Monday, April 12, 2010

Better Late than never?

I just realized that I never wrote a blog last week, so I will be writing one today (over a week late). The blog I wrote yesterday was more focused on the McOndo reading, so this one will be a relection of the class. As I said earlier, the class went quickly! Where'd the time go?? All of a sudden our wiki projects are due, we have an essay due on monday, there's no more class . . . ahhh! It's kind of crazy to think about.

This class was interesting. I had never read any of magical realism works, and it is a genre which has always interested me, mostly because I know that it is such big part of Latin American history, especially as it pertains to literature. The Boom and the authors that were made famous during the Boom (such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, Alejo Carpentier, Carlos Fuentes, etc) were, from my understanding, the first to legitimize Latin American literature in the eyes of the rest of the world. I think that Cien Anos de Soledad may be one of the most famous pieces of contemporary literature, and I finally was able to read and analyze this work. It was about time!

I found magical realism difficult to interpret and understand at first. I had a hard time deciphering what was magic vs myth vs reality vs fiction, etc. I thought that magical realism as a genre was used in a specific manner- as if the magic had one intended meaning. After reading Leyendas de Guatemala, I assumed that the use of magical realism was a coping mechanism and spiritual belief of the indigenous people, and that would be the use of magical realism in all of the other texts as well. As it turns out, I was completely incorrect. Carpentier used magical realism as a religous aspect of African culture which was very real in Haiti at the time. In fact, from what I have read, even whichever Doc was in power of the country at the time had all the black dogs killed because it was said that the M guy (I can no longer remember his name from the story) had turned into a black dog. Marquez on the other hand used magical realism to reinforce the idea of the absurdity of the reality of the actual history of Latin America, specifically Colombia.

Anyway, it was nice to finally read some of the most important literature of Latin America and to learn something new.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


I think it's pretty funny how these blogs have become little mini-updates of our lives. I don't actually know most of the people in the class, but I know what everyone is doing! I'm as shocked as everyone that the term is almost over . . . unbelievable. With all of the breaks and what-not, it feels like the semester never actually happened. But I sure had some fun and learned some cool stuff along the way! Yay!

Now down to business. No surprise here, but I half-assed my readings, so this will be a little iffy. I think it's interesting to read the critical perspective of Cien Anos de Soledad. It's true not only of Cien Anos, but of almost all of the novels we have read, that these works reinforce an "othering" of Latin American people and culture in that they have been portrayed as primitive (and at times naive or incestuous, etc). Although they provided an interesting perspective, I do not feel as though I got a realistic grasp of what Latin American culture (to homogenize many cultures as one) really is or how the people of the countries which we studied live. Most of the texts we covered were set in the past and did not touch upon many of the current events or social problems being faced by the people of Latin America.

One issue that was left out of Cien Anos de Soledad that strikes me as very odd is that Garcia Marquez left out any mention of the United States war on drugs. This "war" has had an enormous impact on not only Colombia, but many South American countries, and the ramifications still exist today. In Colombia alone the war on drugs caused much violence within the country and took a toll on its economy as well in terms of not only drug production and sales, but also tourism and investment from other countries. I know also that the war on drugs has had a major impact on the economy of Bolivia because coca is their major cash crop, and with the US and its allies in opposition of its production, Bolivia has suffered. Again, it just seems like such a huge and well known piece of Latin American history to leave out of a text like Cien Anos de Soledad.

That being said, I would like to thank everyone, especially Jon, for a great semester and I wish you all the best!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Una comparacion

Comparing these three novels is interesting because while they all deal with similar themes of oppression, subjugation, and magic, they are all still very different. In "Leyendas de Guatemala" we became introduced to native culture and magical realism from a more Indigenous perspective of culture and their surroundings. Expressions were metaphorical: "I am the sun", and the magic was incorporated in the natural beauty and surroundings of the land of Guatemala.

In terms of the use of magical realism, I enjoyed Carpentier's version the most. He used the idea of magic, the belief in magic, and religion almost interchangeably in that they were all inter-connected. The slaves used the magic that was a part of their religion, and therefore a fundamental part of their belief system, as a way to cope with the oppression of the slave-owners. It was interesting that the magic part of the book was not complete fantasy because it was believed by the people.

Cien Anos de Soldedad dealt with magical realism in a unique way as well. Like Leyendas, Garcia Marquez incorporated magical realism in a retelling of the story of the colonization of the americas, but I felt that he gave more of a european/ western view and telling than did Asturias; Asturias told the story from the point of view of the Indigenous whereas Garcia Marquez gave more of a colonial/ colonizer perspective, but both were focused on the changes that the colonization brought about.

Marquez's use of magical realism was harder to detect. In the other works, the audience was normally able to detect when events were real and when they were magic, but in Cien anos de Soledad the reader was continuously left wondering what was real and what wasn't. Marquez plays with his audience in this way and reinforces the idea of a circular time-frame and keeps the audience a bit confused until the end of the story. He also puts himself in the work, which is a bit of a game as well and reinforces the idea of magical realism in the story; he is telling the story, but the story is being told. It is as though we don't know where he is or what point of view he is telling from. It feels like a story within a story.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The End of 100 Anos de Soledad

