Academic journal article Romance Notes

Through the Looking Glass: The Mirror Metaphor in Ana Maria Matute's "En El Bosque"

Academic journal article Romance Notes

Through the Looking Glass: The Mirror Metaphor in Ana Maria Matute's "En El Bosque"

Article excerpt

ON April 27, 2011 Spanish author Ana Maria Matute formally accepted the Premio Miguel de Cervantes, Spain's most prestigious literary prize, in the Paraninfo of the University of Alcala de Henares. Following tradition, Matute delivered a brief talk, in which she likened her early literary endeavors to the adventures of Lewis carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass: "Cuando Alicia, por fin, atraveso el cristal del espejo y se encontro no solo con su mundo de maravillas, sino consigo misma, no tuvo necesidad de consultar ningun folleto explicativo. Se lo invento [...]" ("Discurso" 8-9). This isolated reference to Alice is really an allusion to an earlier speech she gave upon entering the Real Academia Espanola in which she fully developed this analogy.

In her discurso de ingreso of January 18, 1998 entitled "En el bosque," Matute, first humbly defined herself as a "contadora de historias" (13), thus acknowledging poet and fiction-writer Carmen Conde, who was first female member of the Academia, (1) and who also occupied the same sillon Ka mayuscula. Matute then presented a defense of the fantastic in literature:

Es mi intencion invitaros, en este discurso mio tan poco erudito y tan poco formal, a ensayar una incursion en el mundo que ha sido mi gran obsesion literaria, el mundo que me ha fascinado desde lo mas temprano de la infancia, que desde nina me ha mantenido atrapada en sus redes: el bosque que es para mi el mundo de la imaginacion, de la fantasia, del ensueno, pero tambien de la propia literatura y, a fin de cuentas, de la palabra. (13-14)

She further said that the forest, just like literature, had always held an attraction and mystery for her: "Antes de saber leer, los titulos de los libros eran para mi como bosques misteriosos" (15). She explained that "su mera imagen siempre me ha sugerido toda suerte de historias y leyendas, de recuerdos que ignoraba poseer, pero que estaban ahi, confundidos entre los arboles o escondidos en la espesura de los zarzales" (15).

While the symbolic forest is Matute's primary means of characterizing both the act of understanding and of creating the world with literature, I am interested here in another, though not unrelated--as Matute would show--metaphor; that of the mirror. The mirror metaphor has been used since the earliest theoretical considerations of art (think of Plato's condemnation of artists in The Republic) to symbolize the relationship between human creativity and the material, social and spiritual world in which such activity takes place. Matute's reference to mirrors demonstrates the inevitable psychological implications of a symbol of objectivity so linked (think of Lacan) to human development. Like a window or a doorway that opens to a forest, the mirror is a portal to fantasy. Reflection leads to introspection, a repository of experience in the physical world not bound by the rules of science.

It is not surprising, given the way she characterizes the forest, and given her long history with children's literature, that Matute makes reference very early in her speech to Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, and, more significantly, Through the Looking Glass:

El momento en que Alicia atraviesa la cristalina barrera [...] siempre me ha parecido uno de los mas magicos de la historia de la literatura, quiza el que ofrece un mito mas maravilloso y espontaneo: el deseo de conocer otro mundo, de ingresar en el reino de la fantasia a traves, precisamente, de nosotros mismos. (14)

The mirror in Through the Looking Glass, which critic Donald Rackin has called a "great lasting document of psychological realism" (12), symbolizes for Matute a way to characterize the promise and richness of literature: "la posibilidad de cruzar el espejo e internarse en el bosque de lo misterioso y de lo fantastico, pero tambien del pasado, del deseo y del sueno" (15). She added: "No pretendo que abandonemos este mundo, nuestro mundo, sino tan solo que nos aventuremos por unos instantes en los otros mundos que hay en este" (15). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.