I read Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus on Sunday for the first time and loved it. I'll keep moving through The Complete Plays, hoping to read Dido, Queen of Carthage next. Reading that play coincided with finishing Heriberto Yépez's novel A.B.U.R.T.O. (Editorial Sudamericana, 2005). The combination of both texts an extremely dark concoction for one afternoon.
Yépez's novel veers into seeming autobiography at one point in the final chapter. Throughout the novel there are interludes that read like essays. He is using the figure of Mario Aburto Martínez as a means to narrate and philosophize not just Tijuana but all of Mexico, in its post-NAFTA era. I found myself despairing several times toward the end of the book, mostly because Yépez so vividly conveys the senseless injustice and brutality that plague most cities in Latin America. I see the book as being political in that it registers what levels of oppression we have plummeted to in our dread era. But Yépez avoids the trap of trying to enlighten or teach his readers. Instead, he recounts and fictionalizes Tijuana as a microcosm of Latin America at a very specific stage, the early 1990s.
At the beginning of chapter IV, we are given the following equation: "1521= 1994." Again, as with any book I read, I bring my own associations to these dates, to the events Yépez is narrating in this masterful novel. That period of approximately 5 years was crucial to my own development as a reader and writer. I embarked on a deliberate psychedelic education during that time. This part of my education is best understood through silence, learning to watch. One thing I did learn then was a reverence for books as a clear antidote to the growing chaos I saw & felt around me.
It was during this period when I first returned to Venezuela, after a decade's absence, arriving at a country that was falling apart in ways I had never intuited when I lived there as a child. That era was also when I watched Los Angeles burn on television for days, a spectacle that remains indelible for me. During the same time, I learned to watch trees moving in currents of wind in the woods of North Tampa or to notice electronic blue dragonflies hovering alongside myself and friends as we hiked through a desert valley in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico.
As an English major and Anthropology minor, I first began to research and write about the Guajiro (Wayúu) folk tales and songs that I consider a scaffolding for me as a writer. A region I've never been to and from where my grandfather seemed to have escaped as soon as he could.
What surprises me about Marlowe's Faustus is how quickly he masters his magic books. Obviously, the play compresses time, but still, Faustus seems to gain certain knowledge as soon as the words drift off the page into his eyes & tongue. I think of my own slow approach to books, how the words take years to develop under my fingers.
One writes for certain numbers, such as 7. Rain throughout the evening and into this mid-night I now compose these words upon. The purposeful artificiality of verse and prose, as a means of measuring oneself against others. Or, measuring one's hallucinations against a stable meter that might bring us calm, keep us warm. This choice of an electronic medium as a primary stage, to what purpose and forms?