final thoughts

April 8, 2007

Overall, I have liked this course. Reading novels and complete works in Spanish was new for me. Despite the fact that it was at times frustrating, I liked reading fewer but longer selections. I also appreciated the fact that the writing we read was modern as opposed to Spanish written 500 years ago. It makes a huge difference not only in terms of comprehension, but in terms of interest too.

At the beginning of the course, I never would have guessed that the theme of family would have ended up being so diverse. Thinking back on what constitutes family in each work, they are all so different. It really speaks to the endless variations, relationships and circumstances of families in reality. Despite the fact that family is unique to each individual, at the same time it is something that everyone has in common. Regardless of circumstance, everyone has a family. Every person has a mother and father and therefore familial relations as a result. My point is that there is no one definition of family that every individual subscribes to, yet it is a commonplace term used, and people understand what is meant by it. Out of curiosity, I just looked up “family” in the dictionary. One dictionary gave me 4 definitions, and the other gave me 15! This supports my comment about no one single definition of family.

I think I would have to say that Cien Anos was my favorite book. I liked that we were able to spend a lot of time on it. I know that there is so much in that book that we easily could have spent another month on it. I think part of the reason why I like it so much, in addition to the plot, was because the more I read, the easier it got. I think this was because I became more familiar with the writing, characters, etc.

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Cien años IV

March 26, 2007

After finishing this book, I definitely feel as though I have accomplished something.  Reading this book was no doubt a challenge for me considering my limited experience of reading Spanish literature.  With this said, however, I think my ability to read literature in Spanish has grown tremendously as a result of reading a 500 page book.  More so than the other works that we have read in this class, I think there is something to be said for the length of a work, and how it becomes easier the more familiar you become with it, and begin to know what to look for etc.  Class discussions have obviously contributed to my understanding and clarity of this book as well. Upon telling people that I was reading Cien años, I was shocked at the number of people who (not realizing I was reading it in Spanish) told me that they had started it (in English) and had not been able to finish it.  This only increases my sense of accomplishment, as well as highlighting the difficulty of this book.

 

On an entirely different note….In the end, I think that Ursula was my favourite character.  Throughout the novel, I never really cared for or disliked any characters more than others.  However, the more I read, the more I liked Ursula.  She is the foundation of the Buendía family and despite everything that occurs (war, death, insanity etc.), she is the one that has always kept them together.  Perhaps this is true in the fact that it speaks to the strength and foundation that not only women, but mothers provide in a family structure.  Ursula always seemed to be right-minded and have a firm sense of reality despite everything taking place around her. Although she came across as being harsh at times, it always seemed like it was for good reason.  She did not have excellent relationships with every member of her family, but she was respected and clearly embodied the matriarchy of not only the family, but of Macondo also.  Even after she becomes bedridden and increasingly more senile, she still is able to provide the children with information and history of the family.  Furthermore, the importance and power of Ursula is illustrated after the flood when, despite her ailments, she gets out of bed in attempt to once again restore order to the Buendía household.  The final point that demonstrates the importance and powerfulness of Ursula is reflected in the total decline that Macondo (as well as the Buendía household) experiences after her death.

 

 

 

 

Cien años III

March 19, 2007

As I continue to read, solitude begins to take on new and more meanings all of the time.  As we discussed in class on Friday, there is the obvious issue of individual solitude that seems to be present in basically every character.  There are of course varying degrees of solitude brought on by various factors, whether it is due to alienation, a lack of emotion, depression, characters becoming hermit-like, or perpetuated by the result on an event or circumstance.  But interestingly, I am discovering the issue of solitude is also evident in regards to death.  This works on two levels.  First, there is the eternal solitude that the person who dies will experience, but it also operates in the sense of the solitude that their death creates for others.  The further I get into the book it seems not only the more deaths there are, but more premature deaths.  This is most definitely related to the aspect of war, but these deaths nonetheless continue to create solitude in one form or another.  Related to this, I also find interesting that even though many characters die, we are continually being introduced to new ones.  Off the top, one might think that the introduction of a new character when one has died would almost serve as a replacement (not in terms of the character themselves, but as another person in the lives of the characters) and that the solitude would not be so rampant. I have thoroughly enjoyed the multiple ways that García Márquez has worked the theme of solitude.  He very much so plays on the ironic aspects of solitude in the fact that solitude is only increased as Macondo becomes more advanced and technologically progressive.  In the same light, as more people and money begins to come into the town, problems increase and solitude prevails, as people continue to drift further away from themselves and one another.

