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Monthly Archives: April 2008

Dos buenos resúmenes de La Casa Verde

De Martín Lucas Pérez:

Mario Vargas Llosa narra en forma de rompecabezas espacio-temporal una historia en torno a una banda de contrabandistas de caucho, un prostíbulo que perdura sobre los alegatos y atentados del cura del pueblo, y una india que de recogida y educada por las monjas pasa a ser la esposa de un sargento del ejército y posteriormente prostituta del mencionado prostíbulo.

Es el personaje del sargento Lituma quien liga los dos escenarios fundamentales de la obra, la selva amazónica, donde se encuentra la misión de Santa María de Nieva y donde operan los contrabandistas, y la desértica llanura de Piura, donde se alza el prostíbulo llamado la Casa Verde. Natural de Piura, Lituma forma parte de las expediciones que buscan la captura de los contrabandistas de caucho que utilizan a los indios para sus actividades y al mismo tiempo los soliviantan con sus mezquindades. El jefe de la modesta pero persistente partida es un brasileño llamado Fushía, que nunca será detenido aunque acabará carcomido por una infección. Su compañera Lalita acabará siendo la esposa del navegante Nieves, que en cambio sí que irá a la cárcel. Además de los hijos propios, Lalita y Nieves cuidan a la joven india Bonifacia, a quien las monjas han expulsado de su misión, después de haberla criado desde muy pequeña, por haber permitido la huida de otras indias pupilas del lugar que echaban de menos la vida selvática.

El sargento Lituma se enamora de la modesta y encantadora Bonifacia, se casa con ella y se la lleva a Piura. Para aplacar la fanfarronería de uno de los notables del lugar, Lituma acepta jugar a la ruleta rusa y el otro muere en el juego, por lo que el sargento es encarcelado, y uno de sus amigos, Josefino, aprovecha la ocasión para caer sobre su esposa, corromperla, incitarla a abortar del embarazo con que había quedado y conseguir que responda a la falta de recursos en que ha quedado metiéndose a prostituta de la Casa Verde. Este prostíbulo, de larga historia en la ciudad, fue incendiado años atrás por el cura local y posteriormente reconstruido y dirigido con éxito por la joven Chunga, quien tras la muerte de su madre, venga los abusos que cometiera con ella su padre, don Anselmo, fundador del lugar, teniéndole como simple empleado como intérprete de arpa.

La novela se estructura en capítulos divididos a su vez en segmentos en los que la acción va avanzando en cada una de las localizaciones, aunque no en orden cronológico sino a lo largo de diferentes periodos que van desde la Segunda Guerra Mundial hasta más de veinte años después. Además, en cada uno de estos segmentos, se insertan breves flashbacks y flashforwards que amplian la información de lo que se va narrando.

*

Del Opus Dei, una organización que no apoyo, hay un buen resumen con un esbozo / esquema de la estructura de la novela.

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Posted by on April 29, 2008 in Vargas Llosa

 

Jungle Feminism

We were talking about the voyage to the jungle as a masculine identity quest and now, it appears, someone has written about it as a feminIST one. I know about this from reading blogs, so excuse the informality of the writing in these posts – the material is interesting. The book in question is by Amanda Marcotte and it is a guide for women on how to survive the “jungle” of patriarchy. Except that all the women are white and all the scary, oppressive men are Black.

On this check out the images at:
The Field Negro, Black Male Savages
Holly at Feministe, I Guess It’s a Jungle In Here, Too
Jill at Feministe, On Those Pictures and on Privilege.

There is probably more on this book, and more of it available to read even without lighting out for Barnes & Noble.

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2008 in Torgovnick

 

La selva de La Casa Verde

+ See the Wikipedia page about Vargas Llosa’s essay “Historia secreta de una novela.” It is about how he came to write La casa verde, including research trips to the jungle. The descriptions in this essay of what he saw and went through as a traveler are fascinating (and somewhat harrowing).

+ On travel to the same jungle now: here is what it would be like on a deluxe tour from Iquitos to Manaus (“happy jungle”). Note the cost per day of that. Here’s another, similar tour description. Here, however, are some budget tourists’ descriptions of what it is like to go on the regular boats, that poor people ride on and the characters in La casa verde would ride on. I like this description of the trip from Pucallpa to Iquitos quite a lot. I read another more graphic description – about the smells on the boat and how crowded it was – but I cannot find it right now.

