mind was the documentary about the 2002 attempted coup d'état on President Hugo Chavez called La revolución no será transmitida (The Revolution Will Not Be Televised). To summarize the film, I'm going to borrow from wikipedia because I saw the movie a couple years ago. What happened in a nutshell is this:

Chavez aims to redistribute Venezuela's oil wealth by nationalizing the oil companies. In April 2002, a group of Chavez supporters gather outside the Presidential palace while a group of protestors march through the streets nearby. When the protester's march reaches the palace, shots ring out and civilians are killed. Some of Chávez's supporters begin firing in the direction they think the shots came from. A former private television journalist said selective footage of the incident was aired by the private media to make it look like Chávez's supporters had shot at unarmed opposition marchers. Meanwhile, the state television channel is shut down and pressure is put on Chavez to step down. The entire event spirals out of control and he does end up stepping down (for a few days before everything is sorted out) and the opposition leader takes his place.

The people in opposition of Chavez's reforms were undoubtedly connected to the private media of Venezuela. They manipulated footage of an event in order to get the president out of office. It shows the power of wealth and force over politics and reality. It also demonstrates their ability to manipulate public opinion. In a similar way Mr Brown and his soldiers manipulate the nation's public opinion by issuing false proclamations and killing anybody who knew otherwise with the cover of the night. GGM is without a doubt making a statement about the politics of Latin America. I think he wants us to ask ourselves: if we are not witnesses to the violence and injustices that happen to our brothers and sisters, can we pretend it did not happen? can we rely or allow people with wealth and arms to tell us the history of our people. GGM wants us to think about more than just this. however this is a start.

Monday, March 8, 2010

100 años - parte dos

Round and round and round we go, where we stop, nobody knows!

This book amazes me. Where some authors may choose to write an entire book concerning what happens in a single day or over the course of a few years, or even one persons lifetime, GGM has written a book that covers countless generations and lives. There are a multitude of themes, names, and personalities that reoccur in this book. Personality traits - almost identical to their father, mother, aunt, or uncle's - are passed down from one individual to the next. Events seem to repeat themselves or we get stuck on a certain event such as the death of Aureliano in front of the firing squad. Once we learn that he will not be killed in that particular scene, the event is prolonged and teased at an infinite number of times. We also learn of the many attempts to murder him throughout his life. These themes, names, and personalities lend a particular confusion to the book. I often have to refer to the family tree at the beginning of the book in order to remember which Aureliano or which Arcadio. The fact that Ursula and José Arcadio Buendía never seem to die does not help to understanding the progression of time or where exactly we are in the story.

I wonder why GGM chose to write like this. I wonder what his vision was and what exactly he was trying to say with this book. Certain aspects of the book remind me of torture. For example the way Amaranta locks herself away in her bedroom when really she wants to spend time with the Colnel Gerineldo Marquez and before that Pietro Crespi. She denies herself love and companionship when it is what her heart longs for. In the same way, Melquiades, Jose Arcadio Buendia and Ursula hold on to a string of life which they refuse to let go of. Life for them continues on until they are no longer lucid but their soles seem to be immune to death. Amaranta's toying and kissing with Aureliano José is another torture for both of them because they never fully give into their desires. This self-made suffering, torturing of the soul, and drawn-out lives are major themes in this book and I just can't quite understand why. I don't think that every aspect of a book has to have so hidden meaning but literary repetition is well-thought out.

Thoughts? Anyone else on the same page? I would love to hear what other people thought of this.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

100 años de soledad

I read this book in English back when I had no understanding of the magical realism genre. I thought the book was marvelous, unlike anything I had ever read. Because translations like movies never do the origin novel justice, I am happy to be reading this book again and in Spanish.

Marquez mentions incestuous relations, people driven by their passions leaving logic aside, and magical obsessions without the slightest tone of condemnation, surprise or fascination. In this way, as Jon talked about in class today, Marquez creates a narrative that plays with our conceptions of reality, magic, and morality.

One thing I noticed that fell into this category was how Macondo was introduced to readers as being a very primitive town. People live in basic houses without any thought to the world outside the swamp. The rocks shaped as “prehistoric eggs” in the river, the dirt floors of the Buendía house. Marquez’ descriptions of the pueblo lead readers to believe that the story begins in a time long ago before modern inventions. However, the more I read, the more it seems that it is only Macondo that is stuck in time on its own, somehow cut off from the modernizing world around them. Marquez gives us hints of this fact when Ursula returns from her five month sojourn in search of her son. She reveals that there is another town only two days away that they have never known about. Melquíades also gives us knowledge of the scientific world outside of Macondo with the treasures he brings to the town.

I really like this idea of not being able to “trust” the narrator. I had never considered this aspect of the novel when I read it the first time. I’m not sure if I’ve ever really questioned the word of the narrator outside of nonfiction. We so easily fall into the world that Marquez creates that we forget the author’s ability to bend our interpretations. It is easy to critique the protagonist but the narrator we assume to be telling the story from as it exists in their minds. Marquez attempts to do something else with his narrative, something that adds to the magical realism aspect of the novel or perhaps creates it.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Conclusión de Asturias y Carpentier

Después de leer dos libros, de los cuales ninguno era exactamente del género realismo mágico, he encontrado una tema que me interesa. En Leyendas de Guatemala, la lengua que usa Asturias es muy poética. Hay un ritmo en las repeticiones de palabras, en su incluso de sonidos, y en sus juegos de palabras. Además, sus cuentos están llenos de colores. Por ejemplo en la segunda mitad del libro, los capítulos tienen un temático de colores. Los diferentes colores significan diferentes partes del día. Con este estilo de escritura, los mitos de los Mayas viven en la página. Aunque este libro procede la creación del género del realismo mágico, para mi, Asturias ha creado un mundo fantástico.

En El reino de este mundo, encontré un aspecto de magia similar en la cultura vodú de los negros. La religión dio poder y respecto a la naturaleza. La integración de la naturaleza con su cultura formaba parte de su identidad. Esto me di cuenta de la cultura Maya. Los cuentos por Asturias, o las recreaciones/improvisaciones de los mitos Maya, dio voces y identidades a animales y la naturaleza.

El realismo mágico (o lo que sea) es algo separado de la cultura de los europeos. Es algo que precedió la llegada de los conquistadores y sigue viviendo como un movimiento contra la cultura no indígena o mestizo. En el caso de Asturias, sus estudios sobre la cultura de los indígenas de su país de nacimiento lo permitió dar una voz a una parte de la cultura Maya no conocido o no entendido por los europeos. En comparación, la cultura mística de los negros en Saint-Domingue era algo que los separaba de los blancos más que la esclavitud. La conexión que tenían los negros con la naturaleza era algo incomprensible y miedoso. Eso les dio poder a sublevar contra los blancos.

Hmmm me gusta lo que he escrito pero no se si estoy convencido de mis propios pensamientos. De todos modos, me interesa mucho el realismo mágico porque es un género de la tierra de América latina. Estoy muy contenta con las dos selecciones de libros y estoy curiosa en lo que queda en el curso.