Mi punto es demostrar que hay una conexión entre la lectura de grandes obras y la escritura de grandes obras. Que la calidad de lo que uno lee se manifiesta en lo que uno escribe. Ese es uno de mis objetivos al decidir estudiar literatura inglesa. Se puede hablar de la originalidad de un gran escritor pero no se puede negar que ellos tomaron esa magia creativa de las grandes obras que los formaron. Hay trazos de Dickens en el Middlemarch de George Eliot, hay rastros de Faulkner en Cien Años de Soledad y en la obra de Vargas Llosa. Hay Kafka en Coetzee y Shakespeare y Sófocles en todos los grandes escritores que alguna vez leyeron al dramaturgo inglés o al griego y se identificaron con los grandes temas de sus obras.
En los Versos Satánicos creí haber encontrado un homenaje de Rushdie a Othello, sin embargo resulta que también es un tributo a La Tempestad, a Hamlet, a Macbeth y a Julio Cesar. Y si hubiera leído más Shakespeare seguro que seguiría encontrando similitudes con los personajes, los temas y los escenarios del libro de Rushdie.
Los escritores que hemos leido este semestre se agrupan en lo que algunos intelectuales denominan el post colonialismo, como si la literatura inglesa fuera un yugo del que hay que liberarse para poder crear. Este trabajo prueba que una de las caracteristicas que agrupa a estos cinco autores, es precisamente su admiracion por autores “coloniales”, por los maestros ingleses, cuya influencia se puede trazar con cierta facilidad.
Volvi a mencionarle a la clase que Garcia Marquez se sentiria ofendido si lo etiquetan de escritor post colonialista. Ya es bastante malo que lo consideren parte de un movimiento con un nombre tan feo como el Boom.
En la primera línea de Mitad de un sol amarillo de la nigeriana Ngozi, encuentro una línea que me lleva directamente hasta Don Quijote y en el principio de Dios de las cosas diminutas de Arundhati Roy, encuentro el homenaje no tan en clave a The Waste Land de T.S. Eliot.
Another Way of Criticism
By Ulises Gonzales
George Steiner says that the best answer to a work of art is another work of art (8). He says that “each performance of a dramatic text or musical score is a critique in the most vital sense of the term: it is an act of penetrative response” (7). He calls that “responsible criticism.” The five books that we have read for this class echo Steiner’s theory because they are creative answers to other books that the authors have read before.
Through the texts written by Azar Nafisi, we can find traces of the author’s readings. We can feel the love of Nafisi for Henry James and Vladimir Nabokov, her passion like her students for The Great Gatsby. We can feel the poetry of T.S.Eliot and the lyricism of English poets and Indian traditions in the world of Arundhati Roy. We can trace the passion for Robert Browning and the whole English literature in the books that Odenigbo gives to Ugwu to read in Ngozi’s Half of a Yellow Sun.
We can feel how Coetzee builds his own world starting from that images given in the original poem by Kavafis. And trough Salman Rushdie and his Satanic Verses, we can feel the powerful images of The Tempest when the plane crashes; we can see the witches of Macbeth operating under the disguise of demons and archangels and feel the hate of Iago coming trough the body of Saladin Chamcha calling the jealousy of Othello to destroy the life of Gibreel.
In reading these five books, certainly we are reading the books that inspired these authors, the ones that helped them to accomplish the task of writing their novels. Steiner writes that if there was a world without critics, the criticism would be practiced by the artists. These five authors, choosing their subjects, the voice to tell their stories, the structure of their plots and even the description of their characters; are exercising the task of a critic.
Nafisi judges the violent repression of women during the Fundamentalist regime of Iran, using the voices of Lolita and Daisy Miller. The freedom of Daisy is the example that she chooses to represent the possibilities of a woman with the freedom to defy the authority of society and the “rules” imposed by a certain society. Humbert is compared to the Ayatholla and their accomplices who hate what they love. Humbert can’t convince Lolita to love her, and then he uses his strength, and his power, to try to make her docile.