And we find ourselves back to the theme of forgetfulness. The people of Macondo have forgotten their entire history, which only lasted one hundred years- one hundred years of pain and, you guessed it, solitude for many of them. I found the story of the Banana workers to be the most interesting. How could an entire town forget a massacre of its people? Garcia Marquez told the story of the United Fruit Co. in an extremely poetic manner. He tells it as a story that, as we discussed in class, is enveloped in subjectivity. Who should the town believe? They have been told for so long that all the people are in their homes, but Aureliano says otherwise: that they have all been killed. Would the people of Macondo want to remember, or even believe, that their friends and family had been killed by the company that they allowed to enter the town? It was easier to believe that the workers were in their homes, and it was easier to remember history in that way. Like they say, 'ignorance is bliss'. Whose history would you rather believe, the happier or the morbid? I think that is also why the history and memory of Macondo is circular. How can history not repeat itself if you do not learn from your mistakes? Garcia Marquez is reinforcing the idea of having selective memory and trusting the popular/ commercialized memory vs the memory of what really happened; many times they are not the same, especially the memory of Latin America. This is also a way of emphasizing the interchangeable nature of reality and fantasy/ magic in this book; regularly the fantasy is more believable and easier to handle than the truth.

In the end, the entire town is swept away by what I took to be the town's ignorance and unwillingness to learn from their mistakes (aka the wind). The reader is left with a sense of urgency and also helplessness. It is as though Garcia Marquez is saying that we are all reading our own destiny, and if we do not learn from our past, we will be destroyed, similarly to Macondo. It is a form of self-destruction; the solidarity.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

cien anos 3

Back to solitude again. The theme is so comprehensive throughout the book that it is difficult not to discuss. It is obvious that each characters is suffering from the solitude that seems to have enveloped Macondo, but what I am thinking is interesting now is that the town itself is becoming less and less solitary. There is now a train going through Macondo, and technology is becoming a bigger part of life in the town. It is as though technology and solitude parallel each other. The bigger and more advanced that Macondo gets, the more lonely the characters seem to feel. I think the same can be seen on a smaller scale as well with the example of Buendia as a colonel; the more power and women he attains, the more the solitude sets in. I suppose it is an analogy for the effects that technology had on the indigenous people of latin america. Also, I think it is interesting how the bigger the town becomes, the more the people forget. Words and objects are still losing their meanings although people are coming into the town and should be able to help the people remember. Maybe this is a metaphor for the loss of language during the conquest? You see, I am relating everything to la conquista because I think that is what this book is really about . . . pretty profound, eh? Just kidding.

The incestuous nature of the characters of the book is becoming more clear as well. Many of the children in this book (most in fact) have the same names as their parents. How many Aureliano Buendia's are there now?? My god. And there are brothers screwing the same woman, and guys having sex with donkeys?! Things are starting to heat up! But really, the sex in the story (which already was a major theme) is getting more and more wild, and clearly there is a point. The relationship between Aureliano Segundo and Petra Cotes is actually making the animals more fertile. The reasons for the sex, repetition, and inbreeding is still lost to me, but I'm hoping that it will become more clear as the story continues. It is also very possible that I have overlooked quite a bit!

Monday, March 8, 2010

cien anos de soledad #2!

Late. Sorry, I was so tired last night that I actually couldn't think, so I decided to wait until today to write my blog, although I'm not sure it will actually make any difference . . . I guess we'll see!

I would like to dedicate part of this post to trying to analyze and understand the title of "Cien anos de soledad". I would like to start with the idea of solitude, which seems to have taken on two different meanings in the novel. First is the solitude experienced by the individual characters. There have been instances where Jose Arcadio Buendia, Melquiades, and Aureliano decide to confine themselves to the laboratory, which I'm still a little confused about. Why the laboratory? It seems to be a recurring theme, and I don't really know why each character is drawn to the place.

The second place the reader can experience the idea of solitude is in Macondo itself. The town is secluded throughout the story in a way that makes it difficult to get to. Eventually more people begin to migrate there, but if I remember correctly, the initial solitude of Macondo was part of the reason Ursula decided they should stay there in the first place.

So, more people start migrating to Macondo, but them comes Rebeca and the insomnia, which causes the residents of the town to want to seclude themselves once again in a sort of solitary confinement sort of way in order to try to get rid of the disease and regain their memory.

Now why is it one hundred years of solitude? I am finding that a bit more difficult to understand. I read the first part of Laura's blog in which she gives an interesting explaination. She said somehting along the lines of the idea that one hundred years is about the amount of time that we use to measure human life. People are expected to live somewhere around 100 years (well, maybe only the lucky ones, but who's counting?).

So, I guess if I were to put two and two together I would come up with the solution that the one hundred years of the title refers to the idea of human life, the solitude refers to Macondo as a whole as well as the some of the individuals living there, and these two ideas put together trying to explain that Macondo and the people living there will be living in some form of solitude their whole lives.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

cien anos de soledad

Magic vs real, pre-colonization vs post-colonialization, nature vs modernity. These seem to be some of the major themes of "Cien Anos de Soledad". The story thus far, as I understand it, is a retelling of the colonization of the Americas. The Buendia family has settled in a beautiful and somewhat primitive place called Macondo, etc.

What I found more interesting was the incorporation of Christian ideals into the story, which also played an immense roll in the colonization of the americas (the spanish viewed the indigenous people as barbaric and unintelligent because of their lack of worship for the christian god). The story of genesis is apparent in "Cien anos de soledad" as well as christian ideals such as keeping blood lines clean.

I think that Garcia Marquez's focus on christianity in the plot may be part of the reason he uses magic in his novel. Christianity is not real to the people of latin america just like magic is not real in the world. If christianity can be real, magic can be real? I am almost reading the use of magic as a coping mechanism for a religion that was brutally forced upon a population. It is how individuals experienced la conquista. It is also perhaps to emphasize the idea of how the europeans invading the western world must have appeared to the indigenous: like magic.