Monday, August 18, 2008

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

I finished "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" by Junot Diaz today. The 2008 Pulitzer award winner was an absolute masterpiece. The novel is the history of three generations of one Dominican family with the focus on Oscar, the youngest member of the trend.

The social background of the novel is very important in order to understand it. The history of family starts during the reign of Raphael Trujillo, the evil dictator of DR during the 30s-60s. The US backed dictator ruled the colonially damaged DR in the cruellest fashion. The Dominicans and people and families who suffered from his reign believed in a curse called Fuku. The power of this curse was said to be so immense that it remained in generations and generations of the poor victims. Oscar’s family is an example and that is what the novel is about. Fuku, this superstitious belief is treated in a beautiful way by Diaz who transforms Fuku into a fabulous colonial and hegemonic symbol.

What strikes Oscar’s family from his late grandfather, into his mother, his sister and himself is not really a supernatural curse. Although it’s even worse than a curse – a curse no scapegoat could eradicate. Fuku, I think, is the consequence of Trujillo’s brutality, and Trujillo himself in not responsible. They whole misery goes back to the first European settlers who entered the New World, Hispaniola so to speak, for the first time.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao explores how the destructive forces of colonialism, and cultural materialism resulting in the instalment of puppet regimes, could destroy societies, families, and even individuals. As Junot Diaz himself points out in an interview, Trujillo is not a Dominican, but a typical American. A person any American thrives to be like.

Oscar, whose virginity and death opens a psychological colonial approach to the text, is an alien both in America and DR (he is born in DR, though holds a US greencard). It is his unhomeliness, and double consciousness which drowns him in his fantasies and hinders him from fulfilling the real world.

I do recommend you do to read this novel. It is a piece with which you form an intimacy from the first page and which finally moves you up to heaven until the end with its touching epiphanies. It is a debut novel by a fresh voice: Junot Diaz is a young American-Dominican who teaches creative writing in MIT.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home