Postmodern Approaches to the Short Story

By Farhat Iftekharrudin; Joseph Boyden et al. | Go to book overview

5
Sandra Benítez1 and the Nomadic Text

Andrea O'Reilly Herreia

Over the past twenty years the academy has witnessed an increasingly lively debate among writers and scholars regarding the formal properties or characteristics of the short story and its structural affinities with other genres.2 In the wake of the postmodern age, however, theorists of the short story are, to borrow Susan Lohafer and Jo Ellyn Clarey's terminology, at the crossroads once again, for scores of contemporary authors are penning nomadic texts that resist categorization and definition in that they freely cross generic borders and openly defy the formal characteristics employed to distinguish among literary forms.3 In A Place Where the Sea Remembers (1993), for example, Sandra Benitez explores with direct simplicity and spare prose the fragmentary and subjective nature of human experience in a kind of intricate tapestry that weaves together the lives of eight central characters. Not unlike a photo album, A Place Where the Sea Remembers is laid out in short, lyrical chapters which feature seemingly isolated or random incidents or [slices] of the title characters' lives. (The only character who has more than one chapter devoted to her is the mystic curandera Remedios, whom I will discuss at a later juncture.) Although many of the chapters are elliptical and highly metaphoric, each has its own integrity and meaning and, therefore, can be treated as an independent entity—a separate episode or short story as it were (hereafter referred to as epistory). It isn't until the fifth chapter—nearly a quarter of the way through the text—that the reader becomes conscious that the characters' epi-stories are indeed interconnected, and each contains within it a thick web of symbols and themes that are taken up and developed throughout Benitez's work. In other words, despite the fact that A Place Where the Sea Remembers is classified as a novel, in truth it reads more like a collection of short, interlinked epi-stories

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