Buenos Aires, Eterna Cadencia, , pp. Uno de esos ciegos descansa, legendariamente, a la entrada de la literatura. Otro, argentino pero no por ello menos improbable, se ubica donde terminan o se bifurcan muchos de los senderos literarios. Entre ambos se suceden, con distintos grados de lucidez y ceguera, las vidas y las obras de, por lo menos, Dante y Milton y Joyce. Porque ese es el poder que cierto romanticismo ha conferido a los escritores invidentes: una potente mirada interior, la apenas envidiable habilidad de ignorar las apariencias y atender esa supuesta verdad —universal e inmutable— que se oculta debajo de las cosas. La narradora y protagonista de Sangre en el ojo —la estupenda novela de Lina Meruane Santiago de Chile, — es ciega pero no, por fortuna, profeta ni presume de traspasar el velo de las apariencias.
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The cover grabbed my attention and refused to let me go. I started reading it a couple of days back and finished reading it yesterday. Her eyes are in a delicate condition - her blood vessels in her eyes can burst any time and she can go blind. She lives life in this careful way, avoiding anything which can result in the unfortunate event happening.
But one day she is at a party and the dreadful thing happens - the blood vessels in her eyes explode and she becomes blind. She is able to see vague shapes and some light and shadow though. She tries meeting the doctor but she is able to get an appointment only a few days later. When she meets the doctor, he says it is hard to say anything.
He says they need to wait for a month and then can think about an operation. He asks her to go on a holiday and spend time with her family in Chile. How her reunion with her family goes, what kind of support her boyfriend gives, does the operation help her - for answers to these questions, you have to read the story.
The heroine of our story, has the same name as the writer, Lina Meruane. The relationship between the heroine and her boyfriend is so beautifully depicted. The reunion scenes with her family, her very different relationship with her mother and her father, her two different brothers - they are all beautifully portrayed.
I loved the character of her doctor. No one ever interrupted him. He was an absolutely dedicated specialist, true Russian fanaticism inculcated by his Soviet lineage. I was buried in open boxes with table legs between my fingers. The house was alive, it wielded its doorknobs and sharpened its fixtures while I still clung to corners that were no longer where they belonged.
It changed shape, the house, the rooms castled, the furniture swapped places to confuse me. With one eye blind with blood and the other clouded over at my every movement, I was lost, a blindfolded chicken, dizzy and witless.
Our heart goes out to the heroine and we sink when her heart sinks. But the book also descibes how our heroine handles these challenges with style and aplomb - it is inspiring. But the word sunrise evoked nothing. Nothing even close to a sunrise. The description of Chile in the book is fascinating and beautiful and takes us a little bit into Chilean history of the past half century and makes us want to read more about that period.
Then I stepped back by a chapter and discovered that there were clues strewn around by the author. I loved the structure of the book. It is not very long at pages. It is divided into short chapters, between two and four pages long. Each chapter has a title.
Interestingly, each chapter is also made up of only one paragraph. Punctuation is used minimally. There is no distinction between a statement, a question, a dialogue. Sometimes the speaker of the first sentence is different from the speaker of the second sentence and there is no signpost to indicate that the speaker has changed.
This kind of stuff might bother some readers. I loved it and the story flowed naturally for me. Reading the book is a meditative experience, which is very fascinating, because the main theme it addresses is a bit dark and bleak. For example, this description - "That accent, so unmistakably Chilean, harbored the glacial poem of the mountain peaks and their snows in eternal mid-thaw, the dark whisper of the south dotted with giant rhubarbs, the mourning of roadside shrines, the herb-garden smell, the rough salts of the desert, the sulfurous copper shell of the mine open to the sky.
I also loved the fact that there was a lot of white space surrounding the words in a page - a beautiful place where the reader can write comments and notes. I love a book when it has that. It is one of my favourite reads of the year. I hope to read it again one of these days, more slowly, focussing on my favourite passages.
Quotes I will leave you with some of my favourite passages from the book. The word had an expansive effect in the room. The refrain repeats : too much sun, too much sugar, too much water, too much oxygen. Too much maternal love. Too much truth. Lucina vanished, her being is suspended somewhere in the hospital. What is left of her now is pure biology : a heart that beats and beats, a lung that inflates, an anesthetized brain incapable of dreaming, while the hair goes on growing, slowly, beneath the cap.
SANGRE EN EL OJO
Sangre en el ojo – Lina Meruane
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