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Whatever else one might say about García Márquez's view of love, his treatment of it is remarkably consistent. That view shows love as an irresistible force that overwhelms the rational mind and sweeps those in its grasp to the margins of conventional society. Social practices and institutions are anathema to the kind of passionate obsessions explored in Chronicle of a Death Foretold (Crónica de una muerte anunciada ), Love in the Time of Cholera (El amor en los tiempos del cólera ), Love and Other Demons (Del amor y otros demonios ) and Memories of My Melancholy Whores (Memoria de mis putas tristes ). Small wonder that love is at times confused with virulent diseases such as cholera and rabies, which cause their victims to be placed in quarantine. Love can seem a distinctly dangerous affliction. And it is an affliction almost always suffered by men - the women's (or usually adolescent girls') stories of love are mere glimpses. Men's suffering seems to bear out the notion that 'nothing in this world is more difficult than love', though fundamentally in García Márquez there is nothing remotely to compare with love's intoxicating wonder. Chronicle of a Death Foretold focuses on how society impedes the fulfillment of individual lives. In particular, it shows how the most important aspects of human experience are obstructed because social conventions take priority. Unlike the other novels considered here, love does not drive the narrative in Chronicle of a Death Foretold.
By bringing from distant lands our forms of life, our institutions, and our vision of the world and by striving to maintain all that in an environment sometimes unfavourable and hostile, we were exiles in our own land.
Sérgio Buarque de Hollanda
… there is always an estranging abstraction at work in the processes of exchange between the subaltern object of analysis and its commodifying discourse, in which disciplinary knowledge-formation is always contestable precisely because, by definition, it is not and can never be the knowledge of the Other as the Other would know herself or himself.
My subject is cultural relations and, in particular, relations on the global North/South axis. I am going to consider the multiple and challenging factors at play in the contemporary reading and analysis of Latin American cultures from positions within the metropolitan nations. The context for my approaching this subject is the postcolonial world in which such readings now necessarily take place, a world acutely conscious of the ethical and political dimensions of dealing with the Other. It is a context which has been explored intensively over the last ten years and in which there has developed a productive questioning of how the methods used in analysis in one context are exported to others, a process which may lead to the problematic reduction of the Other to the Same. My aim is to avoid such a reduction and yet to achieve a position in which metropolitan critical practice can be brought into ethical engagement with postcolonial Latin American cultures. The problems inherent in such cultural engagements are pithily encapsulated by the Cuban- American critic, Gustavo Pérez Firmat, who signals the acute sensitivity of Latin Americans to the ‘contribution’ of non-Latin Americans to their cultural debates:
… one of the most insidious types of colonialism is the onomastic or conceptual, the situation that arises when the originality or distinctiveness of the home-grown is explained and rationalized using foreign categories, as if we could grow the guavas but needed someone else to package the paste.
I am going to begin with beginnings. Each story in ISS begins with an arrival – a space or a consciousness is invaded by an unknown presence. But the nature of the invading presence differs: in ‘Constant Death’ and ‘Blacamán’ it is human (Onésimo Sánchez and Blacamán respectively); in ‘Very Old Man’ it is part-human (the bird-man); in ‘Drowned Man’ it was formerly human (Esteban's corpse); in ‘Sea’ and ‘Incredible Story’ it is a natural phenomenon (the smell of roses and a wind respectively); and in ‘Last Journey’ it is an object (the ghost ship). But in four of the stories the source of the invading presence is the same: in one way or another, the sea is associated with the arrival in ‘Very Old Man’, ‘Sea’, ‘Drowned Man’ and ‘Last Journey’, and in the first two of these the invading presence returns to the sea at the end. And in all of the stories the arrival has the same extraordinary effect – it becomes the focus of widespread, sometimes all-absorbing, attention – and in each case the arrival represents the inception of a series of events that will occupy the remainder of the story. The effect of the arrival is to disrupt – it introduces instability into a pre-existent situation, and that instability produces interest and also movement. The interest stimulated by the new arrival centres on a common reaction in several stories: the need to discover the meaning of the disruption.
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