Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A tale of the dispossessed - Laura Restrepo

The protagonist of this short novel arrives at a refugee shelter run by French nuns in search of the lady he loves the most. Set in Tora,Columbia, during the war, this mysterious man is looking for his foster mother , called Matilde Lina , from whom he was separated during an ambush years ago.
"If somebody asked him for more details, he just murmured that she was like everybody else, neither tall nor short, neither white nor black, not pretty or ugly, not lame or harelipped, and with no birthmarks on her face. There was nothing , absolutely nothing that would distinguish her from the others, except for many years of his life he had invested in searching for her".
The narrator, nameless, falls in love with this mysterious man , but it is only Matilde Lina, he talks and thinks about ("The world tastes of her," he says) . Three sevens, as he is called ( he does not know his real name ; from the time he remembers, he was called twenty one for having an extra toe, which later changed into three sevens) is desperate to find Matilde Lina, a laundress who rescued and raised him, from whom he was forcibly separated as a teenager during the War. "There's no country on earth as beautiful as this one," says the narrator. "No, there isn't," answers the dispossessed, "nor a more murderous one, either."
"His worst enemy has always been his guilt. Guilt for not having been able to prevent their dragging her away. Guilt for not searching enough for her. Guilt for still being alive, for breathing, eating, walking: he believes all of that is betraying her."

While on the run he has saved the wooden sculpture of 'Dancing Madonna' , a symbolic relic from the ancient past. Though he was later gets arrested and accused of stealing the dancing madonna, in the new place of his shelter, the sculpture gets its due respect and dignity.
A short fiction, superb plot to expand and carry , but disappointed at the end. An Oedipal sort of love ( there aren't many details of his relationship with Matilde Lina) and a silent love of the narrator in the backdrop of the war, ruins and refuge. The symbolic use of the 'dancing madonna' and the restoration of it in the shelter , the trouble at the oil refinery workers and the effect of the war which has a constant role in the events ; could have made this into a much interesting work.
A Tale of the dispossessed
Laura Restrepo translated by Dolores M Koch
Harper Collins Publications
101 Pages
Rs 99/-
More read : Salon , Interview

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