Macedonio Fernandez wrote a novel titled, The Museum of Eterna’s Novel (The First Good Novel) which is a very untraditional novel to say the least. The novel is unlike anything I’ve ever read before with its extremely short chapters that don’t really seem to go anywhere and constant usage of big intellectual words and philosophical tone throughout each and every page. I feel as though everything that he says could possibly have come from Confucius or a fortune cookie, but that’s what made the novel interesting in my eyes. His unorthodox ways kept me locked in because this was something that I had never seen before, and something new to the human is always a mystery and I wanted to solve it. Regardless of his unorthodox methods though, he still used narrative techniques that a good novel must include, like narrative situation.
“I, who once upon a time imagined himself a man of complete good
fortune, a man who elbowed his way through the multitude
shouting, Make way for the happy man! – on the contrary, I must
ask that you favor me with a show of compassion for all that’s happening
to me, because everything is. See for yourselves:” (Fernandez 101).
This quote is a good example of a first person narrative because not only is the narrator a character in the story, he is the protagonist. The author, Fernandez, is the narrator of the story but he is also the main character, and we go throughout the story talking about him and his experiences and how he feels about certain situations. He uses the word I multiple times throughout the novel which proves that it is a first person narrative and has basically written the first good novel, about himself. As proven by this quote, he stated a point (about himself) and then goes on to prove in the next paragraph why his point is true. He doesn’t do it in a clever matter or masks his attempt to show us what he means with metaphors or symbolization; he distinctly comes out and says, take a look for yourself, and continues to explain why he thought he would be happy but really isn’t. I really cannot tell you what this story is about, with over a 100 pages or prologues and all this talk about himself and his great novel, but I picked this quote for another reason than to show the form of narrative situation that he uses; I really like the way he integrated the audience in this sentence and brought us into his novel about himself. I like the inclusion and the fact that we are a part of his story and the fact that he knows he’s talking to us, so why not throw us in there too. His ways are untraditional to say the least but very interesting as well.
Another unorthodox novel in a sense is Eguardo Vega Yunque’s, The Lamentable Journey of Omaha Bigelow into the Impenetrable Loisaida Jungle. This novel is untraditional because of its large amounts of dialogue, its language, and pretty much what the whole story is about. The language is not something you normally read in a novel; there are a lot of cuss words and the pages are filled with slang and the diction consists of how you and I would talk if we were having a conversation on the street. The novel is about a guy who lives a life that no one would ask for; everything seems to be going wrong at the same time, he loses his girlfriend and his job and is the farthest thing from being happy, and to top it all off he has a very small penis. The whole novel we follow Omaha throughout his poor pathetic life and talk about how small his lower half is and how he goes about fixing it, but besides being a novel that breaks the norm, like Fernandez’s “The First Good Novel” Yunque’s “Omaha Bigelow” uses narrative techniques that all novelists use as well. “When Flaquita returned to the projects after a night out with the girls, she was smiling contentedly. She had declined a visit to a male strip club after dinner. Instead, she returned home to read her son’s play” (Yunque 71). This would be a good example of focalization, fixed focalization to be exact. Fixed focalization is when everything is presented to us by one focalizer, one narrator, one point of view; it’s consistent, which is exactly what this novel is. We have one narrator throughout the novel that brings us through the life of Omaha Bigelow and all the people that surround him. This quote, for example, is about his mother Flaquita. We’re watching her from the narrator’s eyes and we only know what she is doing and how she is feeling because of what the narrator tells us. We only know that she is feeling content that she did not go out to the strip club because he told us that she’s feeling that way. We only know that she skipped out on the strip club after dinner was because she wanted to come home and read her son’s play; she didn’t tell us that. The reason this is fixed focalization is because no matter the situation, or the character, the same narrator is telling us what they are doing and how they are feeling. What’s happening doesn’t matter, we are seeing everything from one consistent focalizer. Even though both of these novels aren’t exactly what we’re used to reading, they both use very traditional techniques in their writing that make it easy for us to read and understand what’s going on in their novels while trying to keep us locked in and interested throughout the story as well.
Fernandez, Macedonio. The Museum of Eterna’s Novel (The First Good Novel). Trans. Margaret Schwartz. Rochester, NY: Open Letter Books, 2010.
Yunque, Eguardo Vega. The Lamentable Journey of Omaha Bigelow into the Impenetrable Loisaida Jungle. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers, 2004.