Itinerancias y discrepancias macondianas. Iván Ulchur Collazos. Quito: Universidad San Francisco de Quito Press. 2017. 208 pages.
Iván Ulchur Collazos’s latest book includes a prologue by Diego Araujo Sánchez, who is clearly well-acquainted with the author’s trajectory. Araujo is therefore brief and conclusive in his evaluation of Ulchur’s work and he assures readers that the 200-plus pages they have in front of them will be worth their while, even if they challenge their understanding of mythical Macondo and its complex referential world.
Araujo and, of course, Ulchur Collazos are likewise well aware of the numerous and wide-ranging critiques, their impacts and variations, of Boom writers over these long fifty years: critiques that Macondo, as the epicenter of this universe García Márquez created, could not escape. Herein are the itineraries and eternal becoming on the paths of Macondo, as the book’s title suggests. The discrepancies, on the other hand, include those many defended perspectives that were gradually accepted and deemed conclusive about this initially happy Macondo; a place where no one is over 30 years old and nobody has died yet, while simultaneously being a place that is exiled and cursed, as evidenced by the novel’s biblical hurricane (Apocalypse). Macondo is thus seen and interpreted as a microcosm and synthesis of the still evolving, yet already destroyed, New World. The novel’s foretold ending has been prophesied and inscribed in the demiurge Melquíades’s scrolls, which the last Aureliano hurries to finish before the foreshadowed curse buries all traces of Macondo’s existence.
In the introductory chapter, Ulchur Collazos introduces his new Macondonian proposal, suggesting that Macondo is essentially magical and only occasionally realistic. Ulchur reveals his thesis by clarifying and defining the oft-discussed and misused term magical realism. He builds his argument on three interconnected approaches. The first is an ontological approach summarizing the entire idea of Latin American lo real maravilloso, which closely follows Carpentier and his primary hypotheses. Second, Ulchur studies magical realism’s discursive and rhetorical usage, which, he suggests, spans Franz Roh and 1920s neorealism to the unconvincing interpretations of the term throughout the decades. Finally, he suggests a third minor, inventive and appropriate level, which he very wisely names “cara de palo” (narrating shamelessly). This term speaks to the composure and calm with which García Márquez managed to narrate marvelous and unbelievable events as if they were part of reality and everyday life (e.g. Remedios la bella’s ascent to heaven, Colonel Aureliano Buendía’s 32 military campaigns, the never-ending rain, the prodigious Ursula, the memory plague, Father Nicanor Reyna’s levitation, etc.).
In the next four chapters (II-V), Ulchur Collazo uses examples from the current literary landscape to illustrate his revisionist manipulation of magical realism, according to his interpretation of it. He calls attention to other writers who have also felt purported Macondonian resonances: the internationally known Colombian writers Laura Restrepo, Fernando Vallejo, and Alvaro Mutis, and, despite his geographical distance, the Japanese writer Haruki Murakami in his novel A Wild Sheep Chase (1982) and in Japanese myths and legends about the good luck sheep and the shining star that occupies a chosen person.
The Colombian triad Ulchar Collazos mentions includes Laura Restrepo, an early connoisseur of García Márquez’s work, in two of her first novels: The Angel of Galilea (1995) and The Dark Bride (1999). Fernando Vallejo and his whole dialectic of violence in Our Lady of the Assassins (1994), summed up in metaletra, a lucid and mind-boggling opposition of the cosmopolitan city vis-à-vis machine guns, Medellín as Medallo, and its nostalgia for irrational violence. And finally, the profound existential despair of Alvaro Mutis’s paradigmatic character, Maqroll, and his eternal journeying on the planet’s seas. In Maqroll’s voyages, what’s important is leaving and not necessarily arriving at a destination, as we see in Ilona Comes with the Rain (1987) and A Beautiful Death (1989). Curiously, these three Colombian narrators have in common their privileged proximity to García Márquez; they experienced his dizzying career up close even before One Hundred Years of Solitude. For his part, García Márquez was especially deferent in his assessments of their respective works. His close friendship with Mutis during their self-imposed exile in Mexico is well-known.
The book concludes with several meticulous final considerations regarding the gradual metamorphosis of magical realism from its fundamentally rural and campesino origins to an evolved form the author calls “populism” of all kinds. Ulchur closes with a brief quote by the prodigious Blacamán, a quintessential magical realist who challenges the public with his statement: “And who dares say that I’m not a philanthropist, ladies and gentlemen…” (198 in Ulchur; Rabassa trans).
Ulchur Collazos’s book is a timely accomplishment that grapples with those empty and partial interpretations, and those lacking philosophical support, that have emerged about magical realism in academia and out. Therefore his work, once and for all, gives to God what belongs to God, and to Cesar-Gabo, magician and demiurge of the word, what is undeniably his. This book is decidedly valuable for scholars when approaching the vast theme of magical realism, as well as for any reader interested in this fascinating topic.
Germán D. Carrillo
North American Academy of the Spanish Language
Translated by Amy Olen
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
German Carrillo has been involved with Sigma Delta Pi, the National Collegiate Hispanic Honor Society, as advisor, then as a regional vice president and then as National President from 1999 to the present day. He is the first Hispanic president of this organization that started in 1919 at the University of Berkley in California. In addition, and because of his interest in interdisciplinary matters of all sorts, he is connected with developing the Spanish for the Professions Major as it applies to the business and economic world.
Amy Olen is an Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She finished her Ph.D. in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at The University of Texas at Austin on Guatemalan Maya-Kaqchikel author Luis de Lión. Amy holds Master’s Degrees in Translation Studies (2006) and Spanish and Portuguese (2010) both from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her research interests include Central American and Andean Indigenous writing, and Translation Studies.