Sunday, April 4, 2010

"Amor a la distancia": a punch in the face

A new mode of writing. One in which a story becomes internalized, vastly personal. The story, yes, can be communicated to readers; maybe they can even empathize with it. But the feeling of collective memory, of applicability to all: that's gone. This writing is much smaller in scope.

Amor a la Distancia is a funny little story because it's a letter, but all at once, a diary entry and an essay too. Boliviano Edmundo Paz Soldan writes to his girlfriend (or his character does, but it appears nonfictional). For much of it, it feels like he's writing to himself, trying out ideas that he's formulating as he has the experiences that make him arrive at such conclusions. It's very step by step in feel, though the ending obviously wraps it all up into a little package and kind-of laughs in your face. SMACK! That’s how we arrive at conclusions – by trial and error, by taking steps – and SMACK! again, the nature of “telling” (a thing which pervades all cultures and systems) is duplicitous. There is the appearance of the idea, the reality of the idea (which only the teller knows) and the conclusion at which the receiver of the idea arrives. This system makes for some very serious doubts pertaining to verifiability versus fictionality. When can we, as human beings, ever know what is true? Especially in intimate relationships, when so much is at stake and so many details are passed back and forth between two people, there is no sure-fire way to insure oneself against scams... We’re always vulnerable, we’re always in a state of unknowing, as the ending to Distancia surely proclaims...

Hay angustia y amargura en este texto, en que el narrador intenta explicar (a sí mismo, me parece) por qué las cosas son así, por qué algunos detalles se suelen excluir, y entonces el cuento acaba así. Por qué, siempre y sin fin. Y duele al lector porque necesitamos también saber por qué. And this questioning makes us conclude that there are expectations of us as people, as partners, because that’s the way our culture is set up. We don’t cheat. We love each other without flinching. But Soldán realizes that other side of the coin. We love eachother, but we make up a love-reality, an image of the “us”, that perhaps overestimates our ability to not jeopardize that love-reality. So therefore, we do cheat, we do lie, because we’re all individuals who can and will. He says “tampoco te puedo contar muchas cosas porque sin secretos ninguna relacion subsitiría” (75): he puts citrus on the wound that is the paradox of coupling and it hurts…

1 comment:

  1. I like how you call amor a la distancia a punch in the face. witty.
    I also like how he plays with the concept of what is he actually telling us, questioning the reality behind the story, if any.
    I dont agree with his concept of love though. He seems to agree that this is the way things should be, we should fit into these labels of bf/gf, and pretend that we are playing these roles perfectly, while acknowledging that its okay to break these rules and lie about it, because every one does this. I think there are alternative solutions out there...