Photos from Nicaragua!
|The Best of Nicaragua|
Dispatches from Somewhere in the World
|The Best of Nicaragua|
Mr. Hosokawa had a private life now. He had always thought of himself as a private man, but now he saw that there was nothing in his life before that had been private. It didn´t mean that he had no secrets then and now he did. It was that now there was something that was strictly between himself and one other person, that it was so completely their own that it would have been pointless to even try to speak of it to someone else.My favorite character in the book was the Japanese translator, Gen Watanbe, who happens speak virtually every language present at the dinner party. Yet over the course of that time something happens to Gen that he never expected. All of the characters like Gen, perhaps because he translated their words so smoothly that the speakers sometimes forgot his existence. It seems to me it is much the same with Patchett: She presents such a charming world, with so many desires and personality, that often the reader takes for granted the slight of hand necessary in creating such a story.
But he understood that these were extraordinary times, and if their old life was ever restored to them, nothing would be the same.
Maybe the private life wasn´t forever. Maybe everyone got it for a little while and then spent the rest of their lives remembering.
The truth is this: It has always been books that have sent me places.
After reading Ayi Kwei Armah´s classic post-colonial novel ¨The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born,¨ I decided I needed to go to Ghana to see the place he wrote about so evocatively for myself. Similarly, when I decided last fall to move to Central America to learn how to speak Spanish, the thought of one country immediately jumped out at me. During my senior year of college, I read Gioconda Belli´s celebrated memoir about Nicaragua, ¨The Country Under My Skin.¨
And so along with wanting to go to a cheap and relatively untouristed country, and to a country where the need was very great (Nicaragua is the second poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, after Haiti), I wanted again to see for myself a world that had once been so richly created for me in words. And so knowing little else, knowing not a soul or a word of Spanish, I bought a plane ticket for Managua.
Having lived in Nicaragua for five months now, I decided that it was time to pick up this book again and re-read it from my newly gained perspective. Belli is an award-winning poet and a Sandinista operative. This ¨memoir of love and war¨ explores the fusion between her personal journey and the turmoil of her country during the 1970s and 1980s. She is a woman with many different identities -- writer and worker, militant and mother -- and this book explores the nexus and the conflicts that arise between these strands over time. She writes passionately about clandestine operations and sensual love affairs. She tells of fallen comrades and dangerous missions. She tells of failed marriages and family struggles. And yet there is an optimistic strand that runs through this book. It is the type of joy that comes when you see another living life fully, pursuing a course with all her heart.
This time I was reading her account of Nicaragua´s political developments more closely. She had deep contact, friendships, and sometimes relations with the most powerful members of the Sandinista movement. I wanted to read her impressions of Daniel Ortega, his brother Humberto, his wife Rosario, and other members of the National Directorate more closely. She describes with great deal the divisions, personal and ideological, that arose within the Sandinistas. She also became acquainted with Fidel Castro of Cuba and General Torrijos of Panama. I was paying closer attention to her description of the battles and movements during the revolution, the impact on places like Managua, León, and the Northern Highlands. Interesting, she accuses the current President of Nicaragua Daniel Ortega (whom she knows well) of betraying the spirit of the revolution by supressing dissent and using any means available to maintain his grip on power.
One thing I like about her writing is the way she sees the connection between her political cause and her personal growth as a woman. She writes profoundly about what it meant to be a Sandinista, what it meant to devote your life to this struggle:
Were we all mad? What mystery in the human genes accounted for the fact that men and women could override their personal survival instincts when the fate of their tribe or the collective was at stake? What was it that enabled people to give their lives for an idea, for the freedom of others? Why was the heroic impulse so strong? What I found most bewildering and extraordinary was the real happiness and fulfillment that came along with commitment. Life acquired unequivocal meaning, purpose, and direction. It was a sensation of complete, utter complicity, a visceral emotional bond with hundreds of anonymous faces, an intimacy of multitudes in which any feeling of loneliness or isolation simply evaporated. In the struggle for everyone´s happiness, the first happiness one found was one´s own. The story of the Sandinista Revolution is the story in fact of two wars: The first was a guerrilla war that culminated in 1979 by removing the Somoza dictatorship from power. But after that feeling of euphoria, of overthrowing a dictatorship that lasted 43 years, a broken country was forced again into another more costly and ruinous war. When Reagan became President in 1981, he began funding the Contras, who invaded Nicaragua from Honduras. It was only at the end of the decade that this illegal and profoundly immoral activity came to a close. The result was ruinous for Nicaragua and for the Sandinista program.
Belli describes many victories and setbacks, yetthe overall tone remains triumphant. This is a story about what it is possible to do with a life. In this vein, Belli quotes the words of an anonymous Vietnamese poet:
We fill the craters left by the bombs
And once again we sing
And once again we sow
Because life never surrenders.
(Next up: Ann Patchett´s ¨Bel Canto¨)
Cry for the broken tribe, for the law and the custom that is gone. Aye, and cry aloud for the man who is dead, for the woman and children bereaved. Cry, the beloved country, these things are not yet at an end.Alan Patton´s classic novel ¨Cry, The Beloved Country¨ is a true book, despite the fact that it is a work of fiction. Set in South Africa in the 1940s, the book concerns one African pastor´s search for his son in distant Johannesburg, and on the implications of his son´s actions. Dealing as it does with racial tensions in South Africa, this book touched a topic close to my heart. It reminded me at times of Bryce Courtenay´s ¨The Power of One,¨ a similar novel that I have also loved reading. Perhaps the power of this story is that it rings true not only in the context of South Africa but resonates too in other places undergoing social upheaval.
The judge does not make the Law. It is the People that make the Law. Therefore if a Law is unjust, and if the Judge judges according to the Law, that is justice, even if it is not just.This is a story of fathers and sons. Indeed Absalom is named after King David´s rebellious son in the Bible. This is the story of transgression and forgiveness. Indeed it concerns the most chilling crimes and the deepest yearning for salvation. This is the story of destruction and renewal. Indeed it focuses on the broken tribe, the broken land, and the efforts undertaken to revive them. This is the story of comfort and desolation. Indeed the pastor Kumalo travels through a faceless city and thirsty land. Throughout, the book begs one pointed question: What can be regained after so much has been destroyed?
Call, O small boy, with the long tremulous cry that echoes over the hills. Dance, O small boy, with the first slow steps of the dance that is for yourself. Call and dance, Innocence, call and dance while you may. For this is a prelude, it is only a beginning. Strange things will be woven into it, by men you have never heard of, in place you have never seen. It is life you are going into, you are not afraid because you do not know. Call and dance, call and dance. Now, while you may.The book proceeds in three parts: First, a fearful searching, then a terrible answer, and finally a look what can be salvaged. But it was what transpired in the final book that moved me most. I was riveted by the encounters between Kumalo and the elder Jarvis, the fates of their sons entangled most tragically. To me, Patton seems to be saying here that the only way out is through a human connection. Salvation for Africa and its people lies only in this compassionate moment, meeting each other with an open mind, forgiveness, and love. It´s a powerful message about men, and about their capabilities and their failings, and the outcome for Kumalo and his community left me weeping at the end.
It is Africa, the beloved country.Next up: Ralph Lee Woodward, Jr.´s ¨Central America: A Nation Divided¨)
Cuando una persona desea realmente algo, el Universo
entero conspira para que pueda realizar su sueño.