17 July 2011

Spanish writers you should check out

You know Cortazar, Borges, Paz, Lorca, and, of course, Garcia Marquez.

But do you know Pardo Bazan, Unamuno, Valle Inclan, Matute, Rivas, Gomez de la Serna, Huidobro,  and Quiroga?

I'm halfway through a course on Hispanic short stories organized by region, and week 1 was Spain (which, if you do know the second set of authors was pretty obvious). I have, however started next week's assignments, so an Uruguayo snuck in. Plus the other course I'm supposed to bulldoze through by the end of 3 weeks is pretty canonical, focusing primarily on Borges, Paz, and Lorca, but referring to others, like the Chilean father of creacionismo (not what you think), and their influences on said DWM's.

Still, I've read and heard about some really good stories that I thought you should know exist, if you didn't already. You should also know that most of these stories are readily available online at this awesome site that is the lifeblood of Dra. Napiorski's class: Biblioteca Digital Ciudad Seva. You can get your canonical fix there too!

Of the new list, by far my new favorite authors are Miguel de Unamuno and Manuel Rivas.

I was not exactly impressed by "La Venda" on the first reading, until we talked about San Manuel Bueno and the priest that lost his faith, but continued to try to maintain the "mentira vital" for his town, so that they could experience fulfillment that religion offers and reason denies. The protagonist's blindness and bandage suddenly became profound and beautiful metaphors. I don't think I could really teach this story, living in the South, without being tarred and feathered, but the appropriate audience might come along one day.

As for "La Lengua de las Mariposas," I was stunned by the symmetry of it at the end and the illumination of the effects of fear in dictatorships. It could so easily be tied interdisciplinarily to The Crucible or even to a unit on dictators as I tried to develop last year. The movie was almost screenable at schools, but not nearly as perfectly wrapped as the story itself, and a little too...European? in its attitudes toward sex at times. I could see showing excerpts to generate and maintain interest and engagement. And the little boy is adorable. I look forward to fitting this one in, as I think its language is not insurmountable for a Spanish 3, maybe even Spanish 2 student, if handled properly.

Other stories that might appeal because of their, well, straight-out disgustingess might be "Un destripador de antaño" (did you detect the word tripa in there? Good.) by Emilia Pardo Bazan, "El Miedo" by Ramon del Valle Inclan, and "El hombre muerto" and "La gallina degollada" by Horacio Quiroga. The first two were presented in class rather than assigned to all of us, but let us just say that one involves killing kids and turning their fat into expensive medicine (though it is rather long), and the other involves skulls with snakes coming out of them (nice and short, relatively accessible language). The third and fourth come from next week's reading, but who wouldn't be tantalized by a man slowly dying after falling on his own machete or a group of neglected children slaughtering their privileged sister like the chicken they saw earlier? The fourth is probably the less linguistically dense of the two, breaking out a little dialogue, so  it has potential for, say, Spanish 3.

La profe assures us that Ana Maria Matute is one of the most popular authors to use with younger folk, in part because of the simplicity of her language, but also because of her preference for youthful protagonists. Don't get me wrong, the woman came of age under Franco, and the stories I've seen are thoroughly depressing. I read "Bernardino," (since Dra Napiorski loved all Matute so much she couldn't choose which to assign) and then "El niño al que se le murió el amigo,as some of my brevity-minded classmates suggested. There are most definitely elements that high schoolers could relate to, and the second is, indeed, short and bittersweet--totally doable in Spanish 2 or 3.

 Huidobro, by his very nature, is probably a bit much even for college courses, though useful for elaborating on surrealism and la vanguardia. Gomez de la Serna's Greguerias, however, could be awesome even in Spanish 1! Some of my favorites: "Los tornillos son clavos peinados con rayo en medio" and "Las primeras gotas de la tormenta bajan a ver si hay tierran en que aterrizar."

The best thing about working on my master's in Spanish is finally exploring beyond the basics and finally having references to find better fits for my own classes.

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