Saturday, April 17, 2010

I'll take a McOndo meal, supresized

What the hell is this? I thought this was a course devoted to magical realism, the so-called "definitive" form of the Latin American novel. Clearly I was mistaken, as McOndo forgot the magical part of the order. It's ok though, the literary chow is still satisfying, I won't yell at them for airballing my order.

McOndo's flavour is distinctly realist, there's no doubt about that. It's not hard to picture yourself actually experiencing the events and situations presented in the novel. Really, the stories told in McOndo could happen to anyone, anywhere and there's absolutely no sense of disconnect, or difference between Latin American and North American society. Do I like that fact? Sort of.

I understand that McOndo is a movement that was born as a somewhat "frustrated" response to the type casting of Latin American authors after the Boom. The idea of being pigeon holed into a certain genre or writing style simply based on your geographic heritage is absolutely absurd. Latin America is a fascinating place with a rich cultural heritage. The rise of magical realism helped to illustrate that fact and bolster interest in Latin America, its countries and its cultures. However, magical realism is exactly that, it's a magical morphing of reality, a way of exoticizing the reality of life in Latin America. In that sense, magical realism created a strong sense of disconnect for readers, and created an unrealistic image of Latin America. In the end, I feel as though the works collected in McOndo close the gap that was created by the rise of magical realism and illustrates that the vast majority of societal issues shared by every person in the world. As such, in terms of societal issues, there is no significant disconnect between Latin America, and the rest of the world (North Korean might be an exception).

That being said, however, I didn't particularly enjoy McOndo after spending an entire term being tantalized by magical realism. As I read, I constantly felt like I was being cheated, like something was missing. There just wasn't enough magic in my relationship with McOndo for me to form the save kind of love affair I did with Cien años or El reino. I want a divorce.

Cien años III

Well, what a nice little twist of serendipity. I was almost certain that I should simply chalk the blog posts I failed to finish as missed opportunities. Thankfully, I now have the chance to give a piece of my mind some literature once again.

I'd be lying if I said my memory of the 3rd chunk of Cien años was perfect. The reality is, it feels like an eternity has passed since I read that section. However, now that I've had time to sit back and reflect on the book for a while, I get the unique opportunity to make some commentary on the third section of the book, and how I feel it ties into the overall scheme of the novel.

I could choose to focus on providing my thoughts and analysis of numerous distinct parts of the third reading, but I think it's a more useful exercise to provide some of my personal commentary and insight on one component of reading that struck me as being particularly interesting. It is a well established fact that one of the most important components of Cien años is its cast of characters. The characters are integral to Cien años success as a novel, and their interweaving stories are the threads that weave the fabric of the novel. With that being said, I found that one character in particular was of interest in the third section of the novel -- Ursula. Urusula is the matriarch of the Buendía family, and in many ways, is the glue that seems to keep the family from falling apart. She is selfless, and always puts the interests of the family members ahead of her own; she is also very solitary. When skimming through the third section of the novel again, I noticed a made a note on one of the pages that I found particularly interesting. Ursula is getting very old and going blind, and feels very lonely due to the "changes" that have taken place in the Buendia household. The note I made on on the page simply says "Ursula is 100 years of solitude." The solitary and lonely lifetime that she has spent as a member of the Buendia family is the personification of the book's title. Although Ursula is important in this respect, she is also symbolic of the passing of time, and it's somewhat cyclical nature at times -- one of the important pieces of commentary that I feel GGM tried to portray in his novel. I'm not going to pretend that this observation is some sort of profound realization that has never occurred to other readers of the novel.

Anyway, I'm going to stop rambling for now.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The course concludes...

Well, I'd be lying if I said I've been on top of my blog posts lately. This past month has been an absolute nightmare for me. Constant problem sets, massive group assignments, presentations and work outside of school really don't equate to me getting a lot of sleep. I guess I was asking for it by taking 6 courses in a semester and working part-time. Personal struggles aside, I really did enjoy the course, and more specifically the novels that we read. While I must admit my attendance started sliding for the latter part of the course, I still took the time to do the readings at home to keep on pace with the course.

To me the way the course panned out was rather innovative, and, at times, demanding. The volume of reading in this course was rather intimidating for me, especially as an econ student where reading isn't of paramount importance. I especially liked the blog posts we were assigned - they acted as an incentive to complete the readings and also come up with something unique or, in the best case, insightful to say. Even if you missed class lectures, by reading through the blog posts of the students in the class, you could get a very broad perspective of the material we covered and derive your own personal interpretations from the collective wisdom of the class. In the end, I think this led to a greater appreciation of the literature we studied. I like to think of the blog posts as a sort of "virtual book club" that we all became avid members of during the course.

As for magical realism itself, I now feel as though I am well versed in the subject - well, okay, as well versed as you can be for a novice literary aficionado. Either way, I firmly believe the manner in which the course was presented allowed us to gain a fuller appreciation of the genre as a whole, from its origins, to its climax. Ultimately, it was clear that the first two novels, while important and well written in their own rights, were just a warm up for Marquez's masterpiece. While I enjoyed Cien años I can't help but feel as though it deserves another, thorough re-read on my part. I think it's fair to say that many of the students in the class probably feel the same way. Marquez's work is not something that can be fully digested and interpreted with one simple reading. That being said, it's not surprising that volumes have been written about his book and that an entire course in itself could probably be devoted to the novel. At the end of the day, however, I feel satisfied with my first exposure to the genre of magical realism, even if I'm a complete noob.

I feel thankful for being a part of this course as it provided me nice gradual path to conquering a a truly great piece of literature.

Read a masterpiece... Check.