I have been a selfish being all my life, in practice, though not in principle.  As a child, I was taught what was right, but I was not taught to correct my temper.  I was given good principles, but left to follow them in pride and conceit.  Unfortunately, an only son (for many years an only child), I was spoilt by my parents, who, though good themselves (my father, particularly, all that was benevolent and amiable), allowed, encouraged, almost taught me to be selfish and overbearing; to care for none beyond my own family circle; to think meanly of all the rest of the world; to wish at least to think meanly of their sense and worth compared with my own.  Such I was, from eight to eight and twenty; and such I might still have been but for you, dearest, loveliest Elizabeth!  What do I not owe you!  You taught me a lesson, heard indeed at first, but most advantageous.  By you, I was properly humbled.  I came to you without a doubt of my reception.  You showed me how insufficient were all my pretensions to please a woman worthy of being pleased.

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813)

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It was Leslie who had taken him from the cow pasture into Terabithia and turned him into a king.  He had thought that was that.  Wasn’t king the best you could be?  Now it occurred to him that perhaps Terabithia was like a castle where you came to be knighted.  After you stayed for a while and grew strong, you had to move on.  For hadn’t Leslie, even in Terabithia, tried to push back the walls of his mind and make him see beyond to the shining world – huge and terrible and beautiful and very fragile? (Handle with care – everything – even the predators.)

Now it was time for him to move out.  She wasn’t there, so he must go for both of them.  It was up to him to pay back the world in beauty and caring what Leslie had loaned him in vision and strength.

As for the terrors ahead – for he did not fool himself that they were all behind him – well, you just have to stand up to your fear and not let it squeeze you white.  Right, Leslie?

Right.

Katherine Paterson, Bridge to Terabithia (1977)

Keep love in your heart.  A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead.

Oscar Final O’Flahertie Wills Wilde, simply known as Oscar Wilde, Irish poet, playwright; one of London’s most popular playwrights in the early 1890s (1854-1900)

Note: I usually don’t write comments on quotes, but I just had to write something about this one.  Oscar Wilde is a magician whose wand is a pen- he writes so beautifully that sometimes your heart hurts because it is unable to handle all the emotions his writing makes you feel.
Image Credit: OUT AT ST PAUL

 

“Nunca hay que vender la tierra.  Es lo único que queda cuando todo lo demás se acaba.”
English: “Land is something one should never sell.  It is the only thing left when all else is gone.”

Isabel Allende, La casa de los espíritus, The House of Spirits (1982)

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Note: Because I didn’t write a book review in a while … x ec

So, I’m currently taking an American short story class because 1) I love short stories, and 2) I need to finish my minor.  As a typical discussion class, we examine various texts, representative of the American canon and compare how each author and relevant work tie into a certain theme.  Last week’s theme, “Fantasy and the supernatural,” had a special story: Un señor muy viejo con unas alas enormes (English: A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings, 1955), a short by one of most recognizable writers of the 20th century, Gabriel García Márquez.

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Before diving into this story, there are some things that need to be clarified.  Firstly, I find that categorizing García Márquez into an American short story is tone deaf.  Although it’s geographically correct to refer to his works as part of American literature, we all know that when we hear America, we (incorrectly) only think of the United States.  You can’t just pick one of the best parts of Latin America and reject the rest of their diverse culture.

Beyond this, I feel that American literature lacks imagination and magic; there is an interesting article written in The Atlantic which talks about the inevitable pitfalls for Americans because of this missing creativity.  García Márquez’s writing is therefore separate from the typical American literary design because he effectively uses fantastical themes to give both the writer and readers solace, in comparison to the somber and the inevitable fall of society tones that many American writers use.

Secondly, this isn’t the first time that I have read this story.  Prior to this class, I read this in one of my Spanish elective courses because you can’t study Spanish literature without García Márquez – he’s even talked about in English-speaking creative writing courses as a model!  However, no two professors will speak on the same text in exactly the same way, so I believe that it was great to experience this story in two different perspectives.

