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Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolpho Anaya

Bless Me, Ultima
by Rudolpho Anaya
290 pages (trade paperback)
Genre: Fiction/Literary/Fantasy

More required reading, my least favorite of the five I had to read. Anaya is a wonderful writer with a talent for landscapes and symbols; I just wish he was less brusque with Meaning and Theme and This Is an Important Bildungsroman. The sub-subgenre, Chicano (as differentiated from Latino) magic realism, does not interest me much more than Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, a brilliantly written masterpiece that I can't bring myself to like very much.

Plot, you ask? Well, Antonio Márez is a young boy (age 6, I believe?) born to a happy but divided family--his father is a Márez wanderer of the llano, his mother is a Luna farmer who wants him to become a priest. Ultima, a wise old curandera or healer (Anaya mostly avoids the inherent pitfalls in this characterization), comes to live with them, bringing mystic if not magical events with her. Antonio's religious struggle throughout the novel was the most/only interesting part to me. For example, he secretly admires Florence, a schoolfriend and declared atheist who later meets a significant end. His devout Catholic mother is almost a cariacture of blind faith, while his father's subverted agnosticism feels natural. It's certainly a novel worth exploring further on issues of faith and belief, in the supernatural or otherwise; but I can't say I liked the book much. [/Keix's never-ending search for entertaining works of literary merit, Module 496]

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January 2011

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