Magical Realism and the Fantastic in Carlos Fuente’s Aura
Carlos Fuente is considered to be the father of modern Latin American literature. The novel Aura is definitely one of his best works and one of the finest pieces of Mexican literature. The book is just a few pages long, but the amazing quality, that Fuente can achieve in so brief a space, surprises. The book was first published in 1962 and was considered an innovative novella. Fuente has received numerous literary honors both in Mexico and abroad.
The story he has written is about a young scholar who falls passionately in love with the niece of an aged widow and discovers the true relationship between the two women. Almost everything in the book is on the boarder of reality and magic. Sometimes a reader does not understand what is real and what is imaginary.
The book is a young man’s narration to himself of his amorous adventures in the past. The story is written in the way that it makes a reader feel himself on the place of the main hero. It feels like a writer leads a reader to the different corners of the house.
The book describes love and passion, but the theme is deeper than just amorous adventures. The main theme includes the struggle against oblivion and death and the desire to prolong moments of splendor and beauty.
Aura is a beautiful, profound, and disturbing story. The novel is a beautiful horror story, a “horrifying story of beauty,” as put one of the critics. It incorporates art of Poe and Henry James.
In this complex short story, Fuente challenges the general notion of time through an innovative narrative technique. He uses second-person narration in the present and future tenses. He removes the boundaries between present, past, and future. In the story, Fuente skillfully combines forms of the myth and history. He searches for and at the same time mixes up the life and the death, reality and magic.
Young historian Felipe Montero accepts a live-in position editing the memoirs of General Llorente. His elderly widow, Consuelo, wants to publish a book about her deceased husband. There, in the house of the widow, Felipe meets her young beautiful green-eyed niece, Aura. Intoxicated by the airless atmosphere of the house, Felipe dreams of having sex and escaping with Consuelo’s niece. His passion for Aura and his gradual discovery of the true relationship between the young woman and her aunt seem extraordinary and even fantastic. As he reads the General’s writings about Consuelo’s infertility, her fantasy of having a child, and her obsession with youth, he discovers that Aura is actually a projection of the 109-year-old widow. Once when Montero embraces her, Aura changes into the decrepit woman. Felipe is immediately ensnared by his own desire and actions into the role of the General, coupled with Consuelo to give birth to “Aura,” the epitome of youth and the illusion of life. So, a young historian uncovers the diaries of a revolutionary lieutenant only to find that he himself is a reincarnation of the war hero.
In his writing, Fuente masterfully recreates the dreamlike atmosphere of the house and mixes the fantastic and the tangible, keeping readers curious as they attempt to distinguish between the two. In the novel, it is hard to distinguish what is what, reality of myth. A reader seems to lose a sense of reality. This amazing book also contains a combination of Christian, Aztec and Gothic cultures.
The opposition between different times is Fuente’s primary artistic obsession. Narrating a plot in a straight-forward manner, it seems, is impossible for him. Characters see themselves in future events, dream forthcoming happenings, and travel through time to understand their role in society. Fuente enjoys turning the natural sequence of things upside down. The narrative voice uses the future tense, (like “You shall open the door….”) to create an appealing mosaic of present, past, and future.
Characters represent different times during the history. General Llorente died almost sixty years before Felipe Montero begins a work of writing the history–the memories of the life of Llorente. They lived at different times, but turn out to be one whole essence. Past and future also are mixed up in the novel.
Mrs. Consuelo and Aura have the same actions that are synchronous. Felipe finds it strange at first. Felipe was terrified. Everything that happens in the novel is not by coincidence. Later in the book we find an explanation why “the girl nods and at the same instant the old lady imitates her gestures.”
Carlos Fuente uses real and fantastic things at the same time to describe the life in the house old Mrs. Consuelo. Felipe Montero goes to the house to work for the widow, but it seems like he has entered completely another world. The world which a person cannot leave anymore, once he had entered.
Aura herself is a very mystical figure. Her green eyes are symbol of something mystical, unreal. The girl lacks her own identity because the widow controls it. The dark house of Mrs. Consuelo, person who has written the announcement, is a perfect scene for all the magical and mysterious events that happen during the story. Aura and Consuelo have a secret connection that know only those inside the house. This connection arises many questions over the course of the book. It is hard to comprehend what is happening between the two women.
The fantastic elements in the work create a world that is based on the senses that Felipe experiences in the dark world of the widow’s house. Those senses are transferred to the public during the course of the book. Also, all the fantastic elements create a mystery about the identity of Aura and her origin. Felipe needs to decide if Aura is of this world or only of the world of Mrs. Consuelo.
It is possible to say that the coincidences do not exist in this novel, only the destiny rules everything. It feels like there is no differences between the reality and the fantasy.
The novel is about love and magic. Or I should rather say, the story is about presence of mystical in love, life, destiny, magic, and death. Everything in the novel seems to be unreal, starting with the advertisement in a newspaper that is seemed “to be addressed to you and nobody else.” Nothing in the book is a coincidence. The advertisement seems to be looking exactly for Felipe Montereo.
Many words in the novel seem to have double meaning. For example, in the beginning Montereo thinks that “this house will always be in darkness, and you’ve got to learn it and realize it by touch.” Everything that happens in the house is really a big mystery, is obscure and dark. Montereo really gets to learn it, to realize it, and probably even to experience.
The book is full of symbols. The cats are mentioned several times in connection with the house. The cats are usually a symbol of mystery. As well as green eyes of beautiful Aura.
The story makes a reader think that there might be something magical in everybody’s life. But usually it is hidden under many layers of history. But if we search deep enough we also may find something magical and unreal.
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