Thursday, May 29, 2014

¿quién es esa, y además, qué se cree?: Jacinta Escudos' A-B-Sudario

Jacinta Escudos' A-B-Sudario is a novel that cannot be summarized easily.  On one level A-B Sudario is about Cayetana, a writer who creates four male characters Pablo Apóstol, Fariseo, el Trompetista and Homero who are her most intimate friends and confidants.  Cayetana writes about her own writing process, about her relationships with each of these men, and about the relationships between these men and her writing.  Cayetana is a character who is full of contradictions; a fiercely independent woman who insists on her private space and creates boundaries that separate her friends from her writing, while also depending on her friends to help her find her way through her tortured writing process.  In the end of the novel we find out that Cayetana has imagined the four male friends and that these are fictional characters within her novel.  This loose thread creates a problematic twist in the plot; if Cayetana's friends are fictions within the fiction, then they could not have helped her through the writing process, and if we tug a bit more on this thread, Cayetana herself as the author unravels.  

An alternative way to read A-B Sudario is that it is a novel in which the actual author, Jacinta Escudos, steps into the novel (as a fictional alter-ego) to write a novel about Cayetana writing a novel.  There are several moments when I think we can see the author's fictional alter-ego in the text.  At one point Cayetana refers directly to the author and says that Escudos is to blame for any shortcomings in her description: "si con esta explicación aún no se lo puede imaginar, culpemos a la Escudos por la absoluta torpeza de sus descripciones seudo literarias" (154).  Here we see that Jacinta Escudos is not only authoring the actual text that the reader holds in her hands, but also the fictional novel at the center of the plot.  In Cayetana's diary on Day 189 there is a moment in which Cayetana and Jacinta Escudos look at each other through the novel which functions as a mirror: "¿Quién era esa que, hoy por la mañana, pretendió tomar mi puesto desde el fondo del espejo?  ¿quién es esa, y además, qué se cree: amenazándome con un retrato tan opaco de mi misma?" (128).  While it is Cayetana's journal, the text as mirror allows for a double to emerge and this can be interpreted as the author's fictional alter ego.  The mirror creates a dialogue between these two authorial entities; the fictional author Cayetana and the phantasmagoric, but real author, Jacinta Escudos.  Finally, the last part of the book features an interview with the author, here we are led to believe that the "author" who is speaking is Cayetana, but the book ends with another direct reference to the "author" as Jacinta Escudos; we find out that the book was not written in Karma Town and Sanzívar, but rather in Managua and San Salvador: "Managua-San Salvador 1993-95, 1997.  Langenbroich (Alemania), marzo-abril del 2000."  Suddenly the two cities Karma Town and Sanzívar where Cayetana did her writing evaporate as they are reflected through the mirror of the novel.  The reference to Managua, San Salvador and Langenbroich at the end re-frames Jacinta Escudos instead of Cayetana as the author of the novel within the novel.  

So as I stated in the beginning of this post, the A-B Sudario is not easy to summarize.  Is it a book about Cayetana's writing process or Jacinta Escudos' writing process?  In my opinion we can read this as a book about Jacinta Escudos' writing process if we emphasize that we are referring to a fictionalized version of the author; the novel is auto-referential, but not auto-biographical.  In sum, the most innovative part of this very complex book is that the author steps into the novel to author a novel within the novel.  So, if someone asks me what this novel is about I will start by saying, "Well, it's a bit like a babushka doll...."  
  


WJT Mitchell — Notes on Picture Theory

In analyzing the “pictorial turn” in his book Picture Theory, Mitchell begins by raising important questions about how images reference t...