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Magical Realism and the Problem of Identity in Second Chance-El cuepro de delseo
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy”
- William Shakespeare, Hamlet (Act 1 scene 1)
Films like literature play an important role in articulating cultural and national consciousness. This is brought about as a result that films like literature can influence the way the audience begins to think about the reality such works of art depict. Reality through the lens of human existence is becoming more complex because nothing is absolute. Our world is in constant negotiations with social, scientific, physical and spiritual forces. Humanity is therefore redefining itself in lieu of these constructs. Coupled with the shifting definitions of what constitute reality is the amorphous face of identity and its myriad problems of social acceptance/acceptability. Film and literature come into fore in reflecting, representing and portraying human existence.
Latin American soaps therefore serve as a signpost in investigating human existence. This is because of its close uniqueness with the African world in terms of myth, history and mores. Wole Soyinka is therefore right when he says “Man exists, however in a comprehensive world of myth, history and mores; in such a total context, the African world like any other ‘world’ is unique. It possesses, however, in common with other cultures, the virtues of complementarity”(p xii in Myth, Literature and the African World). In a world of copious ‘signifiers’ and ‘signifieds’, man is losing grasp with the ‘real’- hence magic realism is used to explain some unnatural occurrences.
Television viewers in Nigeria are not new to the influx of Latin American soaps which they find interesting. These soaps are numerous to mention especially from its hay days with such soaps like Secret of the Sands, Maria de Los Angeles, Lady of the Rose, Passion, and the more recent one’s like When You Are Mine, Catalinia and Sebastian, Women of my Life, Lorenzo’s Wife, Gardner’s Daughter and lastly Second Chance (El Cuepro Del Deseo). These soap operas seem to have relegated and almost would have confined our local soaps to a state of invisibility.
What then is magical realism? The term magical realism was first used by Franz Roh, a German critic to describe the unusual realism of American painters such as Ivan Albrights, Paul Cadmus in the 1920’s. Bill Ashcroft et al in The Empire Writes Back define magical realism in art as the presentation of the real along with its accompaniment of the strange and fantastic, of dreams and half-light, of the marvelous and the mysterious (149). The term grew popular in the 20th century in the works of writers like Jorge Luis Borges, Isabell Allende and Gabriel Garcia Marquez who confessed that “my most important problem was destroying the lines of demarcation that separates what seems real from what seems fantastic (cited in, angelfire.com).
For Franz Roh, it was synonymous with the post expressionist painting (1920-1925) because it revealed the mysterious element hidden in everyday reality. Literary texts written in this fashion includes Amos Tutuola’s The Palm wine Drinkard, Lekan Adegoke’s illwind, Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, Vikram Chandra’s Red Earth and Pouring Rain etc. Magical realism has it metonymic function in postcolonial texts by showing as an identity of the postcolonial world which Wole Soyinka in his Myth, Literature and the African World believe, is made up of the world of the living, the dead and unborn.
How then do we explain in Second Chance Don Pedro Donoso’s death and sudden reappearance in the body of Salvador Sorenzo? This is the aspect of realism that this piece will be dealing with. Don Pedro is an old man who has all- money, friends including the ‘love’ of a young girl, Isabell Arroyo. This philanthropist and owner of a multinational company is betrayed by those he loved most. Don Pedro Donoso dies as a result of the poison Isabel and her lover Andrea Corona gave to Pedro. His soul refuses to give up but rather enters the body of another dead man Salvador Sorenzo giving him a ‘second chance ‘to correct the mistakes he made. He retains the consciousness of Pedro Donoso but the body of Salvador. This now brings us to the question of identity.
Merging the split personality or identity of Sorenzo in Don Pedro poses a problem for everyone in this epic soap opera. The wife of Salvador Sorenzo claims that the dead husband admits that he is an old man; he does not recognize her, has no son but a daughter and equally believes that his ‘real’ wife is Isabel Aroyo. The officiating priest, Father Jocobo believes that something has gone wrong with Salvador Sorenzo since he came back from the land of the dead. Salvador is subjected to medical examination to prove the veracity of his claims. In the eyes of the entire village Salvador is a young man but wouldn’t accept that. This sets the entire village into a state of pandemonium because the Salvador Sorenzo they once knew could not mouth English how much more to read, write and play the piano. Who then is Salvador Sorenzo? Why won’t people accept him as Don Pedro? Is the medical field right in asserting that the man is hallucinating or perhaps experiencing neuroses?
Magical realism transcends and defies the logic of scientific rationalism and empiricism because its truth lies in the minds of the initiates. Again, is science not creating a new form of existence and compounding the problem of identity. Today there are many trans-sexuals in Europe whose identity have been altered as a result of one surgical intervention. This is not different to Don Pedro’s altered identity in the body of Salvador Sorenzo. Why we ponder on all these, suffice us to ask ourselves if human existence is social, scientific, spiritual, physical etc.
Finally, it is correct to toe the line of thought proffered by Jacque Lacan that we are a plurality of different selves in one self hence the ambiguous and complex nature of identity.
DENNIS PROSPER CHIJIOKE(DPC)
B.A HONS LITERATURE IN ENGLISH
LAGOS STATE UNIVERSITY(LASU)