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Here’s a quick summary of the text:

After three days of rain, an old, unkempt man with large wings lands in Pelayo and Elisenda’s backyard.  To the disbelief of the two, a neighbor suggests that this man must be an angel.  However, the old man’s presence begs the age-old question of physical evidence and faith, as the deeply religious town are torn between mocking and praising the winged man.

In this short story, García Márquez demonstrates the use of magical realism, where the supernatural and other fantastical characteristics are presented in a mundane setting.  A common theme of magical realism is the passing of time; time becomes fluid like water, but still fits perfectly with the logic of the plot.  In this story, we see the use of this technique with the entrance of the old man.  His wings are clearly a part of him, as we know that people aren’t genetically predisposed to have them, which establishes the fantastical aspect.

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The historical implications of this technique are important because during the time of publication, García Márquez’s native Colombia was facing La Violencia (English: The Violence), a 10-year civil war.  We see a rural town that’s effectively run by the words of Fr. Gonzaga, a show of the importance of religion as government to the rural folk.  When a “divine” figure who doesn’t fit the archetypes of God’s angel enters their lives, touched by mortality, we see that their actions aren’t consistent with their religious beliefs.

If this man is really an angel, then it shakes not only the foundation of the Church, but also the town, which is heavily reliant on the religion because he didn’t understand Latin or Aramaic, the “languages” of God.  However, if he isn’t an angel, the townspeople are still hypocrites because the tenets of Christianity state to help the poor, yet no one truly helps him, only Pelayo and Elisenda’s child seems to bring the old man some semblance of happiness.

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Gabriel García Márquez, shows us why we need to be well read.  Though he isn’t as reactionary as other writers, he is a great example of reactionary writing.  These types of stories are not only great to read, but they’re invaluable history lessons about the author’s home country’s political, social, and economic turmoil.  Some writers try to escape these terrible situations through writing beautiful art, or they are extremely critical of their country’s situation.  Either way, it’s a treat and a warning to work towards a brighter future.

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Purchase the short story collection with the original version here and English translation here.

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Image Credit: Wild Works

I dreamed I was a butterfly, flitting around in the sky; then I awoke.  Now I wonder: Am I a man who dreamt of being a butterfly, or am I a butterfly dreaming that I am a man?

Zhuang Zhou, popularly known as Zhuangzi, Chinese philosopher, influential during the Warring States period (370 BCE-287 BCE)

“Once you are my friend, I am responsible for you.”

– Antoine Marie Jean-Baptiste Roger, comte de Saint-Exupéry, known as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, French writer, poet, aristocrat, journalist, pioneering aviator (1900-1944)

Image Credit: Odyssey

ORIG. Middle English:
Right as bitwixen adamentes two
Of evene might, a pece of iren set
Ne hath no might to meve to ne fro-
For what that oon may hale, that other let –
Ferde I, that niste whether me was bet
To entre or leve, til Affrican my gide
Me hente, and shoof in at the gates wide,

And saide, “It stant writen in thy face
Thyn errour, though thou telle it nat to me;
But dreed thee nat to come into this place,
For this writing nis no thing ment by thee.
Ne by noon but he Loves servent be;
For thou of love hast lost thy taste, I gesse,
As sik man hath of sweete and bitternesse.

TRANS. Modern English:
As between adamantine magnets two
Of even strength, a piece of iron set
That has no power to move to or fro-
For though one attract the other iwll let
It move – so I, that knew not whether yet
To enter or leave, till that Scipio my guide
Grasped me and thrust me in at the gates wide.

And said, “It appears written in your face,
Your error, though you tell it not to me;
But fear you not to come into this place.
Since this writing is never meant for thee,
Nor any unless he Love’s servant me;
For you for love have lost your taste, I guess,
As a sick man has for sweet or bitterness.

Geoffrey Chaucer, The Dream Visions, Parlement of Foules, also known as The Parliament of Fowls, lines 148-161 (approx. 1382)

Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead.  Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow.  Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Albert Camus, French philosopher, author, and journalist (1913-1960)