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El Sur y Bene by Adelaida García Morales
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El Sur y Bene

by Adelaida García Morales

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The South and Bene are two short stories by Adelaida García Morales---not as in short stories, but short in page count---where the narrator, now a grown-up woman, looks back to her childhood in a dysfunctional family. The tone is conversational, in The South the narrator's father is addressed and in Bene her brother, both long dead.

In The South the girl's life circles around the father to whom she adores and who is close and distant at once, her only ally in the family but still someone with a life and secrets of his own. And his own death -- which he finally chooses and which terminally separates the girl from everything that she once held meaningful. South is where the father was from, South is where the girl looks to to find answers she was never given at home.

Bene is the name of a servant that comes to work for the family, or the what's left of it: the mother is already dead and the father is mostly away; the siblings, the narrator and her brother Santiago, are being brought up by aunts and servants. Bene seems to have a past, and everyone seems to think different things of what that past is what it means. The child hears things but she probably doesn't hear all, and at least she can't understand what the adults are talking about. But she understands she's not being told everything. The brother is older and he is already moving from childhood to the adults' world, and again the child is left alone.

The stories are emotionally strong and well written, though I have to admit that at times the same thing happened to me that sometimes happens when reading old stories: the charaters' mindset and sensibilities are so different from mine and their reactions to things is so different from what I think would be 'normal' that I can't relate. Sometimes that means I feel like studying an alien species, sometimes it makes me interested. This time it was, more the latter than the former, though.

Victor Erice has directed a film based on The South (El Sur) which is also well worth seeing, one of the really good book to film adaptations, even though it actually uses only about two thirds of the story. ( )
  eairo | Sep 28, 2009 |
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