19 April 2009

life: of love and shadows

that literature mirrors life was brought home to me most poignantly while reading isabel allende's of love and shadows. it is one of her older novels (not sure why i didn't read it earlier) and as such, slightly different in tone and content from portrait in sepia or daughter of fortune. it is still characteristic allende though.

behind the title is a love story set in a military dictatorship. allende portrayed the daily repression, fear, silence and disappearances her characters must live some 25 years ago; i live with them today. while reading the novel, i felt as though she was describing the histories (and the present) of burma or sri lanka or bangladesh. i am just now editing a paper titled 'militarization and human rights in south asia'.

more than in particular quotes, the theme of repression, absurdity and quiet rebellion runs through the novel like a thread holding it all together. regardless, i still want to have some quotes down, so here goes:

"'From this moment you are to wear your hair long, Francisco. We must resist in every possible way,' mouthed his irate father, forgetting his own objection to shaggy-haired men."

"Until the day she visited the Morgue, Irene Baltran had lived in angelic ignorance, not from apathy or stupidity but because ignorance was the norm in her situation. Like... so many of her social class, she escaped into the orderly, peaceful world of the fashionable neighborhoods, the exclusive beach clubs... Irene had been educated to deny any unpleasantness, discounting it as a distortion of the facts."

"Years of authoritarian regime had established discretion as the basis for survival."

"Since it was impossible to eliminate poverty, it had been forbidden to mention it. The news in the press was soothing; they were living in a fairyland. Rumours of hungry women and children storming bakeries were completely false... Anyone who was discontented was considered anti-patriotic; happiness was obligatory. Through an unwritten but universally known law of segregation, two countries were functioning within the same national boundaries"

"It's all the same. Lieutenant Ramirez killer her, and he's the law. What can I do?"

"'Justice' was an almost forgotten term, no longer mentioned because, like the word 'liberty', it had subversive overtones."

"united in their compassionate desire to bring human solidarity where divine love seemed to be lacking."

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