18 December 2010

Luis Alberto Urrea

Readers know by instinct that the use of several languages in a literary work must have something to do with the meaning of the work.  Here, for example, is a Book Club guide question to the novel Into the Beautiful North (2009), by Luis Alberto Urrea:

"Language and dialect play an integral role in the novel’s style. Spanish words and phonetic spellings are laced throughout, and Spanglish and slang are used on both sides of the border. What does Urrea achieve by mixing language in this way? What does it say about the ability of language to bridge—or not to bridge—cultural gaps?"

One can imagine ordinary booklovers (not professional literary critics nor even students in a literature class) asking themselves why a text would have more than one language, why utterances in other languages should not be translated into the main language (the way many novels do), why monolingual readers are being asked to read words that they cannot understand.  Such first-level questions (we can no longer call them "naive" because of political correctness) should hopefully lead to deeper questions about the nature of literature itself, about why literary texts need (or do not need) to mirror reality, which at this time in humanity's history is multilingual.

No comments:

Post a Comment