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Log In Sign Up. Mahan L. Copyright Information: All rights reserved unless otherwise indicated. Contact the author or original publisher for any necessary permissions. Over one hundred characters participate in the creation of the narrative in Cosmofobia. The text is polyvocal, comprised of interviews, discussions, considerations or mere mentions, and this plethora of voices recreates a vibrant community struggling with attempts to define itself.
I intend to show that, through a series of binary observations, Etxebarria presents a more optimistic view on the multiculturalism of the community than the one held by its fictional residents.
Through close readings of several selections from the novel, I will show how the narrator undermines the opinions of the characters and alludes to this more positive reality. My analysis will examine three binaries observed in the text: the multicultural versus the intercultural, desire versus love, and the imagined versus the real. A consideration of these themes will highlight the dynamics at work in Cosmofobia, and will show how Etxebarria conceptualizes the cosmopolitan reality in this novel.
The work of Henri Lefebvre, Edward Soja, and David Harvey provides the theoretical framework that structures my analysis. Urbanism is embedded in a social dynamic which is inherently unstable, that therefore is constantly reaching out to take on newer and newer forms. The modern metropolis is an unwieldy tension- creating thing.
For Lefebvre, Soja, and Harvey, the dynamism of the urban is both chaotic and potential. The evolving dynamism of the city offers great opportunity for diversity and intercultural interactions. Their research on current urban trends helps to better understand the treatment of the cosmopolitan city within contemporary novels. More recently, gentrification efforts have attempted to redevelop the neighborhood. Currently, capital investment is slowly forcing lower class, long-term residents and poorer immigrant communities out of the neighborhood.
This collection of stories told by and about the residents of the neighborhood includes over a hundred characters in its three hundred pages. The stories are conveyed in a variety of voices and styles that intersect and elaborate upon one another to the point of confusion; it is a polyvocal narrative. The novel also reinforces the reality of the stories and characters by a section that acknowledges the inspiration for particular chapters and scenes, emphasizing that these characters may not be real but they are realistic.
These additional sections connect the diegetic space of the novel with a real space — the non-diegetic space — outside of the novel, which I will examine below. The cast of characters comprises a range of socio-economic and cultural backgrounds.
Recent immigrants such as the Moroccan Hisham contrast with the more Hispanicized children of immigrants such as the Hispano-Guinean Susana. The contrasts highlight the diversity of the neighborhood but also imply that it is a changing, dynamic space. The widely varied backgrounds of the characters consciously try to represent all facets of the neighborhood. The characters lament the lack of intercultural interaction in spite of the obvious diversity that fills their neighborhood.
The opposition of multicultural versus intercultural is the most prominent binary tenet that the characters repeat. The structure and contents of this first chapter set up the binary observations found throughout the entire novel. The figure of Yamal serves as an important thread throughout the novel connecting people and cultures.
He exudes a charismatic attraction to all who come in contact with him. Of Moroccan and Lebanese parentage, Yamal is sexually irresistible to both women and men, and his words are given biblical authority on all subjects. He appears in almost every chapter or story in some way. His bar becomes a space of intercultural interaction. At another point, he pronounces the last word on cultural difference to a group that is gathered at his bar: No son ellos y nosotros, todos somos iguales.
No existe mi verdad o la del otro, sino mi verdad y la del otro. Yamal is a multi-ethnic individual, providing a space for intercultural interaction and actively discouraging social and cultural segregation.
No other character receives the respect, admiration or textual space given to Yamal. The narrator treats him as a fundamental representation of the intercultural nature of the neighborhood.
His charisma draws people from all backgrounds. His bar provides the space for intercultural interaction. He initiates and maintains interpersonal interactions with a variety of people.
He is a consistent, recurring textual example of intercultural interaction and space. The second conspicuous binary observation is that of desire versus love. Relationships that ultimately fail fill the novel. Love is portrayed as no more than an ephemeral emotion that serves little to no purpose, while desire propels relationships and interpersonal — as well as intercultural — interactions. Love lacks vitality and is ineffective, while desire is dynamic and actuates.
