Severo Sarduy incorporates many different literary elements in to Cobra. A lot of what is written creates a free-flowing thought process with subsequent thoughts that make a very loose flowing plot. This is seen in the initial first part of Cobra. We are introduced to various characters; Pup, Madam, Cobra, Indian, name a few where their introduction is trivial compared to the thoughts surrounding their background. This is evident when Sarduy shifts from writing about the characters and instead begins to write about “histories”, writings, etc. He also begins to incorporate mathematics in an attempt to explain the very essence of Cobra and Madam.

√cobra = pup²
pup² = √cobra

Sarduy also incorporates a lot of magic realism to convey a very mystical sense in Cobra. A lot of what is going on incorporates many elements from Asian cultures and religion. He plays heavily upon the Buddhist religion and borrows heavily upon Eastern magic. We get a sense of this when Cobra tries to transform his/her feet through magical means as opposed to the conventional means.

Narrative time in Atomik Aztex is a bit unstable as it does not adhere to the standard time-space continuum theroem or perhaps common place time-logic. Although Zenzontli can be perceived as living both points of view in standard narrative time each point of view is radically different than the other. One point of view takes place in what seems like the middle of World War II as he is sent to Stalingrad to take down the Nazis in place of the United States while the meat packer union leader seems to be taking place in the modern era in which forming a union is not out tof place if it were to take place at this current time and date. What is unusual is the apparent lack of transition of time; the stories meld together sometimes subtley and other times drastically and it is up to the reader to stop and pick out the differences because the time frame skips and jumps around.

Things that had tickled her in the past, now made her upset and angry. If you suggested an outing to the pier, she’d sneer (Ride the bus all day to come back tired, sunburned, and sandy? Hang out with those wacky whites at the dirty beach? The water’s polluted!”), or mention a hike at Elysian Park, she’d complain, what was wrong with me – wasn’t I tired enough from work already? I certainly was. Where had the intervening years gone? Recently I seemed to have dreamed a dream about it.
It was lots under corrugated tin roofing behind the plant it smells like the country fairgrounds at 4 A.M., semi after semi entering row after row of sheds, ramps deployed with a clatter as thousands of hogs are unloaded into the gated pens, grunting, squealing, & squawking like sports fans, huffing and puffing as they descended heavily into the concrete pens covered in straw as I sat on the subway next to a sweat begrimed warrior reading the Toltek Times with the headlines, STALINGRAD SURROUNDED, ASTROLOGERS FOREKAST DOOM FOR GERMAN 6TH ARMOR. (Foster 33)

In Atomik Aztex, we get the feeling that there are multiple streams of conciousness. There isn’t one particular point of view rather we get a mixture of two radically points of view through the eyes of the same individual character. It’s odd because although he’s the same person he’s living two different lives at the same time while bending time and space. He is in two different time periods, histories, and places altogether; he is off to conquer Europe and Stalingrad in the name of the Aztex empire and Jaguar Unit while fighting the meat-packing industry and trying to form a union for those who worked at the meat packing factory. It’s odd because although the points of views are different parts of the points of view seem to meld in together and change Zenzontli in a very subatomic way. He is no longer one particular character but rather a sort of hodgepodge of the Aztex warrior and the Axtex entry-level meat packer. This is evident through the short bursts of phrases and speech that are more pronounced as the story goes further and further.

“Keeper of the House of Darkness. Master Zenzontli, sir, wake up.” “What, what the fuck?” “You’re mumbling things in your sleep, sir, stupid things, insensibilities, inanities, platitudes,” Amoxhuah was saying to me as I unbent myself out of a sleep-enforced slouch. He was staring at me; I stared back and brought him into focus. “Commonplaces, sir, euphemisms, stock phrases, tripe,” Amoxhuah added, “I’m sorry sir, but from what I could catch they were the kind of empty phraseology that you might hear from your so called experts. It was pretty scary.” (Foster 59)

Atomik Aztex initially was a confusing novel until you realized that there are two different narratives that stream along each other. It deals with the same person but with different narrative times and histories. This is apparent when you realize that he is off the colonize Europe while at the same time he is a part of a meat packing factory. The two different narratives reflect what could have been; as if they are parallel universes existing precisely side by side at the exact moment. I concur!
Also the language makes it hard to know what really is going on. So far that I read I thought it was one character that has a different point of view since he’s also having visions and then also living the reality.

Cobra – Initial Thoughts

November 7, 2011

I felt that Cobra was a bit obscene and graphic. The text in it of itself is also a bit confusing at times as you begin to lose your idea of who the narrator is or who the narrator is talking about. There are points of the book in which the narrator seems to just recount his or her thoughts aside from the story of Cobra’s transformation. The development of the characters in question were also a bit of a struggle to read through. The concept of having two different Cobra’s who in fact was actually one Cobra (who is also a man and or a woman; transgender) was quite a notion to follow as well. I had to reread the text quite a few times to understand that there were two Cobras who was in actuality one Cobra who in fact is a man who plays as a woman in drag.I have to admit though the graphic text was really difficult to go through and sort of digest particularly the random orgies, notions of drug abuse and prostitution, and ultimately Cobra’s sex change at the end of Part I.

