Sunday, January 31, 2010

Is it bad if I want to read it again in English?

As you can infer from the title of this entry, I don't feel as though I got the most out of El reino de este mundo as I'd hoped. On top of that, I feel guilty: I should have looked up more words, concentrated harder, etc... You see, a good friend of mine recommended the English version of this book to me as a must-read a few years ago. But now that I've read the Spanish version, I don't understand how he could have raved about this novel so much! Thus, the guilt, the confusion, and the yearning to read it English.

Not that I haven't pieced things together with a bit of internet research. My one problem with the entire second half was not knowing heads nor tails of what was going on and which events led to which. For example, all of a sudden (seeming to me to come from nowhere), Henri Cristophe is king. I even searched back in the pages and failed to find the exact moment of something that denoted his rise from cook to royalty (and I am sure that it's there, but that's just my point: Carpentier manuevers the plot so subtly that if you're not careful, you miss that someone important died [which happened several times to me while reading] or another person rose to power). After more internet searching, my feelings were confirmed: more than one person comments on the non-linear order of such events and their stealthy insertion into the novel [insert 'sigh of relief' here].

Paulina Bonaparte interested me. She didn't seem to have any first-hand experience with the blacks from Haiti ("[ella] había leído los amores de Pablo y Virginia y conocía una linda contradanza criolla, de ritmo extraño...", p.80); but still she had a peculiar fascination with them. This runs parallel to the theme of the dominated knowing more about themselves and the world than those who dominate them.throughout the story. Wanting to know more about Paulina, I checked out her Wikipedia page, which led me to a much-needed realization. The Wikipedia page says that her husband (Leclerc) died of Yellow Fever which he contracted while in Haiti. Of course! Why is that a realization? Well, would you believe that this whole time I had actually thought that Mackandal's 'magic mushrooms' were the cause of the collossal death count from the first half of the book?! This hammered home the concept of magical realism: Carpentier had crafted the magic into the plot so sneakily that anyone naïve enough (such as myself) would believe every word he said. Now I realize the point of taking something such as yellow fever and creating a living, life-stealing, voodoo-borne organism out of it. The idea is tremendous because you can imagine that that would be how the Europeans saw this deadly plague for which they had no prevention of or cure for. Carpentier places it into our imaginations and lets it root and grow. I may feel guilty about not understanding the whole novel, but I do not feel ashamed about Carpentier being able to dupe me like that. In fact, it makes me want to delve into the English version of this book even more!

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed your reading of El reino de este mundo. Especially your take on how 'magic mushrooms' were a possible contributing factor. It was a strong enough conection that Carpentier could have used to highlight the symbolism of 'magical realism' as you have discussed