 

 

Cien años II

March 12, 2007

 

The more I  read Cien años de soledad, the more confusing it becomes. At the same time it also becomes more entertaining and interesting.  The fact that the book covers so many years in a seemingly short space, means that indeed things have to happen fast. 

 

An interesting progression is the ways in which Macondo becomes more civilized and at the same time grows continually more corrupt and faces more problems and conflicts.  Perhaps this is true of any society.  The introduction of new characters inevitably leads to more conflict, especially surrounding love and sexual relationships. Technology and modernization not only bring about “progress”, but the creation of organized religion and government no doubt bring about problems and changes of their own.  The role of religion is interesting because up until this point it has not really been mentioned, and I think it will be interesting to follow its progression from this point on.  The role of government has become a huge force and arena for conflict and death.  Before there was organized government there was no space for conflict in this domain, nor was there fighting or war leading to death.  Although death has been prominent in this book since virtually the beginning, it was never caused by war or fighting.

 

Another interesting aspect of this book is incest.  The Buendía family essentially begins with incest as José Arcadio Buendía and Úrsula Iguarán are cousins. As more members of the family are born, more issues and opportunities for incest arise.  What is interesting about this is that incest is one thing, but when it continues throughout generations, it is not just  incest; it is essentially incest taking place in an already incestuous context. 

Cien años – the beginning

March 5, 2007

My initial reaction towards Cien años de soledad is favourable. I didn’t find it too difficult to get into, and I also found that once I started reading it, I was engaged. However, I do see two areas where confusion is likely to prevail. One is due to the vast number of characters. Because the book spans many generations, I think it is going to be somewhat confusing to keep all the characters straight. Another problematic aspect is the fact that the book is not written chronologically. I didn’t realize this at first, but it wasn’t all that hard to figure it out once I was reading it. I am sure there is a structural or symbolic reason why the book has been written in this way, but I do not think that I know what that is so early on.

I feel as though it is somewhat hard to comment after having read so little of the book, in comparison to its entirety. I feel as though my current understanding and interpretation of the characters, and the events that have taken place will be different or seem less significant after completing the book. However, perhaps this may not be the case. So far, I have been somewhat impressed at the attitudes and the characteristics of some of the characters that have been effectively portrayed, although I think the characters themselves, especially the children, have the potential to be quite fluid, due to the fact story covers such a large span of time.

I look forward to reading more, and encountering the ways in which my interpretations and understandings of the book, its characters, and events will change.

First half reflections

February 25, 2007

So far I have found Spanish 365 to be a good course for the most part. I do not really have any experience reading novels in Spanish so that aspect has been both frustrating and rewarding at the same time. I definitely have enjoyed this course more than Spanish 364, not only because of the content of what we have read, but because we are reading entire works as opposed to excerpts and shorter pieces.

I know that time has been a constraint, but I wish we had been able to spend more time on the individual works and examine them in greater detail, exploring the larger contexts from both historical and societal aspects. For this reason, I am looking forward to spending the second half of the course reading only one book, although I am anticipating a challenge.

I am not certain why, but I found Cumanda to be the easiest work to read, and Mama Blanca to be the most difficult. Unfortunately Cumanda was the first work we read, so things got a little harder as opposed to easier for me, but I am also finding that practice and experience is helping a lot as well. I think because I found Mama Blanca to be the most difficult it is also why it was my least favorite work. I am not that much of a poetry person, so I don’t feel strongly one way or another about Neruda. I have found both “Piedra callada” and “Las Hortensias” to be entertaining and interesting despite the fact that the former was quite disturbing and the latter was somewhat bizarre. I look forward to spend a great deal of time on Garcia Marquez.

Piedra callada

February 11, 2007

Despite the depressing and unfortunate context and situation presented in “Piedra callada”, I liked reading it.  I like the fact that it was short story, not only in terms of the length of the reading, but for the sake that it got right to the point.  In the opening two paragraphs the reader learns not only that Esperanza wants to get married, but also that her mother is abusive.  These two points serve to set up important aspects for the remainder of the story.

 

Although there is dialogue in the story, it is never elaborate nor does it provide the reader with much information about the characters themselves.  Because of this, I found the descriptions that Brunet provides of the characters to be especially helpful.  I thought the minimal length of the dialogue was useful in the sense that it reflected the attitudes of the characters towards one another (especially Bernabé and Eufrasia).

 

One aspect of this story that I found to be interesting is the detailed description of the weather and land that begins about half way through.  I hadn’t noticed it before that point, and then continued to notice it until the end. However, I am not quite sure what the significance of this description is.  If it had been consistent through out the entire story, I do not think I would have really noticed it or thought all that much about it, but the fact that is begins half way through seems to me that it is significant in some way, although I am not sure how.

