Monday, April 12, 2010

Reflecting time

Well I've nearly made it through my first Spanish literature class (I suppose I have made it through all of the actual class sessions now!).

I'm glad I chose this course because I have enjoyed the topic of magical realism literature in Latin America. One of the elements I've enjoyed the most is learning about the evolution of the genre. I haven't taken many literature classes in general in university so I'm not used to studying a particular literary genre and didn't have any set expectations. Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised to find out we'd be looking at the works that were the inspiration of magical realism, a book that is the epitome of magical realism in North American eyes, and even a post-magical realism collection of writing.

As a Latin American studies student I enjoyed the class lectures about the social and historical context of each book. It was interesting to fit these works into my knowledge of the countries in which they took place and to see how much the countries of origin of the authors influenced their works (especially for the first 3 books). Oh I also enjoyed the discussions of reality v. magic that came up in the discussions for all of the texts, given the course's topic.

I think McOndo was a great way to end the course. I wish we'd been able to spend more time on it and had all read the same stories so we'd be better able to have informative class discussions. It would have also been interesting to analyze the individual authors more because I'm curious the extent to which their nationalities influenced their work. I'm glad we ended with this collection because it doesn't allow us to leave the course feeling certain that we understand what Latin American literature is all about. In fact, McOndo questions what we should actually take away from the books by Asturias, Carpentier and GGM.

Overall the amount of reading in this course was challenging. With the blogs due every Sunday it became inevitable that I left all the reading to the weekend and it was a LOT to read through, especially in Spanish. In my opinion we started off with the hardest text which made for a harsh introduction to the course. Even after helping to write a wikipedia entry on Leyendas de Guatemala I still feel uneasy about writing my final paper on that book. The way its written is hard to dissect and I doubt my ability to uncover the complexity of the events and significances in each legend. I'm gonna give that a start tomorrow...wish me luck!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Después de leer varios cuentos de McOndo, veo que los textos representan lo que había indicado los editores en la presentación del libro. Dentro de los ensayos hay varios propósitos y al fin, (a los lectores no latinos), nos hacen pensar en otra definición de América Latina. Esa manera de ver A.L. es semejante a lo que discutimos en los otros cursos sobre América Latina en los cuales tratamos de ver la región fuera de la romanticismo.

Pienso que el hecho de que los autores son de distinctos paises en A.L nos muestra que hay semejanzas entre los paises, pero que hay también diferencias en la región. Por ejemplo, noté que los cuentos revelan las palabras coloquiales de los diferentes paises, como “che” en Argentina y el uso de “vos” y “sos” en ciertas paises también.

McOndo fue creado para presentar un nuevo estilo de literatura latinoamericana. Un aspecto central de su creación era declarar que A.L. es más que una región en que el realismo mágico predomina o muestra la realidad. Lo que ha sido producido por ese próposito es un texto relativamente moderno que es más fácil relacionar con, con respecto a 100 Años de Soledad.

McOndo presenta la realidad de la mayoría de gente que nació depués de los baby-boomers. Discutan cosas en una manera personal y por los pensamientos y las preguntas profundos que los personajes (personas regulares) tiene en sus vidas diarias. Por las historias de las vidas de los personajes, los textos de McOndo discuten el propósito de la vida, percepciones sobre definir la realidad, las razonas que ciertas cosas occuren, y las maneras de que uno puede vivir la vida
(preocupar por el futuro, vivir en el presente, etc.).

En este sentido McOndo no habla de cosas muy distinctas que los otros libros de nuestro curso. Sin embargo, las presentan desde otra perspectiva y desde un contexto moderno y urbano. Eso se llama el “realismo virtual“ que enfoca en el rol de la tecnólogia, incluso a MTV y Macdonalds. El cuento que se llama Mi Estado Físico muestra un contexto moderno y un personaje con pensamientos profundos sobre relaciones humanos. Una porción de este cuento pasa en un baño de un MacDonalds, y durante el cuento el protagonista da cuenta que el teme decir la verdad y que el teme estar sólo (sin chica): dos sentamientos comunes pero frequentamente escondidos.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Pensando en los 3 textos....

I'm going to expand on the similarities and differences that my in-class-group noted about the three books we have read thus far. First of all, all three books contain historical events to varying degrees. Carpentier's book is centered around a widely known historical event: the Haitian Revolution. However, Carpentier provides a unique perspective of this time period because he writes through the lens of slaves, allowing us to see the events through a marginalized point of view. Asturias's Leyendas de Guatemala also provides a unique perspective on a longer, more generalized period of history that has led up to modern day Guatemala. Asturias demonstrates the combination of Spanish and Maya cultures that have existed in Guatemala since the arrival of the Spanish. Asturias incorporates indigenous Guatemalan myths and a history of Spanish-Maya cultural interactions in his text. GGM's 100 Anos de Soledad is less centered around a specific, known history but still includes identifying Latin American historical circumstances such as civil wars, foreign-owned banana plantations and a separate indigenous population. In the category of historical events this book can also be seen to provide a more "marginalized" perspective on events, as it presents things from a Latin American perspective instead of a North American or European one.