Roy starts her novel-poem with “May in Ayemenem is a hot, brooding month” (Roy, 3). Like an echo to “April is the cruellest month” of T.S. Eliot. Her description of that world of Rahel’s childhood, the allusion to the river as a source of life and death, to the water, to the rain, to Nature and the wilderness where the children play, is a direct translation from The Waste Land. Later in the book, Lenin is forced by his dad to recite: “Friend Roman countrymen” (Roy, 260). and many centuries of English scholarship enter in the story through the lines from Julius Caesar, as if literature were the tentacles that keep the world of Kerala attached to the Western world, as if Shakespeare was also one of the Gods of Roy’s universe. We should not forget the permanent references to Heart of Darkness, to Kurtz, to Conrad. Even the topics of Conrad’s novel are present in Roy’s book: love for humanity, madness, and the craziness of politics.
Ngozi is called the daughter of Chinua Achebe. Her topics, her description of Africa, follows the steps of that great African writer, but when Ugwu needs to read literature Odenigbo does not give him an African author but a poem by A.E. Housman (Ngozi, 77). Ngozi even starts her novel linking Odenigbo’s character and positive influence among his people with his experience with English books: “Master was a little crazy; he had spent too many years reading books overseas”(4.) On the other hand, the mention of “crazy” and “books” together in one sentence is not an accident either. From the very first paragraph of the novel, Ngozi is giving us a glimpse of the Quixotesque adventure of her characters.
J.M. Coetzee establishes his little world of Waiting for the Barbarians, following certain rules and images given by Kavafis. But his Barbarians belong to the universe of Kafka. There is an absurdity to the situation: criminals that nobody can see and a crowd betrayed by a powerful empire that acts like an invisible force creating fear among its inhabitants. The poems is from Kavafis but the whole creation is a product in the line of Kafka’s The Castle where nobody can see the ruler of the castle but he seems to be watching everybody’s actions.
The Satanic Verses is one of the finest tributes to the magic of Shakespeare’s characters. Certainly we can trace Rushdie’s readings and find similarities to Milton, the battle for the Paradise, and the fight of the angels against God: “challenging God’s will one day they hid muttering beneath the Throne, daring to ask forbideen things: antiquestions” (94). We can’t forget that in the Satanic Verses there is a permanent play with mutations and transformations. It seems to be a permanent conversation of Rushdie with Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
The references to Shakespeare’s plays are the core of the most important passages of the Satanic Verses. Among the crisis of the plane crash, Gibreel and Saladin manage to get to an island. Rushdie’s irony is that, in this case, the island is England: “these were the first words Gibreel Farishta said when he awoke on the snowbound English beach” (10).
Here the beautiful Miranda is transformed into an old cranky woman, who seems to have found the beauty of a perfect human being in Gibreel, imagining that he is her gaucho from a forgotten kingdom in the Argentina’s pampas. Julius Caesar and Othello are mixed when Gibreel has his first attack of uncontrollable jealousy. Allie tells Gibreel: “The picture of an honourable man” and Gibreel shouts violently: “Tell me at once who the bastard is” (326).
Postmodernism allows the writer to build a world using the fragments of the reality. Satanic Verses is Rushdie’s plan to build a world using fragments from many different sources. It is a “responsible criticism” to the world where he lives. There are references to television programs and to Bollywood movies, there are myths from popular culture and myths from the Eastern world.
There is also the possibility that Rushdie is trying to find the way to tell us a new story, knowing beforehand that “in an ancient land like England there was no room for new stories” (148).
Coetzee, J.M. Waiting for the Barbarians. New York: Penguin, 1980.
Nafisi,Azar. Reading Lolita in Tehran. New York: Random House, 2004
Ngozi, Adiche. Half of a Yellow Sun. New York: Knopf, 2007
Steiner, George. Real Presences. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1991
Roy, Arundhati. The God of Small Things. New York: Random House, 1997
Rushdie, Salman. Satanic Verses. New York: Picador, 1988