I Can Read!
I’ll start by saying that I am now doing things – angst-ily, I wrote last time that I wasn’t doing anything here and that I would write again if and when I finally did. I have – I’ve been busy, and that’s why I haven’t written. I practice with an ultimate frisbee team, I met up with a Chilean girl who went to my high school, I went on vacation to Chiloé, and I read my first book in Spanish. This shouldn’t be impressive; I’m supposed to have read ten books already for this particular class, but I haven’t, and so far there have been no consequences for my failure to do so.
The book is La Casa de los Conejos, and it’s about a little girl whose parents are revolutionaries during the Argentine dictatorship in the 70’s. She narrates and the novel, I think, is more about what she can’t say that what she can; she can’t conceptualize self-sacrifice and the word trauma isn’t in her vocabulary yet, so the story is no more than her account of what happened and when and who was there, and how it made her, a seven-year-old, feel. There is no grand narrative, no explicit discussion of war or national devastation or destruction of family. Analysis is left to the readers, and the novel is simple, pretty and sad.
I hope, at least, that’s what it was about because I was proud of myself for reading the book and I liked it. I felt a strange solidarity with the main character – subtextually, her story is about the limits of language, about how much we can and should express of what we experience. Of course, I have never in my life experienced anything like she did growing up in a terrorist state. But I could understand the absences in her stories, the moments in which she stopped short of explaining or embellishing or emphasizing because she couldn’t, didn’t yet know the words, and left it up to her readers to interpret, give her words meaning. What I say in Spanish is incomplete too, and part of my empathy for the narrator comes from trying, as children do, to express myself in a language in which I do not yet feel at home.