Thursday, March 01, 2007

Instinto de Inez

Recently John and Anna gave me a Mexican edition of Carlos Fuentes' novel, "Instinto de Inez," in Spanish. Being in the middle of a slight book drought (waiting endlessly for a package from Amazon, which I guess is delivering my book via carrier pigeon) I picked it up and just thought I'd see how I'd do, reading Spanish. My Spanish skills are extremely rusty, subsisting on the occasional Shakira song or New York-area immigrant-focused publication. I try to think about Spanish a lot, and mentally conjugate things for fun, and consider when I would use the subjunctive, but you and I both know that this is no way to maintain language skills.

So I started to read this book, and lo and behold I'm now 50 pages in, and I have a rough grasp of what actually might be going on! See, there's this guy, right, and this girl, and somehow they meet, and it might have been because of the London Blitz or maybe it was just a rainstorm, but the point is they got in a car together, and now they're like at the guy's house, and he has a friend in a's really good. Seriously, though, I am enjoying this experience much more than I expected. I told myself not to worry about not understanding words I didn't know (immediately eliminating most adjectives then and there) so I do feel like I am merely skimming across the surface of the language. But there is something beautiful about pausing to consider a sentence, figuring out its structure, thinking of the object and the subject and the verbs and all that. Or even considering weird conjugation issues, and trying to directly translate a sentence into English. Soon I just find myself pleasantly gliding through the text, not even thinking or translating in English but just accepting a Spanish understanding of what's going on, and somehow getting it. The romance and beauty of that language strikes me time and time again, so I'll be sitting on the subway whispering words to myself: susurro, parpado...

I would love to learn more languages, I think, or deepen my knowledge of Spanish. Every time I see a possibly latino person on the train I perk up my book to better show off the extremely-Spanish title and copy, just to celebrate the common lingual bond I might share with that other possible Spanish-speaker. Just another way of making our mundo a little more pequeno, you know what I'm saying?


Anonymous said...

That's cool you're diggin on Fuentes. I came across this site while looking for some info on the book.

The story line of "Instinto" is a little different than what you wrote, but the important thing is that you're reading it.

The novela is based on two real characters that Fuentes greatly admired for their musical talent, and it also focuses on Berlioz's "The Damnation of Faust." This is one of Fuentes favorite pieces. Anyway, Atlan-Ferrara directs "Damnation" while the city of London is being fire-bombed in the 1940's. Inez is the Mexican singer that captivates him, even controls (in bed, during their second and third reunions) and defies him on stage.

The real cool thing about the book is the perspective of circular time and the role of memory and how they both affect life and death.

It takes way longer, but if you take the time to define the unknown words in the book, it will open up new avenues. Fuentes is pretty methodical about his word choice.

Take care.

MKD said...

Thanks for the clarification, and the encouragement! I appreciate them both.