Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Malinche - by Laura Esquivel

Since I started this blog I have read a few books that, although they were good, received no mention here because they did not include any references to libraries or librarians. Two of these were about slavery. One was historic fiction, Copper Sun by Sharon Draper, and the other was a contemporary memoir, Slave: My True Story, by Mende Nazer. I did not expect to find any libraries in these books about people who had no access to them. Furthermore, I did not expect that Esquivel's historical novel about La Malinche would be making a appearance here. La Malinche (aka Dona Marina, and Mallinalli), was a young Aztec woman in the 16th century who was both a lover and slave to Hernan Cortes during the Spanish conquest of Mexico. Her role as translator between the Spanish conquistadores and the Aztec's is explored, and deconstructed. The novel does not refer to libraries in the sense that modern readers know them, especially given that the Aztecs were a pre-literate society, however, preservation of knowledge is an important theme in this work, and codices, the pictograms that the Aztecs used for record keeping are not only represented at the beginning of each chapter, and inside the book's jacket, Malinche creates them. I was also struck by this passage, which resonated with me in the face of the Occupy Movement and the destruction of the Occupy Library (see my November 17 post). Here, Malinche as translator ("The Tongue" ) realizes how much control she weilded as the only one who spoke both Nahutl and Spanish
Never before had she felt what it was like to be in charge. She soon found that whoever controls information, whoever controls meaning, acquires power. And she discovered that when she translated, she controlled the situation, and not only that but that words could be weapons. The finest of weapons.
My Spanish-teacher self must also make an appearance here to extol the virtues of learning more than one language.

Codex of Malinche and Hernan Cortes from the late 16th century codex History of Tlaxcala.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent! La Malinche is a very important figure to understand. And language education, of course, is critical: