Monday, April 07, 2008

An evocative image

I'm reading Los días del venado by Liliana Bodoc at the moment (among other things). One character comes from a society where each person creates his/her own song when they come of age, and it remains their own personal song for the rest of their lives. That itself is a fun cultural detail--Cucub, the character, speaks of it as if it's a companion on his journey.

What I especially like, though, is how that song changes. The second time he sings it, he switches a bunch of the nouns around so all the words remain the same, only rearranged. His explanation to the children is that it remains the same song, but changing it without truly changing it lets the one song truly accompany him regardless of his situation--when he's sad he can sing it one way, and the symbolism of the lines is one thing, and when he's happy he sings it another way with other symbolism. It can be a song of arrival and departure. It's a tripping point, as I remember a poetry professor describing such images in poems--an image, in this case, that sends my thoughts along questions of language and meaning, of paradox.

(I read a fair number of Spanish children's books to my son these days, but I haven't been reading a lot of books in Spanish for my own reading, so it's very gratifying to read this one--the level of language isn't simplistic, but neither is it too great a challenge for my rusty Spanish.)

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