Saturday, April 10, 2010

Flipping the coin.

The most interesting part of this course for me has come at the end with the comparison of McOndo and Macondo. As a HUGE fan of magical realism, I was at first thrown off with the mission statement of McOndo's editors.....Why would they want to criticize such a beautiful genre of writing? But after reading a few of the stories within the collaborative work, I realize that they are right: Latin America was being stereotyped, and in a big way. Reading the works of authors who are young, innovative, and not well-known is always an eye-opening event. I certainly didn't enjoy all of them that I read (ie: "Mi estado físico"....sorry, boring), but on the whole they delved into a Latin America that we don't usually see, but that we can all relate to. Why? Because it is a world almost identical to ours.

McOndo dances around with the idea of globalization. It's ironic that they were searching for the true flavour of Latin American literature, and ended up with an interrelation of all things human. Well, maybe not ALL things human....

I say this because I was surprised at the utter lack of female author representation in McOndo. What does this tell us? That Latin America does not have female writers? That their work is sub-par? That they are not supported? Clearly, Latin America has female writers (many of them celebrated...although we know Jon's thoughts on Laura Esquivel!) The last scenario is perhaps more the case. Where are these unsupported, unknown female writers, and why didn't McOndo track them down in order to add them to the shortlist of young and upcoming Latin American writers? Now, I'm not a feminist or on a mission to bring Latin American women into the limelight for whatever their achievements in writing are (ah, ignorance on that subject!); but c'mon editors, let's not be too one-sided here! Show the world all of the identities enveloped in that phrase of "Latin American Writers".

Overall, this course was a pleasure. It has piqued my interest in magical realism and provided background and insight into its method and symbolism. Once again, rounding the course out with a book dedicated to changing the perspective on Latin American writing was an engaging concept. I may still attribute some of the best magical realism out there to the writers of Latin America, but at least now I have witnessed the other side of that coin.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Seeking reality.

I don't think it's that these authors and their stories in McOndo have miraculously appeared after the BOOM, but that North America (et al.) just wasn't aware of their existence. As media is able to manipulate the beliefs and perspectives that the general public has about foreign countries, they can also control what kind of pacifying literature we receive. This situation reminds me of two periods in my life. Firstly, when I went to live in Colombia for two months. Had I not been 'head-over-heels in love' (I now use that term loosely), I probably would not have gone to this country where the only image I had branded in my mind was of this greasy druglord with a white pants, shiny shoes, a button-down hawaiian shirt, an oversized mustachio, and large sunglasses on (so you can never tell where he's lookin).....straight out of the know the one. Well, needless to say, I didn't see this stereotype ANYWHERE on my trip and Colombia STILL continues to be my favorite country due to its generous culture, amicable gente, and beautiful (BEAUTIFUL!) landscape. This tropical visit not only influenced my life in a profound way, but it also made me realize how dominated our society is with being told what we should believe...without any personal investigation whatsoever. This leads me to my second experience. Last year I did some research on Latin American influence in film (see if you've got time during these last stressful weeks of school, haha!), and slowly came to realize that through the medium of film, television, and all of the Hollywood hits that are cherished, we are told that Latin America is either a utopia for the escapist or a treacherous wasteland full of kidnappers and drug smuggling (most often depending on the country's relations with the United States at the time). The industry has given us various stereotypes of the hispanic culture: a goofy, sombrero-sportin, sidekick on a donkey; a zorro-esque hero; a curvacious Latin bombshell; etc, etc...

And so McOndo seeks to engender in our hearts the truth about Latin American society: it really is no different from our own. Sure there are distinct cultural differences....there has to be. However, with the advances in technology and the ease of modern world travel, Earth has become an amalgamation of the same youth: a texting, iPHONE toting, 'looking for a good time', internet addicted youth. And yes, you and I are part of this same youth. So it is no wonder that these 'new' authors of McOndo are young and unknown. They lack the knowledge and experience of the civil strife and unrest in Latin countries which is evident via the symbolic nature of magical realism. This makes me wonder: Is magical realism a tool to stealthily deliver a criticizing blow to authority without doing it openly?

McOndo and 'Macondo' both tell the stories of 'everday' events; yet Macondo speaks to the imagination (Magical Realism), while McOndo tells of things that could happen to any of us (put simply: the Magic of Life). The McOndo story from Spain, "He conocido a mucha gente", speaks of what I like to call 'the travelling curse'; that vagabond mentality which allows friendships with amazing people, but only for a limited time. Or "Buenas noches" where the protagonist often wakes up in strange places and is so confused/scared/agitated that he returns to his unconsciousness because "puedes dormir en cualquier parte, pero no puedes despertarte en cualquier parte." (p.175) [ie: Think back to any time you may have passed out at una feria with no idea where you were the next morning.] From Mexico, "La mujer químicamente compatible" refers to women by the places they are from and the 'chemical reactions' which ensue. "La gente de látex" describes the narrator's plight of fame: beneficial or detrimental? And "Mi estado físico" was a depressingly boring tale about a solitary man who can't seem to escape depressingly boring events.

All of these plots either relate to us or remind us of someone we have heard of. In this way, McOndo documents the common human condition of life....something which is perhaps lost in the imagination of Magical Realism.