Legends and Dreams

Posted by: | February 3, 2009 | Comments Off on Legends and Dreams

The stories in “The Mirror of Lida Sal” by Migel Angel Asturias were difficult to follow yet enjoyable to read. The subtext of the title was “Tales based on Mayan Myths and Guatemalan Legends.” My unfamiliarity with Guatemalan folk culture showed as I attempted to pick apart his meanings in these short stories. While I read, I also looked up information on the author to gain a better perspective of the literature. I was surprised to find Asturias to be a well traveled Nobel Prize winner, who had endured corrupt regimes and lived in exile (http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1967/asturias-bio.html). Being aware of this brought to light some of Asturias’s political undertones tied up in fantastical legends.

Asturias has the amazing ability to combine elements of Guatemalan culture, politics, with ancient Mayan legends. I did feel, however, that at times there was almost too much going on in his writing. He took reality, such as the fusion of the people in the Legend of the Silent Bell, and legend and tumbled them together in a complex, surreal manner that can produce confusion in the reader. At times I felt overwhelmed by the density of elaborate word choice and alternate meanings. For me, this deducted from my ability to follow the plotline and truly absorb his message. There is the possibility that some of this was influenced by the translation.

The second reading, “The Pongo’s Dream” was rather entertaining. The story they told here was one that I feel almost every culture has their own version of. It is the classic, ‘God will be my judge’ tale. What I found to be interesting is the extent to which the Pongo accepted his life. There is no ‘overcoming’ the evil ruler, rather even as he is calmly confronting ‘his lord,’ he was referring to him still as ‘my owner,’ or ‘my father, my lord, my heart.’ The Pongo had accepted his role given to him by man fully knowing that through his obedience in said role he would be rewarded in the afterlife. For instance, there is the saying “At the end of the game, Kings and Pawns all go back in the same box.” However, it appears that in Peru, at the end of the game the King licks human excrement off the Pawn at the end of the game. I am pretty sure there was more oppression witnessed by Jose Maria Arguedas than the author of this quote.

It was interesting to read these stories after the long reading from last week. These were both great examples of some of the background that we were provided with and discussed. Overall, great readings this week.


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