I always assumed that the mechanical shell belonged to an old vintage Volkswagen beetle. What else could the characters in the People of Paper be referring to. One could only procure one from a mechanic and what else would a mechanic do than work upon cars? I thought it fitting that it would be compared to a tortoise, it’s shape and design allows for those inside to hide from those with prying eyes. The mention of a lead base also led me to believe that the shell to be old, it must be if it contained any essence of lead. I just realized that the shell is an extension of protection and Federico de la Fe utilizes them much like a hermit crab. 

Balthazar’s Marvelous Afternoon was a wonderful short story. It appears to me as if to be written for as a children’s story. It doesn’t contain any magic realistic elements and the homodigetic narrator remains the same throughout the short story. It contains a simple story in which Balthazar makes the best birdhouse ever that he wishes to charge for a large sum of money. His client requested the bird house to fit two large sized birds of the region. However once he brings the bird house to his client’s house it’s been made clear that the client was the young boy and the father did not commission the bird house at all. He refuses to accept the glorious bird house and his son tries his best to make sure the bird house stays. Balthazar’s changes his mind about the commission and gifts it to the man’s son and leaves. Although he leaves empty handed Balthazar walks away and enjoys the rest of the night. He realizes that although he has left empty-handed he left the most prosperous. His kind action has left a message to all those who watched the incident and he had orders to many bird houses. He realizes that good fortune has looked down upon him and he drinks the night away as a happy fool, conned for free drinks and his clothes and shoes have been stripped away from his unconscious body.

“He had spent so much that he had had to leave his watch in pawn, with the promise to pay the next day. A moment l ater, spread-eagled in the street, he realized that his shoes were being taken off, but he didn’t want to abandon the happiest dream of his life. The woman who passed on their way to five-o’clock Mass didn’t dare look at him, thinking he was dead.” (Garcia Marquez 146)

Ferderico de la Fe is one of the main characters in The People of Paper. he is solely responsible for the war against Saturn. This is due to his belief that the celestial being, Saturn. He believes that Saturn possesses the power to manipulate his fate and destiny and is the sole reason for his misfortune. This belief stems from his failure to control the midnight bed wetting that ultimately drives his wife away forever. His bitter resentment originally was directed to himself and he drowned in depression and anxiety. He overcomes this fear with burning his own flesh and letting the flames lick across his flesh. This allowed him to be distracted from his own crushing depression however the relief is short-lived as the depression always comes back. He gains a sudden insight of Saturn once he has a brief stay in a lead mechanical “tortoise” (I’m assuming it’s a Volkswagon Beetle). The lead acts as a shield from the prying eyes of Saturn and the heavenly eye cannot pierce through the lead shell. Ferderico de la Fe realizes this once he enters the shell and feels relief for once. Thus begins his campaign against Saturn.

“Federico de la Fe put his hand in the embers until it hurt so much that he could not feel his sadness and instead smelled only his singed flesh. After he wrapped his hand with an old scarf and rubbed on an ointment that the curandero had given him, he wrote down all the things the fire had cured: 1. itch 2. bed-wetting 3. sadness Federico de la Fe’s only regret was that he had not discovered fire ten years earlier. Every night, when the sun hid underneath the flat earth and Little Merced slept on the dry straw bed, Federico de la Fe went into the kitchen and lit the stove so his remorse would not return.”

The entire story of The People of Paper deal with magic realism. It takes place upon reality with more than supernatural inconsistencies. This could be seen through the everyday life and dialogue of Merced’s school life or Froggy’s carnation-picking lifestyle. However there also are magic realistic elements such as healing through fire, a race of extinct paper people, Merced de Papel, Antiono’s ability of paper-crafting and the war against Saturn. This is evident that these events are highly unlikely to occur in a realistic novel but Plascencia does a wonderful job incorporating these unique literary elements in to his story.

“She was the first to be created: cardboard legs, cellophane appendix, and paper breasts. Created not from the rib of a man but from paper scraps. There was no all-powerful god who could part the rivers of Pison and Gihon but instead a twice-retired old man with cuts across his fingers.” (Plascencia 15)

The very notion of a paper woman for example is improbable to say the least, however the characters throughout the story accept the anomaly once Merced de Papel is introduced in to the story. They also accept the notion that Saturn is the one responsible for all the misfortune that occurs in everyday life and thus a war against the celestial being would suffice and end his tyranny against mankind. There is no insight or depth of their actions but rather these characters that Plascencia develop thrive from the magic realistic elements of literary style.

The People of Paper has a weird structure of narrative time. It is not written particularly linear (although there are moments that it is), narrative time seems to flow (when needed) between all the characters at the same precise time. It does not have to occur often as there are points in the story in which time seems to follow one character in particular. The prose in the story adds to this effect; some of the characters’stories are written side by side as opposed to written in the traditional straight-forward form. This seems to imply that one particular character’s story is taking place at the same particular time as the other characters’ stories. This is evident through the first few chapters in which Saturn, Merced, Mechanic, Merced de Papel, etc. are all speaking at the same time. Their narrative time is within their each perspective sphere and although the stories are separate, they each add to the narrative as a whole. We get a better impression of what is occurring or will occur or has occurred based upon this unique narrative structure. This is evident through the different narrators that share their thoughts and experience. For example, the wetting of the bed through Federico de la Fe and Merced’s interpretation allows us to see how Federico de la Fe developed his fire complex and why Merced’s mother had left Federico de la Fe. This particular structure is reminiscent of the acappella style of music in which various different harmonies and voices add to the song as a whole even if they are different parts of the song.