Body-Swapping and Genre-Crossing: Laura Esquivel's 'La Ley del Amor'

By Taylor, Claire Louise | The Modern Language Review, April 2002 | Go to article overview

Body-Swapping and Genre-Crossing: Laura Esquivel's 'La Ley del Amor'


Taylor, Claire Louise, The Modern Language Review


In this article I consider the second of Laura Esquivel's novels, La ley del amor, published some six years after Como agua para chocolate (1989), a work that attracted a great deal of critical attention in both Mexico and abroad. (1) La ley del amor initially received considerable interest, although critical and public reception was mixed. To date, few academic articles have been published on this work, whilst reviews in newspapers and journals remain mixed, and sales have failed to reach the astronomical heights of the earlier novel. (2) Whereas the first novel, with its timely publication, was able to cash in on the vogue in foreign foods and the globalization of cookery, whilst also appealing to an established market for 'magical realism', this second novel has provoked a less enthusiastic reception. Indeed, the varied reactions to it are indicative of the ambivalent stance of the text itself, an ambivalence which, I shall argue, is especially evident in the novel's employment of varying genres. In this article I therefore examine the novel's engagement with a variety of cultural paradigms, in particular those of popular culture, and suggest the questions raised by its representation of the self and the body in the light of these engagements. I consider the ambivalent encodings of the novel, and propose ways in which this later work constitutes a much more problematic relationship with the postmodern and with issues of globalization than does the first. In the course of my analysis I aim to show that La ley del amor is far from being either a conventionally romantic novel or a serious treatise on the New Age, since the effect of its inclusion of science fiction paradigms is to disrupt and distort the discourses associated with such texts, that the particular site of enactment of these tensions is the body, and that what is thus being enacted is in effect the dilemma of a feminine subjectivity in a postmodern era.

The novel is a self-styled 'novela multimedia' (according to the publisher's description), which includes an audio CD, with excerpts from various of Puccini's operas and popular Mexican danzones, and several sections of drawings by the Spanish artist Miguelanxo Prado interspersed throughout the book. Complementing this intermingling of media is a blurring of boundaries between literary genres as the book moves from science fiction to romance and New Age philosophy. Amongst this assortment of codes and genres, the plot races over several centuries, focusing primarily on the story of Azucena, a twenty-third-century astroanalista, who is a futuristic psychoanalyst, and her quest to meet up with her alma gemela and install a new ley del amor across the globe. In order to accomplish this mission, Azucena travels through space to distant planets, changes bodies twice in order to avoid detection, and finally triumphs over the forces of evil. Interspersed with this convoluted tale are the previous lives of the protagonists and other characters in the novel, who at various junctures undergo regressions, and find out that their lives have been linked in intricate ways in the past. In this futuristic environment, the technology includes appliances such as televirtuales, which actually recreate events in the houses of the viewers, aerofonos, which transport the user instantly to different locations, and camaras fotomentales, which can capture the thoughts of the object or person photographed. The text also refers to several New Age practices and beliefs, including auras, karma, reincarnation, the power of crystals, Ying and Yang, and angelic speech channelled through mediums. Indeed, some elements, such as the Ouija cibernetica, occupy an uneasy space of crossover between aids to spiritual fulfilment and commodities in this hyper-modern world.

As this brief summary reveals, the book is a curious mixture of high-tech and New Age theories, and this assortment of popular discourses is one that proves central to the novel's dealing with the body and with subjectivity. …

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