Time is not becoming abundant as the semester goes on, but I am finding some to spare to make my way through the stories in Granta 113: The Best of Young Spanish Language Novelists, and I think I might make a few posts as I read. For this post, I want to focus on the story by Lucía Puenzo that opens the collection, “Cohiba.”
Although there is nowhere near a majority of women writers in the volume, the choice of Puenzo’s story to lead it seems addressed to people like me who have grown a little weary of the relative lack of women writers translated from Spanish and also of the interlaced machismo and misogyny in those writers that are translated. The story revolves around a sexually abusive encounter a woman has while in Cuba for a writers’ retreat led by Gabriel García Márquez, and it is full of embarrassment and rage at the individual act and the knowledge that it is a part of a culture of abuse. Given my last encounter with Márquez, I’m tempted to read it specifically as a rebuke: incrimination by metonymy. You get a hint of the anger about this perpetual abuse in Bolaño’s 2666, but it is buried by despair over the numbing repetition of the violence. In Puenzo’s story, even desperately small acts of retaliation backfire and compound the violence, keeping the wound fresh.
As for Márquez, you can see another reason why the Granta editors would want to place Puenzo’s story first: whether you see him as indicted or just ridiculous in the story, the portrayal allows them to advance their own thesis about generational differences for their volume. When he bothers to pay attention to the younger writers in the story, he offers banal catchphrases and advice-that-doesn’t-quite-advise. And I don’t think I’ll ever be able to think of Márquez again without imagining him in a jumpsuit, which emblematizes faded glory like nothing else I can think of in literature.
I had heard of Puenzo’s film XXY previously and thought it sounded interesting, but I never got around to watching it. This story makes me want to dig it up for a viewing.