Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Review: The Family of Pascual Duarte

The Family of Pascual Duarte by Camilo José Cela

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am not, sir, a bad person, though in all truth I am not lacking in reason for being one.

Pascual Duarte has done many things in his life. Some of them took him to prison not once but twice times. He's now under his second sentence and he's about to be executed. Thus, he wrote a diary in which he told his entire life and the people who influenced it.

He killed many people. He states that at the beginning, so don't you worry about spoilers. Some in cold blood, some because of revenge, others because of self-defense, etc. The thing is, the man was a murderer.

You kill without thinking, I have well tested; sometimes unintentionally. You hate intensely, fiercely, and the blade is opened and with it wide open, barefoot, you come to the bed where the enemy sleeps.

His past is dark and terrible. I wouldn't wish anyone a life like the one he had. His father and mother abused him, his sister escaped from the house at 16 because she couldn't bear living there any more, the man who dishonors his sister ends up sleeping with his first wife and gets her pregnant.

Plus, he was violent by nature, so should you be surprised about the things he's yet capable of doing? Yes, you should.

The truth is that life in my family had little to rec­ommend it. But since we are not given a choice, but rather are destined—even from before birth—to go some of us one way, some the other, I did my best to accept my fate, which was the only way to avoid desperation.

You should not be surprised that the general tone in this book is pessimistic. I don't have a problem with that, in case you were wondering. For some reason still unknown to me, these kind of books end up being my favorite.

The realism of the novel is also overwhelming and good. The situations portrayed in the book are things that still happen, and since it's narrated in 1st person POV, you can see Pascual's opinions on them. And also, you get the opportunity of being inside a murderer's head.

I'm not made to philosophize, I don't have the heart for it. My heart is more like a machine for making blood to be spilled in a knife fight...

Many people would say this man was mad, but was he indeed? That's actually a rather difficult question for me to answer. When I read this in 2013, my Spanish teacher asked us that question. I've been thinking since that moment if the man was crazy or not, and I still cannot come up with an answer.

Also, is he a bad person? He states at the beginning that he is not, but that he has many reasons to be so. Certainly sometimes he's not acting according to the moral, and his motives may not justify his actions, yet he still claims he's neither a mad nor a bad person.

The ending of the book is also open for interpretations. Was Pascual trying to redeem himself? Was he simply telling his life because he was proud of his actions? Was he just merely trying to explain things?

I wanted to put ground between my shadow and myself, between my name and me, between the memory of my name and the rest of me, between my flesh and me myself, that me myself who, without shadow and name and memory and flesh would be almost nothing.

This is the thing with unreliable narrators: You can never trust all the things they say. Yes, there are some fact about his life that he can't modify because they're things everyone knew... but what about the feelings? What about his inner thoughts? Should they be trusted too? Not in the majority of the cases.

The letters at the beginning and the ending of the book are the only clues as to what you should think about his diary, because the person writing the letters is just as puzzled as the reader.

Anyway, I recommend this. I'm not really sure about this book being one of my all-time-favorites, but it sure was good enough to pass the 2015 re-read test.

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