Monday, January 28, 2008

The first 1/2 of The President

Asturias writes in a very unique style, with many onomatopoeias, if that's what he's intending to use them as, such as on page 21, "They're going to bury them! Ta-ra-ra! Ta-ra-ra-boom!" Actually, I'm not completely sure what he was going for with that phrase. I love the idea of delving into what the subconscious effects are of a malicious dictator. The style of this writing is very descriptive and abstract, which makes it a little more difficult to just plow through it quickly, while maintaing complete understanding of the characters, plot, and basic idea of the book. There's a lot of subtext and hidden meaning.
I love how he creates a visual image through describing the context of a scenario. An example of this is on page nineteen, when he says, "doors and doors and doors and windows and doors and windows flashed passed him." This style is very poetic and fluid, and I really enjoy how he incorporates that into his storytelling.
That being said, I'm not sure I actually get a sense of the plot completely. I understand he's trying to expose a ruthless dictator, I understand he goes into a lot of dream sequences, but it's hard for me to differentiate between what's part of the plot and what's a character's psyche. I also don't really get how the dictator affects each individual, like "the Zany." What exactly does "the Zany" represent? Why is he/it called that? Maybe it was mentioned in the text, but I missed that completely. I'm probably just way too literal of a person to get all of Asturias' subtle and creative ideas. But the plot does begin to make more and more sense as it continues.
The angle of the head authority, the resident psychopath realizing something unjust (according to him) is occurring in his presence and he begins to take a gradual, diabolical revenge is a plot theme used in various other storylines since this book was written. Even in Disney movies we see this idea being used, all of the villains always take the one person captive that the protagonist couldn't live without, i.e. Peter Pan, Snow White, Cinderella, etc. The tragic part of this text is that Asturias is speaking out against tyrannical dictators with too much power, a character that does exist all the time, and often runs countries. Not just impoverished ones, either, an example being the current president of the United States.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Sarmiento's writing style doesn't particularly light my board, but I enjoy how he shows all of the psychology behind Facundo, as well as behind the dictator's mind in general. Examining him from all angles gives a much greater perspective of a Sociopath's mind. He went into great detail about the man, how he enjoys gambling, but rigs his games so that if anyone beats him, they're severly punished (i.e. being hurt or murdered).
Though I like how Sarmiento intends to fully depict the other side of his argument, his descriptions of Facundo still seem so one-sided, as though he's just sort of making everything up about him as he goes along. I'd like to know how this book impacted its readers at the time and how they responded to it. Was it truly revolutionary? He just sounds like a guy with opinions, sometimes uninformed ones, attempting to display his rage and disgust for South America and its political regimes. There's nothing particularly wrong with that, but I'd like to know how much he researched and how much of this is truly what Facundo's like. Sarmiento doesn't show Facundo's vulnerable side or at least a complete three hundred sixty degree look at who a dictator, or a psychopath, really is, and how they come to be. He mentions hobbies and what he does, as if this is a tale of a man who came to power, but in the context of an old western or something.
Maybe he couldn't have made the character too blatantly paralleling who he was based off of, otherwise he'd be discovered almost instantly. I'm not sure, but I'd like to know more about who Sarmiento is and what kind of impact he had on society during his time.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The first 1/2 of Facundo

Reading the conversation Sarmiento printed between him and Dr. Don Manuel Ignacio Castro Barros made me very grateful for living in a free society, where not half the population is fleeing from lack of resources or government cruelty or a severe lack of medical care. This conversation I felt really exemplified the reason for why Sarmiento wanted to speak out against the injustice and pain his society has suffered and write about a dictator. He gives an unusual amount of background on some of the history of Argentina and barbarization, but it really sets the reader up for understanding 1) Where he's coming from, and 2) How dictatorships came to be in Argentina, or just in general.
Just this page long conversation alone really depicts the state of anarchy that revolution and/or war can bring about. This revolution in terms of Marx wasn't a failure, based on the fact that no one in particular had a lot of money; the doctor mentions that everyone is very poor, no one had any large fortunes of fifty thousand pesos. Therefore, everyone was relatively on the same economic plane. However, this revolution destroyed Argentine economy and even population.
It's easy to tell that Sarmiento is greatly impassioned by the history of Argentina and the vast amount of social problems it has faced. One way he shows this is by answering all of his own furious questions with a resounding "no!" He also ends many sentences in exclamation points. An example being, "Might you think that such mediocrity is normal for a city of the interior? No!"
When I got to the fifth chapter, Life of Juan Facundo Quiroga, it seemed to me that the book really should have started here. He had a wonderful, masjestic beginning that painted a vivid picture for the reader. It felt like the first few chapters were more of a self-indulgent rant, to show his knowledge of previous history and to set up the horrors that Argentina has faced, but much of these chapters involved his anger that could have been omitted. His writing takes on an entirely different approach and purpose starting in chapter five, to the point where it might have been easier to just do a bit of research on the 1810 revolution, The "Baqueano," and looked at a map of Argentina before reading "Life of Facundo Quiroga."
I liked the line on page 100, "I see in them a greant man, a man of genius in spite of himself and without knowing it, a Caesar, a Tamerlane, a Mohammed."

Thursday, January 10, 2008

first entry

This is my first blog, and I'm not exactly sure what the parameters are for this one. We talked about the correlation between writing and power in class today, and I was particularly interested in how powerful the medium of writing can be, especially when one is living with unfortunate circumstances, with no real outlet to express their pain. Writing can be very therapeutic and necessary to heal wounds from imprisonment, living under a dictatorship, and severe censorship in general, which becomes apparent with Sarmiento's Facundo.
Facundo isn't exactly the quickest or easiest read thus far, but knowing that it was immensely powerful for an entire culture at one point makes it more immediately interesting. The time period in which it was written, therefore the language that comes with it makes it a more difficult read, for me, at least. I've also noticed that having grown up in an ADD society and generation, I seek stimulous constantly and am bored with any form of entertainment unless it delivers action almost instantaneously. I've noticed that literature became a lot more interesting, on the whole, in the 20th century. Obviously there are exceptions, and there are certainly many influential, revolutionary books written before the 20th century, but the language becomes so dated, even the English translation doesn't feel like it's in a language I can understand fully.
The material for this class is a lot more promising than most literature classes that I've looked at in the UBC course catalogue. Latin America has a rich, fascinating history, that even outdated material can still be interesting because the content and emotion drives each piece of work. I haven't read too much Canadian literature, seeing as I'm not Canadian and have only lived here during University, but what I have read has proved my belief that Canada is too functional a country to produce a high quantity of engaging, passionate, and painful dramas, whether they be fictional or not. Canadians are too nice and the government here is so much more regulated and maintained than any of it's Southern neighbors, I would image that it's hard for the average Canadian to know what being truly screwed over by your government and alienated within your own culture is like. There was no slavery and were no revolutions.
Latin American and Spanish literature I've read thus far has all been worthwhile and interesting. At some point I plan on living in Spain and/or Ecuador, so knowing a bit of background about important works will probably prove ultimately helpful in me attempting to converse intelligently in Spanish (though I don't know if that's possible yet).