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The House of the Spirits; Rosa the Beautiful 
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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; Rosa the Beautiful
Hi guys :)

So finally decided to join the discussion as well.
The book did draw me in since I opened it, I could tell it will be a good read right away! The changes in the perspective of narration don't bother me since they seem synchronize somehow and not as detached as in some other books.

I am very intrigued by all your comments but aren't you guys reading a bit too much into some irrelevant details? Let's keep in mind that Allende does not give a particular name of a country where the action is set in the whole novel. And we do know that Chile was not the only South American country with a dictator in charge so I don't see a reason to focus particularity on Chile. In my eyes it's a story of a clash in between the old Indian America and what came later...

I found the scene when Clara told the priest off so hilarious! The disharmony in between the formal setting and the passion of the priest and an honest, straightforward observation of a child was great.

When it comes to Rosa's and Esteban's relationship - it did feel a bit off. It's not that she didn't love him, she was simply immersed in her own world. And he was allured by her beauty and the aura of mysticism surrounding her. I found it endearing that the guy was willing to sacrifice for Rosa and work hard to accommodate enough wealth to set up a life together at a decent level. The numerous letters he wrote are a proof it was not just pure lust.


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Robert Tulip
Wed Nov 16, 2011 8:00 am
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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; Rosa the Beautiful
On the very first page, Allende gives us some important clues.

Of Barrabas, she says "Barrabas arrived on a Holy Thursday. He was in a despicable cage, caked with his own excrement and urine, and had the lost look of a hapless, utterly defenseless prisoner; but the regal carriage of his head and the size of his frame bespoke the legendary giant he would become. It was a bland autumnal day that gave no hint of the events that the child would record."

The original Barrabas, the thief set to be crucified with Christ, also arrived on a Holy Thursday, the day before the crucifixion. This description could be of him as much as of the dog. The real clue here regarding location is that Holy Thursday is in autumn. This indicates that the country is in the southern temperate region of South America, where Easter is in autumn. Only Chile, Argentina and Uruguay have anything approaching an autumn season.

This allegory of Barrabas is then extended into a subtle and deep attack on the Roman Catholic Church.

The identity of Chile is later hinted on page 23, where it says the soldiers had learned the goosestep from the Prussians. From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goose_step#Spread it seems the Chilean army introduced the goosestep to Latin America after learning it from the Prussians, and other countries learned it from Chile.

I want to talk more about Uncle Marcos and his magic books.


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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; Rosa the Beautiful
The epigraph also suggests the setting is in Chile. Pablo Neruda is a well known Chilean poet.

It is common knowledge in the literature world that the novel is a roman a' clef. Allende's cousin was the Chilean President untill military coup in 1973. Neruda was also a candidate for the 1970 presidency against Allende, but withdrew to support Salvadore Allende's campaign.


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Thu Nov 17, 2011 8:37 pm
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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; Rosa the Beautiful
The poem by Pablo Neruda at the start of the book does indeed indicate that The House of the Spirits is in Chilé. Neruda is Chilé’s national poet, and writes with brilliant luminosity and depth and sadness. He appears later in the book as The Poet. Yet we find the strange device that never once is the name of Chilé mentioned. I also found myself wondering if perhaps the book might be about Allende’s homeland Peru. Yet I suspect The House of the Spirits will come to be regarded as Chilé’s national book, much as The Brothers Karamazov is the national book of Russia, articulating the contrary currents of national identity, even though Allende was born abroad and has lived around the world.

Rosa’s mermaid status is another puzzling mystery. On page 41, as Rosa lays like Sleeping Beauty dead on the slab, her father, Severo del Valle, who had himself accidentally given her the rat poison intended for him, sees her. “Severo was overcome when his daughter’s nightgown was lifted to reveal the splendid body of a mermaid.” And then on the next page, “they recalled the happy days when Rosa scampered in the garden startling the butterflies with her beauty that could have only come from the bottom of the sea.”

These strange statements, presented as fact, illustrate the dream-like magical realism of The House of the Spirits. If you only read it once, you might be forgiven for forgetting the statements that indicate that Rosa is not in fact a mermaid. After all, mermaids are akin to shape-shifters, creatures with a dual identity. Like the nation of Chilé itself, Rosa has both a magical and a prosaic nature. And like Chilé, Rosa is accidentally killed, so to speak, by a loving father. Perhaps at death she reverts to her true identity?

Esteban Trueba, Rosa’s fiancé, is the lead character of the book. His intense conservatism is presented in sympathetic light by Allende, very surprising given the book’s rather left wing theme. His love of Chilé will lead him to campaign for the fascist coup, an event that plunges the nation into destruction and sorrow, the death of Rosa writ large. Throughout the book we find portents of this tragedy. In this chapter, we see mention that Uncle Marcos’s books will be destroyed.