 

For the most part, I liked “Piedra callada”. It is unfortunate that Brunet is writing about such a messed up, dysfunctional, and manipulative family situation that seems to end as poorly as it began.  However, I think it is important to write about undesirable and unfortunate circumstances, in order to make readers acknowledge their existence in reality.

second half of mama blanca

February 4, 2007

Despite having my misconceptions about the book corrected, after completing Las Memorias de Mama Blanca I still did not like the book all that much. While I think the writing is creative (although somewhat confusing) in the sense that Parra is writing in a time period prior to her own reality, I was never able to get into it, and I was never all that interested in what she was saying. I found Cumanda to be much more interesting for the fact that there was a lot of action and suspense.  There was a purpose to keep reading in the sense that I wanted to find out what would happen to the characters in the end. In Las Memorias de Mama Blanca I did not feel this way at all.  Unfortunately, I was just waiting for it to be over.

 

The relationships between the members of the family were somewhat interesting, but I never felt like as a reader you came to know every character all that well (especially all of the sisters).  In addition, the commentaries surrounding the differences between the roles of males and females was somewhat interesting as well, but personally it is a somewhat tired theme.  It may have been entirely relevant to the time in which the book was written, but from an academic perspective this is a theme I have gone over numerous times, and it becomes slightly old. One thing that I did find interesting was that although there were not too many male characters, when they did come up in the book they would be given entire chapters to themselves that went on for some length (e.g. Primo Juancho, Vicente, and Daniel).  Perhaps this too is a commentary on the roles and importance of men versus women. I am not sure.

 

 

First half of Las memorias de mama blanca

January 28, 2007

My initial reaction after reading the first half of Las Memorias de Mama Blanca is that I do not like it very much. I have found it very difficult to get into the book and become interested and engaged in it. As a result, I am having a harder time comprehending it. While the book is centered around events and parts of Parra’s life, I do not find that the events are all that connected to one another and as a result, it seems as though a plot (in the sense that as the story progresses, the events too progress and build on one another) is somewhat lacking.  Furthermore, I think that we all have memories from our youth of our siblings, parents, and relatives.  If I were to communicate these to others, I do not think that they would find them nearly as interesting as I would, for they would not have the same significance, meaning, or memory for that matter.  Perhaps (and I am hoping) the second half of the book is slightly different than the first.  I do not doubt that Mama Blanca was an important or influential woman in the life of Teresa Parra, but to have her retell memories of her mother from childhood isn’t really all that interesting to me. I also think, the events she is choosing to tell are not all that interesting themselves (i.e. talking about her hair for 6 pages). I feel as though I may be coming across as quite harsh in my critique of the first half of this book, but it was definitely more of a struggle than enjoyment to get through it. I hope that my feelings change while reading the second half. To me, it is not quite clear yet why Parra is writing this book. Granted everyone’s mother is important in relation to his or her own life, but I do not think Parra has successfully articulated why Mama Blanca is so special.

Cumanda chapters 11-20

January 22, 2007

Overall, I liked Cumanda as a whole. However, I found the second half to be slightly different the first half.  Although Mera still uses plenty of description (at times too much in my opinion), I found these descriptions to be different and more distinct than those in the first half.  For example, in chapters 1-10, it seems as though Mera focuses more on the description of the landscape, which I think is of value in order to give the reader a solid mental picture of the setting.  However, in the chapters 11-20, I noticed that a large majority of Mera’s description is surrounding the weather and celestial bodies.  He constantly makes references to the sun, and the moon, as well as the rain, water, and various storms.  At times Mera is describing what is actually going on, but at other times he uses these “themes” in order to make comparisons with characters, for example. 

 

I think that Mera did a good job of blending both the natural and the spiritual throughout the novel.  Through his description as well as the setting, lifestyles, and customs of the tribes Mera effectively articulates a vivid and strong sense of nature.  On the other hand, through the dialogue of the characters, the theme of religion, as well as the intimate connections and relationship between the characters (especially Carlos and Cumanda), Mera balances the natural with an opposing force of the spiritual.

 

I enjoyed the ending of Cumanda.  I especially like the fact that the priest was put in a compromising situation. I think it is interesting to evaluate and expose the morals of religious figures, which are often portrayed as infallible.  To be honest, I am kind of glad that Cumanda died in the end.  I did not want her to die, but had she lived and everything had worked out perfectly, I would have disliked the ending for that very reason.  This is not to mention the issue of incest and the like.