The protagonist of the story The Devil’s Drool, Roberto Michel, a Chilean living in Paris, accidentally takes a strange picture, depicting a woman seducing an inexperienced youth. The appearance of the photographer gives the guy the opportunity to escape, but the card begins to live its own life, and a different reality appears on it. The protagonist realizes that he was not filming date of lovers, but a pimp, trying to get a boy to entertain her cruel and terrible master.
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The main principle of Julio Cortazar’s novel The Devil’s Drool is magical realism. In the artistic space, the fantastic and the real collide. The narration is conducted in the manner characteristic of the author, based on the original thinking and experience of ancient civilizations such as the Maya. The documentary nature of photography and the reality prevent the reader from understanding what is more reliable – the reality that is seen not in detail, perceiving only a small part of it, or a photographic image that does not have a continuation, but is spread out with more information as widely as possible. The story reflects on this – on the deceptiveness of the perception of reality and the completeness of a work of art.
In Big Mama’s Funeral, in his specific manner, the author draws the reader into a strange whirlpool of events, listing material values and regalia, and the readers find themselves looking at the end of a certain era. With his beautiful language and interestingly constructed phrases, the author makes it clear that with the departure of such a person, although contradictory – but at the same time powerful – specific values remain. The matron herself, of course, suffered from her own imperative decisions, from which her people have suffered for a long time. A certain cosmic justice can be traced to the reader’s eye. At the same time, there is a picture where all the procedures, processions are over, and ordinary people, as usual, got only garbage on the streets.
It seems reasonable to state that both described works represent the crucial traits of the Boom to a great extent. The Devil’s Drool visible appeal to the instruments that were of the movement’s characteristic – Cortázar tends to question the boundaries of reality by mixing the revived images from the photos with the protagonist’s rationale and speculations. These speculations and depictions in some moments start not only to add realness but to replace it, which might be considered as magical realism that was the primary feature of the Boom (Cohn 155). In turn, Big Mama’s Funeral also utilizes magical realism by exaggerating the common image of a politician in Latin America of the period. The overconcentration of power, self-praising, and lack of concern for the fate of the people are all combined in Big Mama. She is kind of a metaphorical embodiment of the political approaches of the country that are to be overcome. From this perspective, the given peculiarities unite the stories as representatives of the Boom.
However, there is a number of features that separate them in this regard as well. The main message of the movement was to claim a protest against the undesired and irrelevant socio-political system. Big Mama’s Funeral puts a clear emphasis on this, and its opening sentence sets the tone for the whole story, “Big Mama, absolute sovereign of the Kingdom of Macondo, … , and whose funeral was attended by the Pope” (Márquez 1). Such an apparent political issue as overconcentration of power is accompanied by the inappropriacy of the people’s acceptance of this social order, “the garbage men will come and will sweep up the garbage from her funeral, forever and eve” (Márquez 7). Meanwhile, The Devil’s Drool contains the accentuation rather on the society’s flaws and philosophical issues than on the political problems. Images appearing in the protagonist’s mind one by one make the depiction of this society and its possible principles darker and more morbid. Hence, despite there is a number of the Boom’s traits that characterize this story, the absence of political emphasis in The Devil’s Drool separates them in this framework.
It should also be noticed that The Devil’s Drool contains several peculiarities of neorealism. The latter is characterized by a combination of descriptive concreteness and profound psychologism – socio-historical problems give way to moral and philosophical (Pacifici 51). This story shows an in-depth dive is the protagonist’s state of mind and reality’s perception. The Devil’s Drool is filled with many symbols and concrete metaphorical passages about life – such as the one at the story’s end when Michel draws a parallel with the arrangement of living and a clear sky with clouds (Cortázar 115). And Big Mama’s Funeral stays a little aside from neorealism as the emphasis is on political and social issues, and the story is rather a symbol of inappropriate politician’s aspirations itself. Nevertheless, it should be summarized that The Devil’s Drool and Big Mama’s Funeral are both prominent stories that contain plenty of the Boom’s significant characteristics.
Cohn, Deborah. “A Tale of Two Translation Programs: Politics, the Market, and Rockefeller Funding for Latin American Literature in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s”, Latin American Research Review, vol. 41, no. 2, 2006, pp. 139–164.
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Cortázar, Julio. Blow-up and Other Stories. Collier Books, 1968. UBC, Web.
Márquez, Gabriel. Big Mama’s Funeral. World Heritage Encyclopedia. 1962.
Pacifici, Sergio. “Notes toward a Definition of Neorealism.” Yale French Studies, no. 17, 1958, pp. 44–53.