The way time is constucted seems to be very unique in each text and tied to the magical realism writing styles. In 100 Anos, time is clearly circular and characters' personalities eventually become predictable. The circularity of time also involves the Buendia's familial incest and the pig tail phenomenon, which occurs near the beginning and end of the family tree. In El Reino de este Mundo, time is fairly linear as the book is about the development of the Haitian Revolution and its consequences. However, the narration from the perspective of Ti Noel depicts the revolution as circular in the sense that the people in control, whether they are the slave-owners or the mulattos, act in the same entitled and authoritarian manner. In Leyendas de Guatemala, everyday time is mostly irrelevant, as days are describes as lasting centuries and the exact order of events is often unclear. In one sense, however, time seems to be circular as both indigenous and Spanish influences are portrayed in most of the legends and modern Guatemala is built upon both cultures' legacies.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The last bit of Cien Anos de Soledad

I guess I am joining the ranks of fans of this book. I'm struck by the numerous insights this novel provides into humanity, social development, and Latin America. There are so many layers of observation in this book!

One of the things that struck me in this last portion of Cien Anos de Soledad was the foretelling that the plague of insomnia had in the novel. Without the text of Malquiades, the history of the Buendias and of Macondo would have essentially disappeared from human memory. In the end of the novel, the town of Macondo has forgotten about much of its own history, which is particularly striking considering the town has only existed for 100 years. While the forgetting induced by the insomnia plague was more extreme in that everyone forgot the names and functions of every-day things, it is quite significant that the remaining townspeople forgot the massacre of the banana workers and that eventually the town is forgotten as well. While the Buendia family's fading from prominence in the town is understandable, as most great figures or dynasties eventually do, the fact that the town seemingly disappeared from the map is of much larger significance, especially considering its contact and ties with the outside world.

The banana plantation is a realistic example of the history of Latin American political and economic realities. First the appearance of the American businessmen who run the banana company that produces bananas for export. Then the Americans' self-imposed segregation from the rest of the town, despite relying on the local workers for the success of their company. The poor working conditions and the alliance of the foreign banana company and the state's military who work together to massacre the workers in retaliation for forming a union that demanded better treatment and accountability. The state then supports the forgetting of the brutal incident. This reminds me of the numerous extractive and irresponsible foreign business operations in Latin America, such as the the infamous United Fruit Company. It also reminds me of the repressive and violent regimes in LA during the 1970s and 80s, such as Pinochet in Chile and the Dirty War in Argentina. The crimes these military governments committed against their own citizens have powerful legacies and are seen differently by those who promote remembering the violence versus those who promote forgetting in order to better 'move on'.

In the future I image that there will likely be a few physical relics left from Macondo that will be found later on, similar to the armor that Jose Arcadio Buendia found decades ago. The whole story seems quite cyclical.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Cien Anos de Soledad 3

The depth of the theme of solitude in Cien Anos de Soledad is veryy apparent in this third section of the book. Each member of the Buendia family suffers in solitude. Even those, such as the seventeen sons of Colonel Aureliano Buendia, who did not grow up in the presence of the Buendia family, or even in Macondo, are marked with the family's characteristic solitude. Aureliano Triste's name itself is a good marker of this tendency. Despite the fact that the Buendia family continues to grow, and Macondo becomes more and more connected with the outside world (ie. the railroad and the 'gringos'), each member of the family suffers from loneliness. I think a big part of their loneliness is due to the fact that they rarely talk about their emotions and therefore tend to hide their feelings inside, which changes their behavior.

We see the extent of this emotional isolation in Amaranta, who, having reached old age has never overcome her rivalry with Rebeca and never allowed anyone, including her suitors, to get close to her. She dies proud of her virginity, but I think her chastity reflects how she pushed everyone who cared about her away. Even Meme, despite falling completely head over heals for Mauricio, expresses her growing solitude that comes as a result of her obsession with him.

We saw already how Colonel Aureliano Buendia changed during his years at war. In this section it became more apparent to me how solitary he really became. He resents the fact that people only buy his gold fish to serve as relics of the past and therefore starts making fish and then melting them back down only to repeat the process, and occupy his time. He, like Amaranta, seems to be incapable of reaching out and connecting with anyone else.

