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The House of the Spirits; The Epoch of Decline 
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Post The House of the Spirits; The Epoch of Decline
The House of the Spirits
Isabel Allende

The Epoch of Decline



Mon Oct 31, 2011 1:40 pm
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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; The Epoch of Decline
Esteban is shrinking. The house is in decline, the garden full of undergrowth. Esteban tries unsuccessfully to build up a relationship with his sons, but he always ends up by quarrelling with them. Nicholas wears a loincloth, just like his Uncle Marcos did, (Nivea accepted her brother doing this, because he convinced her that it was the same costume in which Jesus of Nazareth had preached) and his behaviour finally results in Esteban banishing him from not just the home, but the country! The whole family seems to fall apart after Clara’s death, and Esteban seems unaware of even Alba’s needs.
The scene where Esteban opens Rosa’s coffin again reminds me of the Snow White tale. Rosa is as unchanged and as beautiful as the day she died. But unlike Snow White being brought back to life by a kiss, when Esteban kisses the glass cover she ‘disintegrated into a fine grey powder’.


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Mon Dec 19, 2011 7:14 am
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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; The Epoch of Decline
The Epoch of Decline – House of The Spirits

Clara the clairvoyant spirit of Chile has just died, and with her the spirit of the house vacates and it sinks into a malaise of indifference and rot. The psychoanalytic agenda of the book emerges strongly, with the basement of the house as a symbol of the collective unconscious, with the Trueba family standing again as a parable for the nation of Chile. The matriarch, Clara’s mother Nivea, had died in a car crash, and her head was mysteriously severed and lost, symbolic of how Chile had lost its head. Because no one knew what to do with the head when it was eventually found, it ended up in the hidden locked basement, where Clara’s granddaughter Alba used it for celebrating black masses and decorating her playhouse, in a comic distortion of how the loss of continuity with traditional society had exposed Chile to risk of decline. This strange linkage of voodoo with innocence gives a sense that the characters in the book are playing with forces bigger than they understand.

Esteban decides to finally bury his mother-in-law’s head secretly in the grave of his wife, arranging for her sons to secretly put the terrifying wizened yellow toy like a shrunken pygmy skull in Clara’s coffin. After the grand event of the funeral, attended by all Clara’s many friends from everywhere, Esteban finds his granddaughter asleep in the basement on the moth-eaten remnants of Clara’s dog Barabbas, waiting to commune with her dead grandmother, another subconscious message connecting the present to the past.

The sheer love with which Esteban lays out his dead wife and seeks her forgiveness from beyond the grave for his violent behaviour indicates the high regard the traditional conservative society has for those who connect them to the masses of the people, even while they regard the masses with contempt. Esteban builds a magnificent mausoleum for his two loves, the sisters Clara and Rosa, whom he considers as angels. My copy of the book has these angels on the cover. The statue he commissions from a Uruguayan sculptor turned out exactly as he wanted, true to life.

The hitch comes when Rosa’s family refuse permission to move her body, prompting a ghoulish episode where Esteban and his son rob her grave. When they open it Esteban sees Rosa in the full flush of youth, but she disintegrates to a skeleton when he kisses her. This is presented as magical realism, but reads as imagination.

Esteban now becomes the caricature of a conservative politician, the picturesque reactionary oligarch, achieving massive votes due to the mockery he suffers from the left. He warns of how the left is the enemy of democracy, a phrase he invents that the later dictatorship will make central to its murder program. “He was fanatical, violent and antiquated, but he represented better than anyone else the values of family, tradition, private property, law and order.” (p351)

We are now entering the slide towards civil war. My impression of Chilean politics is that it focused the conflict of the Cold War between Russia and the USA within one country, with the two sides roughly equal. The left are inspired by the dream of socialist equality, while the right seek to maintain tradition. The clash of reason and faith is shattering. On the surface, the left represents reason and the right represents faith, but beneath this appearance the left are dreamers while the right are economic realists, inverting the surface relation. It will end in tears as no one will give way until their views are tested in battle.


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Sun Dec 25, 2011 8:32 pm
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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; The Epoch of Decline
Quote:
The sheer love with which Esteban lays out his dead wife and seeks her forgiveness from beyond the grave for his violent behaviour indicates the high regard the traditional conservative society has for those who connect them to the masses of the people, even while they regard the masses with contempt.


This could also represent control. Now that Clara is not longer alive to oppose Estaban in anyway he can make a big show of lavishing her with love. His controlling nature gets the last say by proving to be a good,loving husband.

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On the surface, the left represents reason and the right represents faith, but beneath this appearance the left are dreamers while the right are economic realists, inverting the surface relation. It will end in tears as no one will give way until their views are tested in battle.


Well said. The dreamers cannot see that democracy need realism and the realists cannot see that democracy needs dreamers.



Last edited by realiz on Mon Dec 26, 2011 1:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Mon Dec 26, 2011 1:42 pm
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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; The Epoch of Decline
I'm looking forward to getting back to the movie on YOu Tube - I wanna see Esteban shrinking. Can't help laughing at the thought of it.

The guy that plays his part in the movie is a scream.



Fri Jan 20, 2012 12:00 pm
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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; The Epoch of Decline
Yes, Robert, that is well said - you make it easy to understand the parables that describe the country's problems.

Thanks for the effort you put into the moderation of this story as it plays out.



Fri Jan 20, 2012 5:48 pm
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