Are the ghosts actually "ghosts?" I mean, are they spirits of the dead? Or are they some kind of supernatural beings?
I think they are playfully mischievous beings, like goblins or djinns, only, in our modern world of luxury apartments buildings in urban settings, instead of being spirits of the forest or the lake, they are spirits of the urban jungle: the dense neighborhoods with condo-buildings in the place of trees.
Why are they all men? Are they really gay? Why do they invite poor Patri to kill herself? Are they malign? They seem rather innocent, but they lure a young girl to her death.
Maybe because the world of construction is mainly a male world. Women simply happen to be there as part of the family of Raúl, who could well be single. There are no female construction workers. Also, the world the Viñas family lives in is very machista: although he doesn't beat her wife or children, Raúl is a macho, a guy who gets drunk and is carried to bed by wife and step-daughter. Construction workers are coarse people, and so are the spirits who accompany them, floating around naked and playing penis-jokes.
I don't think they actually lure Patri to death: they invite her to a party and she plays along, jumping from the roof. Or so I guess...
Why can only the workers see them? Because they are Chilean? Because they are poor? I mean, the father makes casual use of them as refrigerators!
Because they are their ghosts, not the tenants'. They are the ghosts of construction workers and their families. They belong to the same social class (are they the ghosts of dead masons?), and so behave coarsely.
Since there are no women, why do they invite Patri to the party? I notice that they give back her glasses, but Patri does not immediately appear as the only female ghost. What is up with this?
What is all this talk about a "real man?" What does this even mean? A straight man? A strong man? A virile man? A working man? What?
An effective husband, like Roberto, Inés's boyfriend. Raúl is a drunk, but he is a real man, a macho who protects her people, demands obedience, but treats them fairly and feeds them well. Patri wants one, but she has fallen before for "not real" men, and so perhaps she feels tainted.
Just like Sterling, I enjoyed the realistic part better than the fantastic one. Aira's depiction and analysis of social inequality is masterful, his portrait of the working class insuperable, the more so because, contrary to most Latin American literature, with its penchant for Marxism and sordidness, it doesn't give a miserable, heart-crunching story about how badly workers live, but it is in fact a joyful story about how the poor (and in this case, Chilean immigrants) can enjoy themselves with the simple things in life. It is surprising that, far from resenting the luxury the tenants are going to live in, they criticize the apartments' distribution, fantasize about how they would arrange rooms and furniture, but never really expect to one day have an apartment of that kind. No social resentment, no leftist wailing here: only the real life of reasonably happy blue-collar workers and their families, getting together for New Year's Eve. Lots of drink, but no quarrels, no brutality, no disgrace. Kids playing around, men talking guy stuff, women talking girl stuff, all normal (until the tragic end, with which I could have dispensed).
A working hypothesis: Aira wanted so much to tell a story about construction workers, Chilean immigrants, in wealthy Buenos Aires, but was afraid of being accused of bourgeois literature, of boring simple realism, of being a conventional writer, that he decided to add his bit of magical realism and so be considered by critics and fulfill his obligations to Latin American "boom" literature (this was first published in 1990 but written in 1987, well before the fall of the Wall).
No need, I say. The novel is fine as it is, but, at least for this reader, he could have added more episodes of the Viñas family daily life and dilemmas, without the ghosts or the philosophical digressions (I enjoyed most of them, though).
What do you think?
: Okay. i actually finished both this novel and
: Doctor Glas last week, but I've been waiting
: to post. i didn't want to spoil anything
: for Guillermo.
: Anyway, whatever we may classify Lincoln in
: the Bardo as, this is inarguably a work of
: magic realism. I don't know if it is
: reasonable to expect even interior logic to
: apply to magic realism, but in, say, One
: Hundred Years of Solitude, the magic always
: made emotional sense, even if it made no
: literal sense at all.
: With this in mind, I have many questions:
: Are the ghosts actually "ghosts?"
: I mean, are they spirits of the dead? Or
: are they some kind of supernatural beings?
: Why are they all men? Are they really gay?
: Why do they invite poor Patri to kill
: herself? Are they malign? They seem rather
: innocent, but they lure a young girl to her
: Why can only the workers see them? Because
: they are Chilean? Because they are poor? I
: mean, the father makes casual use of them as
: Since there are no women, why do they invite
: Patri to the party? I notice that they give
: back her glasses, but Patri does not
: immediately appear as the only female ghost.
: What is up with this?
: What is all this talk about a "real
: man?" What does this even mean? A
: straight man? A strong man? A virile man?
: A working man? What?
: I enjoyed this novel reasonably well, but
: oddly enough I liked the "realism"
: sections much more than the
: "magic." I thought that the party
: at the end of the book was beautifully
: written. I was completely absorbed in
: reading about a rather mundane event. This
: is a mark of a superior writer (and
: translator, I suppose).
: --Previous Message--
: I'm gonna go ahead and post what I have on
: this since it'll be some days before I'm
: back here.
: I was interested in the reality/non-reality
: theme; I copied out some quotes.
: "misguided belief that reality is
: "the ghosts are like men."
: "must be very careful not to mix up
: truth and lies, reality and fiction"
: "for men, the apparent is more
: important than the real"
: Why does Patri jump? For the reasons in her
: story? Boredom with the family.
: What is all the 'real men' business?
: Do the ghosts manifest because Patri wants
: to die?
: I've also finished Dr. Glas which I enjoyed
: quite well. This year is shaping up better
: than the last one. Ghosts is the least
: enjoyable of these three, and it's not bad.
: The other Aira novel I read, An Incident in
: the Life of a Landscape Painter was nicer.
« Back to index