Colonel Aureliano Buendia and Amaranta both die in this section. The older generations of the Buendia family are passing away, save the intrepid Ursula! The family's ways do not seem to be at risk for ending, for as each new family member is born they continue to be named after someone else in the family. In fact, there is now a young girl named Amaranta Ursula--what a combination.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Cien Anos de Soledad 2

Reading this book is my favorite homework assignment right now; it feels indulging to sit down for a couple hours of enjoyable reading. This isn't to say that it's an "easy read", as the characters and the plot of the war are confusing, but nevertheless I'm thoroughly enjoying discovering how this book is unfolding. (I realized that the first time I read this book in English I never made it past this second section!)

The themes that stuck out in my mind the most in this section of Cien Anos de Soledad are naming, the war's influence on Macondo and gender roles. In terms of naming, I liked that Ursula stated a clear pattern in the story of the Buendia family when she says that people with the same names develop similar and predictable personalities. I found it interesting that Ursula believes that if she raised Aureliano Segundo's son, who was named Jose Arcadio, she would be able to prevent her great-grandson from inheriting the "Jose Arcadio" impulsive character and tragic destiny. This indicates Ursula's power and guidance as the matriarch of the family and her ability to interfere with the fate of her family (even if her descendants continue to insist on using the same names!).

This second section of the book was predominated by a war between the Liberals and the Conservatives. The war completely alters life for Macondo and the Buendia family. In fact, I suppose that the Buendia family and the town of Macondo as a whole experience similar transformations in the course of history. I find it difficult to summarize what occurred during the war because there were so many episodes of it. Essentially, Macondo lost its innocence as it experienced numerous (public) deaths and the political divisions of the war. Meanwhile the Buendia family became divided and conflicted, especially surrounding the controversial figure of Colonel Aureliano Buendia. Ursula in particular became disgusted with her son the Colonel as his heart grew cold and hungry for power. There are also several mentions of the emptiness of war and the feeling of the war's infinity: it was an all-consuming affair, but to what avail? Interestingly enough, once the war is over, Ursula decides to reorganize the family house and make it a beautiful and more harmonious space again. Just as Macondo's carnival celebration ends in unexpected violence, it seems inevitable that the Buendia family will continue to experience its extreme ups and downs.

Ursula makes a number of comments about the "types" of men in her family. In her eyes the males in her family turn from obedient boys into men driven by the passions of having women, inventing, gaining power and fighting in the war. She sees them as all being the same, a statement which indicates that she sees the women of the house as being very different than the men. However, I think that the Buendia women also enjoy power, as Ursula is clearly the family's leader and an influential figure in Macondo. In addition, Amaranta refuses to marry any of her suitors and is determined to remain independent and a caretaker of the younger Buendias.

As always incest and memory are also prominent in this section. So much to digest from this section!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Garcia Marquez 1

I'm enjoying reading Cien Anos de Soledad. As I've read it before in English I find that even though there are words in Spanish that I don't know I can keep reading without looking them up because I know the plot and am familiar with the way the book flows. To me this books exemplifies magical realism, and there are "magical" occurrences regularly within this first section.

One "magical" event that I find quite interesting is the insomnia illness that Rebeca brings with her to Macondo. First of all, it is an illness most known by the Indians whose role in the book I'm curious to observe more of . Secondly, the insomnia over time results in memory loss as well as what is essentially human regression to a state of being absent of knowledge. The theme of memory seems to be very central to this book, and is tied to the sense of time and the references to the past and future throughout the tale. Memory is also deeply tied to human knowledge, for as Jose Arcadio Buendia's temporary memory loss demonstrates, without memory one doesn't know the function of any objects. This is especially notable, because the book begins in a period when there were numerous things in the known world that had yet to be named. Thus, a cycle of knowledge and memory is created and reversed within the book.

I've also noticed a lot of references to peace and peacefulness in Macondo. The absence of death in Macondo until Maquialdes' passing marked the town as a place of life and relative harmony. For instance, when Don Apolinar Mascote appears in Macondo and presents himself as the town's magistrate, Jose Arcadio Buendia informs him that there is nothing that needs judging in Macondo. In a sense, Macondo is innocent. Once death occurs in Macondo, however, it seems that things begin to change. At the end of this first section we find out that a war is occurring throughout the region around Macondo, and is making its way to the town.

Macondo changes rapidly within the first section of the book. At first Macondo is a completely isolated town in which ice is the most fascinating discovery. Soon, however, with the influx of more people Macondo changes as do the ways people operate. For instance, all the birds that were commonly kept in cages in people's houses are freed and replaced with musical clocks. Technology and modernity creep into Macondo...I'm curious to read on and remember what other changes occur in the rest of the book.