Sunday, February 21, 2010

A thought on nostalgia vs. reality... and Pasado Perfecto by Leonardo Padura

As I began reading Pasado Perfecto by Leonardo Padura, almost immediately I came across a passage that caught my attention:

Se puso los espejuelos oscuros y caminó hacia la parada de la guagua pensando que el aspecto del barrio debía de ser como el suyo: una especie de paisaje después de una batalla casi devastadora, y sintió que algo se resentía en su memoria más afectiva. La realidad visible de la Calzada contrastaba con la imagen almibarada del recuerdo de aquella misma calle, una imagen que había llegado a preguntarse si en verdad era real, si la heredaba de la nostalgia histórica de los cuentos de su abuelo o simplemente la habia inventado para tranquilizar al pasado.


Translation: (done by me: any errors found are mine)
He put on his sunglasses and walked to the bus stop, thinking that the neighborhood looked a lot like him: like a landscape after a devastating battle, and something became offended in his most affective memory. The visible reality of the Calzada contrasted with the sweet, syrupy images he remembered of that same street, and he asked himself if that image was a real one, if he had inherited it from his grandfather's historical and nostalgic tales, or if he had simply invented them to calm the past.

Yes, I thought when I read el Conde's reflection about his neighborhood and the street where he grew up, that's exactly right. How often do we change the past to suit our needs? How often do our memories deceive us when nostalgia takes over to make places, things, or events, beautiful, right, or acceptable when in reality they were not?

Such a shocking thing, to deal with stark reality and see that street for what it really is... for what it probably always was -- except maybe in fantasy-filled memories or those glorious moments of self-deception that often come with nostalgia.  Pasado Perfecto... "a perfect past."


2 comments:

  1. How often do our memories deceive us when nostalgia takes over to make places, things, or events, beautiful, right, or acceptable when in reality they were not?

    Hils, I find your post this morning most interesting on several counts.

    First, I would have to agree that the passage of time does have a way of skewing memories in the sense that when we look back on things they often do not appear to to have been as bad as they actually were.

    Second, one of the central themes in Amnesic Nostalgia (I noticed it's listed in your TBR list) is the issue of skewed memories which are unreliable, hence the title Amnesic Nostalgia. Zea Miller takes it one step further though. Since his premise is that we cannot rely on memories then we shouldn't allow them to dictate our future or our identity.

    I find it highly coincidental that you are reading Passe Parfait right now because it does provide a segue into Amnesic Nostalgia as you'll be revisiting similar themes but set in a completely different world.

    Has Passe Parfait been translated into English? It sounds like a book I'd be interested in reading.

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  2. Since his premise is that we cannot rely on memories then we shouldn't allow them to dictate our future or our identity.

    Exactly! But isn't usually too late, or late enough by the time we realize this? Sometimes those memories are all we have... and it's not so easy to go back to that street and come to that realization.

    Indi, I'm really looking forward to reading Amnesic Nostalgia, I'm in the perfect mood for it ATM. :)

    The name of the english translation is Havana Blue. Can you believe it? Terrible title... IMO! The cover is up there on my post. :)

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