Monday, May 29, 2006

La Malinche by Laura Esquivel

Another review of Esquivel's "La Malinche".

The Spanish encounter with Mexico was many things, but "confusing"? I'm tempted to blame the translator for some of the novel's more unfortunate moments, such as Malinalli's realization that "she was tired, extremely tired of Cortés and all his strategies." But the problem surely goes deeper than diction in whatever language. For instance, in an early scene when the hirsute Spaniard "takes" Malinalli for the first time -- on a riverbank, no less -- Esquivel tells us that the pair "looked into each other's eyes and found their destiny and their inevitable union." Are those literary terms for rape?

In its treatment of plot (sketchy) and character (sketchier) and its emphasis on wifty spirituality, Malinche feels half thought out, its heroine an excuse for the author to indulge her meditations on pre-Columbian (or pre-Cortésian) folkways. Esquivel hints that Malinalli is a kind of Virgin of Guadalupe, a figure in whom the blood of warring races mingles together, the mother of the Mexico that will be born out of the clash of cultures. That's a fascinating idea, but in this book it's only an idea. The more Malinalli retreats from history into spirituality, the more she melds into the universe and the vaguer she becomes as a character -- until she's lost entirely in the mists of myth. From conquistador's mouthpiece to author's is not a fate anyone should suffer.

You can find the review here

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