Saturday, April 3, 2010

Barbara Kingsolver writes great novel, "The Lacuna" a word meaning 'the breach between the truth and public presumption'

I had to stop and read this novel just out which I regard as a very important one for those interested in the immigration issue. Barbara lived for years in Tucson, and must be bilingual since she used Spanish words in the text with great effectiveness. Right now the war is aflame over illegal immigration in Arizona because a rancher with property bordering Mexico was just shot and killed by an assailant considered to be an illegal. Believe me, this does not happen very often, and the rancher was doing some work on fencing and he was armed, but he apparently did not get a chance to use his gun. We are going to be dealing with the fallout of this murder for a long time.
I am sure Barbara feels very bad about it as well as alarmed, because in this novel she fully demonstrates as any thinking person must do that she wants more understanding between the two countries.
Her protagonist is the son of a father in the United States while his mother is of Spanish origin born in Mexico, and he goes back and forth between the two countries with his mother trying to figure out where he really belongs.
When he is older, he goes to work for Diego Riviera, the famous Mexican painter known for his communist views as a mixer of plaster for his art work, and he meets his wife, another famous painter we have come to know through the movie, "Frieda", and bios which I read, which are obviously the source of Barbara's imaginary conversations in this novel. I was fascinated with Barbara's take on Lev Trotsky who is given refuge in Mexico after he flees Russia with a price on his head as an 'enemy of the people' as perceived by Stalin. There is another 'lacuna,' the difference between what may be the truth about Trotsky and how Stalin tried to present him to the world to justify his determination to assassinate him.
Trotsky was expected to assume leadership of the Soviet Union on Lenin's death, but instead Stalin, who up to then had not played a very large role, managed to step into the breach, and to Trotsky's mind and many others proceeded to violate every ideal that had been fought so hard for in the revolution. In the novel Trotsky says over and over that the people were used to being ruled by the Tsar so when Stalin took over and killed many who opposed him they just accepted his ruthlessness, proving how hard it is to put an ideal into practice.
Trotsky could not get refuge in the United States because the leaders were suspicious of communism, but at the same time the war was heating up, Hitler was on the march, and the President thought they would need Stalin to help defeat the German armies, which they did, indeed.
Stalin was reputed to have killed 20 million of his own people in blood baths and slave camps, remaking the country in the way he visualized communism. At one point Trotsky was aghast because he decided to take the farms away from the farmers and turn them over to the yeoman who had never farmed, because somewhere along the way he had become irked at farmers.
Eventually Stalin was able to find an assassin who penetrated the security where Trotsky was living. Shepheard, the protagonist, by then was working for Trotsky, and also writing a novel which Kahlo managed to save when everything in the house was seized by the police after the assassination.
I am thinking that our relations with Mexico are just as critical right now as they were then with the attempt to stop the flow of immigrants across the border, which up to now did not happen. There is a lot of pressure now on Mexico try to make things better for their people. They have counted for years on that constant flow of Mexican people to the north where many would find work and send back money to relatives in Mexico. This actually has been a big source of income.
So with the crack down on immigration on the border states there is a lot of turmoil here. I lived for 20 years in an area that was 90 percent Hispanic. My daughter was inspired to become fluent in Spanish. I spent years talking to many characters reminiscent of those in this novel. There were Mexicans whose forbears had come to Mexico from Spain and considered themselves 'blue bloods' in a sense. I have known Mexicans who were all Indian in origin, called by the Spanish 'the corn eaters.' I talked for years to a man who said he was rejected by many Mexicans as well as whites because he was a mix, German, Yaqui, and Spanish. I have forgotten the Spanish word he used for a mixed blood. I am not talented at learning languages because my hearing is not keen enough.
But whatever elevates the country of Mexico I am for, because I think we must take an interest in helping Mexico do more for her people, so that they are not starving. Mexico has gone through a number of revolutions because with the Spanish invasion land was taken from the natives to be controlled by a wealthy few, which was why the main population could so often fall on hard times. This is why revolution is understood by the common people of Mexico, who would be considered the serf class in Russia. Desperation fuels revolutions.
Diego Riviera was a very colorful communist who spoke his mind wherever he went, both in person and in his art. If you are not starving, you may not understand why people in these countries revolted, trying to undo the wrongs that had been done to them by the invasion of foreigners after gold and land. It is necessary to study what Cortez and other Spanish conquerors did in Mexico to understand Mexico, and sometimes that takes a lot of reading to even come close. This book is another important one in trying to understand what would be the best policy in dealing with our neighbors below the border. I love Barbara Kingsolver. Her "Poisonwood Bible" is another of my favorite novels. Now she has done it again. She has taken the insights of years of living on the border in Tucson and written a valuable novel. A writer can do no more.


Connie said...

Happy Easter my DEAR Friend :-) said...

Darling Easter Picture. The best!

Anonymous said...

The novel has its merits but there are real problems in how Kingsolver deals with history, and with Trotsky in particular.

"The Lacuna, or what’s missing"


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