Donde habitan las muñecas. Karla Barajas. Lima: Quarks Ediciones Digitales. 2021. 87 pages.
“Muñequismo” [Dollism], “Oscuro corazón” [Dark Heart], “Tan cucas” [Paper Dolls], and “Donde habitan las muñecas” [Where the Dolls Live]—these are the chapter titles of Donde habitan las muñecas by Karla Barajas, published by Quarks Ediciones Digitales (Lima, Peru 2021). Each chapter works as a single narrative unit that weaves together the author’s commitment to her book until it reflects her position on fantasy. The doll, the puppet, and the objects that surround it take the form of metaphors. Reality becomes fiction through micro-stories: stories that are brief but that make their mark, fragments of prose in which a world is created through the ideas that Barajas expresses in this piece. The author discusses her relationship with reality and with her “nature” in these fragments, which are connected by their plot that, as we’ll see, become fragmented as they are fictionalized. Love, desire, solitude, fear, hate, and the Dionysian—and even the playful—all come together through her narrative technique. She discusses the fantastic as a means to understand the literary with concrete and clean prose and short, precise sentences, giving the text a pleasurable rhythm as it advances from one piece to the next.
The playful elements show up throughout the entire book, but the author presents these chapters as complete units. They become different indicators of how life depicts fantasy as the strange, the evil, the dark, and the magical are all established with the firm intention of distorting reality to establish a new world order: “I have to tell you that, even if you are now a man made out of flesh and bone, you’re still as much of a liar as you were when you were made out of wood.” When the reality of the fantastic is incorporated into their representation, these dolls acquire a human dimension—readers understand this within the framework of what’s “real,” blurring the borders between the fantastical and the natural, the impossible and the truthful, the strange and the normal, the disturbing and the calm. At every turn, Barajas consolidates her understanding of the stories and her playfulness to bring readers closer to those differences, which all come together as you read. Irony, for example, is one of the resources used to connect them. The author repeatedly insists on the expression of the double, as long as it is an element of fiction that ends in the fantastic. The extraordinary replaces the real. Reality is shown through its reflection, and it takes us by surprise because in it we discover what is and what exists—the dolls, the puppet, and the object are made transparent when we’re able to find duplicity in the subject. We are the extension of our own metaphor—we are the doll, the puppet, the object. Beneath this discourse lies a carefully-constructed denouncement of the feminine. Therefore, the fiction isn’t so much focused on the ideological as it is on the writing itself.
The feminine is then represented by the ironic figure: the reader is positioned as intersubjective. The objective and the subjective intertwine, and this is what becomes the territory of the imaginary—which is no less real when the thing that is represented is only a different form of the reality that appears in the story. This reality, along with all of its social components, is unmasked through irony, leaving the alienation of man out in the open: “You bought me to touch me […] But I warn you […] you’ll have no way of fixing the problem. Only then will you understand what it means to have a Barbie Girl at home.” The object, as we understand it, rebels against and consolidates the playful intention of the stories. The object is turned into the subject—here, doll and person become one. And so, the denunciation is clear: it is about separating the real from the non-real, and, as I mentioned, the strange from the normal, not without a certain erotic inflection that almost provokes the reader by the end.
We know that they are micro-stories, but, I insist, the unity of the texts turns them into more than that—the fantastic is exposed through the journey of the male doll, or through that of the female doll as a representation of revelation and support. Readers enjoy themselves, but Barajas hopes for an intelligent reader who is able to unmask reality: “The Barbie decided to marry him because of his G.I. Joe body,” “And he decided to marry Barbie for her house and car,” says Lolita, indulging in gossip and slander. The intention is clear. When awareness of the social components is given its place, there is a rational construction, which Barajas achieves through play and games—once again making the experience pleasurable for the reader. Barajas’s ideas are also exposed through the nature of the things she denounces and through her relationship to otherness, which is woven into the book.
Characters function as mobilizers of the separate reality in which these stories exist. We have the example of “Pinocchio”—when we use this character to spark our imagination, we notice how an opposite meaning is revealed. Reading is pleasurable in this moment because the meaning of a character we all know is amplified and inverted; it unravels in order to question its own social value and its reality, alignment, and social network. And so, through the incorporation of that metaphor—which consists of placing another truth onto the puppet—the feminine revolts. The author builds that awareness from reality with playfulness as she denounces machismo, violence, and selfishness. The playfulness, then, entertains us, while the reason to play shifts in our subconscious. And this game is what reveals the secrets of the strange.
Translated by Isabella Corletto