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The 'Divided Self' in the work of Marías, Saramago and Bolaño.

The 'Divided Self' in the work of Marías, Saramago and Bolaño.

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An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards Competition by John McGovern. Originally submitted for Spanish Literature at University College Dublin, with lecturer Dr. Alison Ribeiro de Menezes in the category of Languages & Linguistics
An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards Competition by John McGovern. Originally submitted for Spanish Literature at University College Dublin, with lecturer Dr. Alison Ribeiro de Menezes in the category of Languages & Linguistics

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 29, 2012
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10/27/2013

 
"Hugh: But will that help you to interpret between privacies?" 
(Friel 442)- Translations
The 'Divided Self' in the work of Marías, Saramago and Bolaño.
The Irish playwright Brian Friel has produced a body of work that regularlyhighlights, "his fascination with the human capacity for producing consoling fictionsto make life more tolerable." (Deane 17) One of his early plays,
 Philadelphia Here I Come
, included the character of Gar O'Donnell. Friel split O'Donnell's psyche in twoso strikingly that two actors were required to play the part; one actor playing PublicGar, representing the external aspect of the character, that side of Gar that he revealed publicly to the world through his words and actions and a second actor playing PrivateGar who was visible to Public Gar and the audience but none of the play's other characters. Private Gar represented the character's concealed thoughts, emotions andmotivations. He also triggered and influenced Public Gar's memories of events fromthe recent and distant past.It is through the filter of such a notion of the divided self that this essay willexamine
Corazón tan blanco
by Javier Marías,
 Blindness
by José Saramago and to alesser extent
 Nocturno de Chile
by Roberto Bolaño. A close reading of the texts will be undertaken in order to ascertain the implications, according to the authors, of theself being divided into separate entities, public and private, both at the level of theindividual and at a societal level.
 
Much of Friel's work looks at, "the interpenetration of public and private."
1
(FitzGibbon 77) It has been shown above how he employs inventive means to makethe tension between the interior thoughts of the private self and words publicly voicedclear to a theatre audience. The structure of a novel which furnishes the reader withthe interior thoughts of the narrator or narrators, provides an author with the space andthe tools to examine this tension in great detail.In
Corazón tan blanco
, Marías investigates the stress and strain brought about by the disparity between what is consciously felt and what is publicly or externallyacknowledged. The character of Juan is introspective and the reader is invited toexplore the divided self in their own lives while observing Juan doing likewise. Histhoughtful, reflective nature is clear from the beginning of the narrative, "mirabahacia fuera con el pensamiento puesto dentro." (Marías 30) His awareness of thedivided nature of the self is also apparent early on, "notaba con fuerza las dos presencias que casi me paralizaban y enmudecían, una fuera y otra dentro." (Marías36) Juan is also sensitive enough to be aware of the existence of the same condition inothers, demonstrating its universality:escuchara por su cuenta, a solas, no juntos, y cada uno guardara parasí, inexpresados, los pensamientos o los sentimientos que nossuscitaban ... e ignora los del uno el otro, tal vez los mismos.(Marías 54-5)Marías refers to the opposing parts of the divided self not as public and private but as known and unknown.
Corazón tan blanco
is Marías' study on secrecy. The
1
FitzGibbon, Ger. “Interpreting Between Privacies: The Boundaries of Language” Brian Friel'sDramatic Artistry: The Work Has Value. Ed. Donald E Morse et al. Dublin: Carysfort Press, 2006. 73-91
 
 private cannot be made public without being expressed or observed, "No tanto paramecerse a solas, si es que alguien sabe lo que a nadie le pasa a solas." (Marías 94) Theact of making the private public is reliant on the presence of somebody to receive theinformation, to share in the secret, whether they want to or not:Escuchar es lo más peligroso, es saber, es estar enterado y estar altanto, los oídos carecen de párpados que puedan cerrarseinstintivamente a lo pronunciando, no pueden guardarse de lo que se presiente que va a escucharse, siempre es demasiado tarde. (Marías 88)The act of sharing a secret is therefore irreversible just as any aspect of the self that ismade public cannot return to the private self from whence it originated. Marías warnstoo against our innate desire to be given access to the private self of others, to sharetheir secrets. Be careful what you wish for appears to be his advice, "pero lo que sí es posible es no querer saber nada cuando aún no se sabe, después ya no." (Marías 149)The irreversible nature of a disclosed secret has many implications. Theknowledge that constitutes a secret resides in the private space of the individual'smind as a thought. Marías repeatedly shows that an individual has three options whendealing with internal, private knowledge, particularly secrets. The information can beacknowledged externally by sharing it with another, banished to the realm of memory(which has many implications), or ignored or deliberately forgotten.In telling another, and transferring knowledge from the private sphere to the public a process of selection invariably occurs. Experience can be described,explained and recounted but it cannot be repeated exactly. Experience has a qualitythat cannot be expressed completely in language as it is unique to the individual.

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