jueves, 11 de octubre de 2012

El mapa del tiempo

En Strange Horizons han publicado una reseña de El mapa del tiempo, de Félix J. Palma. El crítico destaca especialmente el sexismo de la obra, cuya lectura califica de repulsiva.

He dejado un comentario y, como me ha quedado muy largo, pues aquí lo copio también.

I didn't like The Map of Time, but the review looks somewhat disingenuous at some delicate points.

There may be a serious misunderstanding of what Palma's game is in the second third of the novel. It seems to me (although I make no claim to not being equally disingenuous) that he's after exposing the vulnerability of girls as a consequence of "girls are princesses" education (or brainwashing) since early childhood.

In a mainstream novel, the man would lie to take the girl to bed. The reader would have preconceived ideas about that, and that would be all.

Palma finds a fictional device which magnifies and clarifies the situation, in that the lie is gigantically unplausible ("Hey I'm a time traveller and, guess what, in the future we are together already"), much more than it'd be in real life, and the platonic image the girl makes is taken to a grotesque extreme too (she takes him to be not just a prince but "the saviour of mankind"). He is her prince and she knows they're destined to be together; thanks to Palma's device, she believes the destiny thing to be literally true.

I think this device is very intelligent. Why does she fall prey to him? Because her mind has been imprinted with the notion that an event fitting that pattern will happen to her because she "is" a princess. Is that thinking reasonable? No, because the lie is blatant, the whole situation is most unlikely, yet she is so clueless about her believing in a false ideology that she goes to him like a lamb. Is educating little girls in such beliefs responsible at all? I think Palma's answer is quite clear from the text.

You can be sure that the "I'm a princess" complex is a plague in Spain and surely in many other countries.

I don't find, honestly, serious marks of complacency with sex under deception in the text. She is claimed to be "getting what she deserved"; this underlines that she was fooled by a scheme she was more than clever enough to see through. That brings to the table the question why she couldn't see through it and asks the reader to make an analysis and isolate the cause. Further, recall that the text is written by Palma with a varying degree of ironic detachment from the narrator (who himself often writes with more or less ironic detachment from the narrated scene). Palma may very well be trying to shock the reader into questioning whether Claire really deserved what she was getting.

The implication in the review that it should be read as a moral condonation of rape is quite off the mark, I think.

The "torrent of fire, awakening of the flesh" part I believe is written in a tongue-in-cheek, very self-aware way, since the sentence is horribly clichéd and Palma is just a good stylist (I too recommend his short fiction). I cannot take it seriously that someone would read it as saying "Wow, she was being raped and how much she enjoyed it!" or something of that sort.

Additionally, it is quite plausible that Spanish readers find that section of the novel much less shocking than it proves to be for the reviewer. The reviewer seems to have problems with the fact that the male character is not punished in the end ("the rapist and his somehow still deceived victim go off to live happily ever after together"). But Spaniards are very familiar, since school, with the characters of the picaresque novel, who walk the line between roguish behaviour and major moral offense as they get going by mercilessly exploiting others' naivety and good will, and don't get punished in the end (they typically make their way to a modest but comfortably stable position in a corrupt society). Also, cheating behaviour is much more socially accepted, and I doubt deceiving a young woman into sex would be majoritarily read as rape in Spain, in the first place. Some people might even find the notion hilarious. (Thus I'd say that Palma takes extra care to make it stand that his male character is abusive.)

It is true that Palma handles the whole affair as a complex, nuanced situation, rather than serving an unambiguous indictment of 'Shackleton', and that the reader is entitled to thinking that nuances are uncalled for. But I'd definitely not call this "repulsive" or "a horrific treatment of gender".

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