Sunday, 21 August 2011

The Courter

It was a few years ago that I heard on TV that a Mr. Salman Rushdie had written such a controversial book, that a death threaten had been issued to him. I was quite young and naïve, so that I wondered what on earth could a person write to deserve such a severe punishment.

I knew nothing else about him, as at that time his books were not included in my curricular design. It was then fifteen days ago or so that I came accross one of his short stories.

The Courter is a short story included in his work  East, West, which was published in 1994. The story tells about the daily and trivial adventures of an Indian immigrant teenager whose familiy settles in London for some time.

The excuse to bring up the story plot lies in a letter received by the author himself. The letter is fom an old acquintance of him and tells an anectote about a governess who used to live and look after him as well as of his brothers and sisters. The old Indian lady has a very peculiar romance with the house porter and, as she is having difficulties with her English, she says: "courter" instead of "porter".

I found the story both interesting and amusing and I got some more understanding about the difficuclties of immigrant people: language, race discrimination, customs, social status, etc. Even though most situations are shown in a quite humorous style, the real background is one of a deep sadness and homesickness. As a reference for this, at some point in the story, the governess character estates: "God knows for what-all we came over to this country".

Language is one of the main topics in the story, not only because some of the characters are foreigners and they have a peculiar use of language itself, but also because the author analyses the consequences of poor fluency on a man who suffered a stroke and this makes a social outcast of himself.

The whole story is built up in an attempt to establish a chronilogical order as the main character grows up, but in my opinion, he deliberately fails in doing this because there is a great deal of personal feelings and emotions with a mixture of intermigled characters that seem to appear with no logical order as in a puzzle that, as a reader, you have to reorganise.

I strongly recommend everybody to ready the story. It was fun.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

The rich boy & The curious case of Benjamin Button

I remember to have found particularly easy to read Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms, so that I thought that If I read something by some other writer belinging the so called lost generation, it would turn out to be the same easy.

That was not the case; I found it hard to read those two Fitzgerald's stories, I think due to the amount of vocabulary he uses - sometimes only suitable for the time and places he is talking about - and mostly because of the American cultural conventions he constantly and deliberately falls back on.

I confess I haven't watched the whole movie starred by Brad Pitt and based on Benjamin Button's story, but as far as I remember, in order to feature the just born old man, the film director decided to give him an ordinary baby's size, except for the wrikles in his face. I was shocked when I found out that Fitzgerald really meant a just born man with "ancient teeth" and long beard who speaks just after being born.

In my opinion, the story is a narrative experiment that provides the author with the opportunity to set up humorous situations and play with the hypothetical situation of an human being living backwards in time.

Benjamin Button's story is similar to Poncela's "Cuatro corazones con freno y marcha atrás". Let's not forget that both authors worked as Hollywood script writers for some time.

The rich boy mirrors the main topic in The Great Gatsby. Central to the story is its main character, who as a young man, runs a dissipated, lazy and - at some point - immoral life. He fails in settling down his own life and misses the opportinity of getting married a worthy woman. Later, in a very selfish and arrogant manner, he thinks of himself as capable of giving advice to others. In the end, he feels all alone; forgotten by all his friends and relatives. In spite of his failures, he insists in behaving the same way he used to.

The rich boy is also interesting from the historical point of view as we become priviledged observers of the very rich NY society; those belonging to the very reduced set of people who became rich before the 1860s.

I had the impression that the author himself gets involved in the story as he identifies as a close friend of the main character. Everything is then, told in the third person narrative style.

I strongly recommend you to read some of Fitzgeral's Literature, but be prepared to use your dictionary and your wikipaedia quite a lot.