The first introduction to love is complicated with other dynamics that ultimately separate people and families. In this representation, love is a capricious and divisive force. Love is presented in a more positive light in the situation of Miriam and Yamal, as they recount the story of their meeting in Paris years before. Its affective powers are ephemeral.
Love is ultimately impotent in creating interpersonal bonds. The recounting of their story begins with their friendship from twenty years earlier. Fortunately for Isaac, his tactics are successful and he begins a stable, but not very passionate, relationship with Claudia.
Even love creates separate spheres that isolate the individuals involved. As their relationship continues, Isaac believes that they are drifting apart. However, in the midst of his concerns, he and Claudia attempt to conceive together. Even this most intimate process is isolating for them.
Desire emerges as the drive that connects people. Isaac closes his eyes and is lead into a meditation on what his Desire could be. As he experiences an almost hallucinatory stream of images, he confirms that Claudia is indeed his Desire.
Isaac leaves the bar and returns home where he is suave and tender, effectively seducing a surprised Claudia. Their newfound desire reunites them emotionally, close in a way that their love had been unable to do. While this instance is the most explicit outlaying of the distinction between desire and love, desire is a recurring theme throughout the novel. Sexual desire is a strong motivating force that serves as an instigator for varied instances of intimate, carnal, intercultural interaction.
Intercultural sexual encounters are highly intimate contact zones, not only social contact zones, but also physical ones. These physical intercultural encounters are not untroubled. They are often temporary flings, crumbling at the slightest pressure. And yet, the intercultural affairs are just as problematic as the intracultural ones that are described throughout the novel. Both intercultural and intracultural relationships share similar problems and brevity.
Culture is removed from the equation as the problematic dynamics of interaction are generalized to the interpersonal level. He inhabits the social center of the neighborhood, where desire drives relationships. His bar serves as a contact zone for the neighborhood, and his personal charisma makes him irresistible. Yamal Benani effectively symbolizes a cosmopolitan space that compels interaction between distinct groups of people, removing the cultural barriers that exist and transgressing them through personal interchange.
El deseo es como niebla. Todo es discontinuo en el deseo, todo se disuelve en el deseo. The neighborhood emerges as an intermediary space inhabited by both immigrants and Spaniards, one in which desire dissolves difference.
If not, we will mirror only ourselves, experience only our own ideology. Desire draws people in close proximity together by obscuring the difference of past or the outside. The third pertinent dichotomy is that of the imagined versus the real.
Etxebarria employs dramatic irony to undermine the beliefs of her characters in multiple passages where an individual believes one thing to be true, while there is actually an opposing reality. Image and substance are distinct qualities, and Etxebarria emphasizes the superficiality of the former.
In fact, one of the roles that she hoped to interpret was for a movie script that her then- husband had written titled Cosmofobia, a direct reference to the novel in which she is a character. This tie between movie and book obscures the contrast between intra- and non-diegetic space, especially when it is mentioned that Penelope Cruz, a real-life actress, will play the part in the cinematic version. This complication further highlights the distinction between script and reality, between what is imagined and what is real.
An imagined fictional and real non-diegetic meta- narrative level parallels the imagined mental and the real physical within the text. Therefore, the contrast between the imagined and reality, and between diegetic and non-diegetic, highlights the forces at play between persons and cultures both within the text and also beyond its pages, creating an open and evolving conceptualization of the community.
Often, it takes the explicit form of lying, as is the case with Cristina, the anorexic. As an adult, she now hides her anorexia. Friends and family believe she has gotten help and has recovered.
Ahora me aliento con mucha sensatez, miento. Here, Cristina consciously portrays a false reality for her family and friends, creating an imagined reality for them to believe. Unable to know the truth, her acquaintances must operate under false assumptions in their relations with Cristina. Similar are the memories that Claudia and Dora share when they reconnect on the bus after many years. They recount the death of Franco and the feigned public mourning of their parents, but the private celebration.
Cosmofobia by Lucia Etxebarria