Marcos is an intriguing bit part. He stands for entrepreneurial imagination, with his madcap plan to fly over the Andes on a mechanical bird (p24), and his naïve assumption that “no woman in her right mind could remain impassive before a barrel-organ serenade” (p22). This deadpan statement is typical of Allende’s humor, recalling the Knight of the Sorrowful Countenance. In fact, there are many women who would fail to be wooed by military marches and waltzes (one of each repeated) played on a rusty box adorned by a fake ship’s smokestack, to the accompaniment of a shrieking Amazon parrot who had learned Spanish as a second tongue.

The relationship between Marcos and Clara is grounded in his magical books which become the foundation of Clara’s education. She recalls his pose triumphant over a dead Malay tiger as very similar to the Blessed Virgin in her conquest of the devil. His crystal ball and clairvoyant fortune telling introduce Clara to the world of magic. His “collection of maps and books of stories and fairy tales … were hauled out to inhabit the dreams of his descendants, until they were mistakenly burned half a century later on an infamous pyre.” (p29)


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Last edited by Robert Tulip on Fri Nov 18, 2011 6:00 pm, edited 2 times in total.



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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; Rosa the Beautiful
Yes I loved the character of Uncle Marcos. Totally zany, and also continues with the theme of the sea with his 'pirate's mustache' and 'strange sharklike smile' He also dies on his homeward journey on board ship.
I thought Allende was Chilean? I was reading that her father was the Chilean ambassador to Peru when she was a child, and that after the coup she was put on the 'wanted' list and had to escape Chile for Venezuela.


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Fri Nov 18, 2011 4:46 am
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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; Rosa the Beautiful
Quite right. She was born in Peru but is Chilean. My mistake

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isabel_Allende


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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; Rosa the Beautiful
I believe that the deposed ruler, Allende, was Isabel's uncle?



Fri Nov 18, 2011 5:34 pm
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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; Rosa the Beautiful
lindad_amato wrote:
I believe that the deposed ruler, Allende, was Isabel's uncle?


Not quite. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isabel_Allende#Biography says Her father was a first cousin of Salvador Allende, President of Chile from 1970 to 1973; so Salvador is her first cousin once removed.[5][6][7] Many sources cite Allende as being Salvador Allende's niece (without specifying that the relationship is that Tomas and Salvador are cousins);[8] the confusion stems from Allende herself often referring to Salvador as her "'uncle" (tío) in her private life and public interviews.[9] This is because in Spanish a "first cousin once removed" is translated as "second degree uncle" (tío en segundo grado).


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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; Rosa the Beautiful
Robert Tulip wrote:

Esteban and Rosa are the first love affair, and the first tragedy.


Not much of a love affair. He only kissed her once.



Sat Nov 19, 2011 7:45 am
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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; Rosa the Beautiful
Robert Tulip wrote:
Mermaids are a symbol of the danger of beauty.


Ahhhhh, I didn't know that. Thanks for that Robert. I figured there was something symbolic with the green hair and mermaidness. And the Catholic faith is full of symbolism's.



Sat Nov 19, 2011 7:50 am
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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; Rosa the Beautiful
heledd wrote:
As I haven’t read the whole book yet, I’m confused by whose voice we are hearing. Someone not yet born? Certainly on page 33 we have Estaban’s voice. Can’t wait to read more.


Good question. I'm gonna guess at this time it is Clara's.



Sat Nov 19, 2011 7:59 am
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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; Rosa the Beautiful
Robert Tulip wrote:
Occasionally through the book the narration switches without warning or explanation from third person to first person, with the story told by Esteban.


When this first happened I was taken back by it. Wondering what the heck! But when it happened the second time I appreciated it. It got me inside Esteban's head.

I am wondering if other characters in the book will be doing this as the story moves forward.



Sat Nov 19, 2011 8:06 am
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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; Rosa the Beautiful
kelstan wrote:
I'm having trouble seeing Rosa and Esteban as a tragic love affair. I find Rosa quite vacuous, beautiful but with no substance. She certainly doesn't seem to have any love for Esteban - it's as though she really has no thoughts or feelings of her own at all. And Esteban's professed "love" seems like little more than a desire to possess something beautiful - certainly it doesn't seem as though there is any real love for Rosa the person. I can't seem to empathize with either of these characters - is it just me?


No it is not just you. I really didn't have much sympathy for Esteban. If he was in this day and age he would be considered a stalker. As for Rosa well she has her looks but that's about it.



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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; Rosa the Beautiful
Robert Tulip wrote:
Just like the infant Clara telling the church we are fucked if the stories about hell are lies, the death of Rosa from strychnine poisoning introduces a jarring note. People seek to create a beautiful dream, regardless of reality, but reality intrudes to point out that the dream is self-serving.


I had to read that a couple times in the book. Kept thinking I was reading it wrong. Thought it should of said if the stories about hell are "true" we are all F'd.



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Sat Nov 19, 2011 8:22 am
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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; Rosa the Beautiful
heledd wrote:
The problem is, I could not read the book as a parable, because I simply did not know enough about the coup in Chile, and for a while was not even sure that it was set in Chile.


I have been waiting to see Chile mentioned myself. What year is this suppose to be? I wouldn't mind Goggling images and seeing what they were wearing and such.



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