Sunday, January 10, 2010

Asturias : A Feast for the Senses

Overwhelmed. That's probably the best word I can use to describe my experience reading the first half of Leyendas de Guatemala. Understanding the "core" of each legend wasn't the issue so much as being able to fully appreciate the finer details in each of the stories. The breadth of Asturias' linguistic abilities leads to texts that are linguistically dense in many respects. Due to the rich vocabulary Asturias uses, I found myself making a trade off between understanding the subtle details of the texts and understanding the stories as a whole. Initially, I was more largely in favor of reading in the former way rather than the latter. However, I was forced to abandon that method of reading in favor of understanding the stories as a whole to keep my sanity, and progress through the reading at an acceptable pace.

Although I was overwhelmed in the sense that the reading was challenging, I was also overwhelmed by richness of Asturias' writing. As I was reading the legends, I felt like I was being transported to a foreign, exotic world. Asturias poetically describes the sights, sounds and smells of the environments that play host to his stories. "Y el olor acompañaba a las imagénes. El cielo olía a cielo, el niño a niño..." is a passage from Lyenda del Cadejo that is still lingering in my mind. I find this description peculiar and elegant at the same time. To me it was peculiar in the sense you can't really describe what the sky smells like or a child for that matter, but on some level you know they have a smell, and how the smell. Therefore, it is in the simplicity of stating that "el cielo olía a cielo..." that the eloquence of Asturias' writing is embodied. Upon reflecting, my experience as a whole reading Asturias' leyendas is best compared to a mosaic of memorable little anecdotes such as the one above. My memory of the leyendas is studded with moments of pure sensory pleasure and fantasy.

Regretfully, I feel as though my experience thus far is incomplete as the limits of my vocabulary comprehension has hindered my ability to fully extract all of the beauty contained in Asturias' pages. You definitely need to take the time to smell the roses with Asturias.


  1. I think it is interesting that you say "my memory of the leyendas is studded with moments of pure sensory pleasure and fantasy", because I think that pretty much sums it up. Asturias' work is very detailed, and quite poetic, which I would assume accounts for the sensory pleasure. At the same time, he embodies the realismo magico style which gives the stories an air of fantasy, but at the same time they are based on very important issues of the time. It is always interesting to see how a writer portrays such issues, and Asturias does an excellent job.

  2. hey!
    yea dont worry you were not alone... the stories were totally overwhelming with their vocab. However, they were totally interesting too. I have to second what brhoads said.. you summed it up very well. It's cool to see how your attention was drawn from you senses. I "feel" that Asturias used the senses to build a connection to,the reader greater than the words on the page. THANKS for your awesome BLOG :)

  3. You perfectly describe my own feelings while reading Leyendas when you say, "I found myself making a trade off between understanding the subtle details of the texts and understanding the stories as a whole." I think in-class discussion will help with a lot of clarification of story lines, and those that paid more attention to detail will have a lot to contribute to fill in the gaps.

    I also think you completely hit the nail on the head in describing the way that Asturias forces the reader to rely on their own experiences with the senses to create a unique writing style; rather than trying to describe the sense of smell that he's getting at, he trusts the reader with a simple yet strong descriptions of unusual comparisons.

    ...after re-reading my own comment I feel that I didn't do your commentary justice, but the bottom line is I agree with what you're getting at!