+ I notice that La casa verde uses some of the same language about the jungle we have seen elsewhere (e.g. in Heart of Darkness). Who is saying these things … the characters, the narrator, or both … ?

+ I reiterate: this novel is built like a mosaic. It’s a regular, systematic mosaic, and it gets easier to read after the first (unnumbered) section. But we keep jumping between threads of different stories, which are not woven together until the end. We have to accept that we’re jumping from place to place (usually in the same order, though) and get used to it.

+ Time in this novel jumps around, too, and overlaps. Sometimes characters are remembering, or telling each other what happened. Other times, new events are taking place in the present.

+ The narrative voice in this novel is also strange. The narrator is often representing or narrating the thoughts (or commentary) of a character, and blending his perspective with that of the character. The narrator is not, however, identified with the perspective of any particular character, and sometimes the narrator becomes a more distanced third person narrator.

So, hang on tight and just remember: we’re on an Amazonian boat trip, so things are supposed to be slightly strange!

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2008 in Vargas Llosa

 

Black Venus (and Madame Delphine)

For her presentation Katrice discovered this book: Black Venus: Sexualized Savages, Primal Fears, and Primitive Narratives in French and it promises to be very interesting.

She also brought our attention to Mme. Delphine Lalaurie. She is rumored to be a quadroon, but I am not yet sure Louisiana writer George Washington Cable’s novel Madame Delphine (in which the character is explicitly quadroon) is about Delphine Lalaurie or not.

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2008 in Bibliography, Torgovnick

 

Torgovnick 9

Notes on Torgovnick, Chapter 9, “Adventurers”

– Westerners seek the primitive so as to find a home: often having to do with their own needs, not those of the other, and not common needs. Examples: Blair getting to experience a cosmic dream (in the sixties, originally funded by Ringo Starr); Schneebaum among the Asmat, where homosexual practices are allowed. But note that among the Asmat the Blair had been terrified when the prospect of getting killed and eaten had reared its head! They went there to film and make money on the film, but when things got sticky, they wanted an airlift. That is why Blair had more fun in Bali, where he went subsequently and had his cosmic dream. “We had found a home,” he said.

– So “going primitive” means a search for home and origins. We seek in the primitive a time before our troubles arose. In doing so, we construct the primitive as less advanced than we. By saying the primitive is ahistorical we bring it into the circle of our needs. We cannot let it have its own history separate from ours – it has to occupy a place at the beginning of our history – because if we allowed it a separate history, it would not fulfill our desires. Also, the primitive must be available and accessible to us. If not, once again, it cannot meet our needs.

– People particularly interested in finding a home in the primitive tend to be or feel exiled from their own societies (e.g. Schneebaum, a homosexual; Boas, uncomfortable in Germany due to rising anti-Semitism there; Malinowski, caught in Australia due to WWI).

– The Marxist literary theorist Georg Lukács coined the term “transcendental homelessness” as descriptor of the modern condition. Georges Bataille, the 20th French philosopher, wanted to transcend the anxiety of selfhood through cannibalism, human sacrifice, suicide – the obliteration of self in otherness.

– Leaving the city for the jungle in these contexts is very attractive. Yet colonialism and modernization have, paradoxically, brought the city and the jungle into closer and closer contact – and often the jungle is not the “wild” in the sense of being “pure” but is rather the rough underside of “civilization.” To the cities flock destitute primitives, who there become the urban poor. And the jungle becomes a place of “wild” capitalism and exploitation. In this context primitive art objects are more and more important in urban and elite spaces – university galleries, museums, well-heeled houses.

Western discourse on the primitive is about control and domination, but also about desire, about seeking salve for wounds, and about fear of losing power. And yet not every version of the primitive is the same. “When versions of the primitive show specific historical and cultural variations, they expose different aspects of the West itself. Primitivism is thus not a ‘subtopic’ of modernism or postmodernism: to study primitivism’s manifold presence is to recontextualize modernity.” (193)

STUDY QUESTION: Consider the bolded sentence in relation to La vorágine.

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2008 in Rivera

 

Lagniappe: Michel de Montaigne

Jungle material just keeps pouring in. That is to say, I realize more and more that almost everybody seems to go to the “jungle,” or to the the limits of what is considered “human,” to seek knowledge.

The inventor of the essay, sixteenth century French writer Michel de Montaigne has a famous essay on cannibals which posits in part that they may be more civilized than we. In this essay, Montaigne uses material from Spanish writers on the conquest of America, many of whom were his contemporaries or near contemporaries.

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2008 in Montaigne