: My take on these questions:
: 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
: 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
: 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
: 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?
: God knows.
: 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
: 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?
Great, Guillermo! I think you put your finger on it! I knew that there was something pleasantly unusual about the way the family was portrayed. It is indeed that there was no sense of the Marxist "downtrodden" in the portrayal. He succeeded in painting a picture of a simple family party so that I wished I was there!
I do think that building tension over what was to become of Patri created an effective contrast and counterpoint to the party.
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