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First Love Paperback – 1 Jan 1999

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"Excellent translation of Busca mi esquela and Primer amor, two novellas awarded the 1996 Sor Juana In es de la Cruz Prize. Provocative, haunting fiction whose author deserves to be studied and read for works other than her Recuerdos del porvenir"--Handbook of Latin American Studies, v. 58.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x8e261324) out of 5 stars 2 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x95fcf750) out of 5 stars Two very intriguing stories of love and loss 29 Feb. 2000
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
The late Elena Garro, whose reputation in her native Mexico was nothing short of brilliant, presents in this brief collection (both novellas are translated by David Unger) two very unconventional love stories. In First Love, the love in question is a German prisoner of war in post-WWII France, who befriends mother and daughter tourists amid the disapproval of the local folk. Trapped in an unhappy marriage and thankful for the break from domestic life, mother Barbara soon cannot deny her attraction to the soldier while her daughter (also named Barbara) feels an infatuation for the same man which is the catalyst for her growth into a mature young woman.
Look For My Obituary is not as straightforward a tale as its predecessor. This story tells of a young husband and father, unhappy in an arranged marriage, whose passion is awakened by a beautiful, mysterious stranger. With relentless determination he pursues this woman, though is careful not to cause scandal within his own loveless union, until his clandestine meetings with his love end with her "death"--her printed obituary is really an announcement of her own arranged marriage.
Though a brief look into one aspect of Latin American life, First Love & Look for My Obituary offers powerful sociological commentary and is evidence of Garro's own concern for the mistreatment of women in her culture. Garro writes with an eloquence accented with her Mexican heritage, yet both stories are not too immersed as to be confusing to those unfamiliar with the culture. Those with an interest in multicultural literature will find this volume to be a good primer.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8e218cb4) out of 5 stars Fun reading, important literature. 20 Nov. 2000
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
Two Novellas is a small book with big ideas. Garro addresses very similar ideas in the two novellas, which is why they are published together. In the first novella, First Love, a young girl and her mother, both named Barbara, while on vacation in Paris befriend against everyone's advice a group of German soldiers who are working on a railroad just after World War II. Both mother and daughter are attracted to one of them men named Sigfried, for different reasons. Everyone tells them not to go around these German scoundrels, and the reader knows there will be trouble coming, although exactly what kind of trouble comes is very surprising. In First Love Garro primarily explores the perceptions and stereotypes held by society, and the way these intercept individual freedom. In the second novella, Look For My Obituary, an unhappily married Mexican man named Miguel enconters a frail and lovely girl named Irene, who appears to him out of nowhere and makes his life seem so much better. Miguel wants to run away with Irene because he is desperately in love with her, but she keeps warning him there is danger to come. In Look for My Obituary, Garro explores the theme of marriage as a prison which takes away from the individual's desires and freedoms.
Although the plots are quite different, many of themes in the two novellas are similar. Both novellas deal with the themes of love and death, which are two cornerstone themes of all literature. Both could have technically been titled "First Love": Irene and Miguel discovered love for the first time as did the two Barbaras and Sigfried. Also, both deal with the prohibition of love as well as the constraints of marriage, and the freedom that this social institution takes away from individuals, in terms of their own desire and love. Both novellas are written in a mysterious ways and turn out different than the reader expects them to.
Garro has been called the "Greatest writer in Mexico", and this description suits her perfectly. Her style is very beautiful and moving, and her metaphors have a deep impact. There is a line in Look for My Obituary where Irene tell Miguel, "We are both dead already", meaning that she is destined to get married to someone she doesn't love and he is trapped in a stale marriage with a woman he no longer loves and who no longer loves him. In this novella, marriage equals burial and love equals death, but these metaphors only merge at the end. It is there that the reader realizes the true implications of the story and of the fates of the two main characters. There is also a great exploration of Magic Realism in the story. It challenges Western limits of rationality and deals with the limits of language and thoughts and the levels of cognition that we have to perceive and explain our world. In Look for My Obituary, Miguel always cried as a child and young man for what was going to be missing in his life because he knew he would someday meet Irene and he was waiting for that day but knowing that even when he met her he would have to keep waiting, and he would never get to have her. This is the essence of Magical Realism and it does not hold up under Western rationalist standards. Western philosophy separates body and mind, reality and imagination. However, in this novella, a very emotional scene is depicted and it is better explained through Magical Realism than through Western attempts at rationalization. Everyone has experienced unfulfilled longings and desires that cannot be reasonably explained, and these things are beautifully depicted in this story.
Two Novellas is a fast and fun read, but it has deep impact and great meaning. It provides a good starting point into Elena Garro's work, as well as other great works in Latin American Literature.
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