MICHAEL PALENCIA-ROTH


Prisms of Consciousness:
The "New Worlds" of Columbus
and García Márquez

Modern hermeneutic theory of interpretation is founded on the commonsense notion that what we see depends on what we are prepared to see and that what we understand depends on what we already understand. What one already understands may be called, in Heidegger's terminology, the forestructure of the understanding: it determines the structure of our understanding before we begin to understand. Or, to follow Gadamer (himself a pupil of Heidegger), whatever one is at a particular time—and that includes one's education and upbringing, one's culture and intelligence, one's prejudices, presuppositions, motives and ambitions—decides the "horizon" from which one views and interprets the world.

The horizons of the two figures juxtaposed in this essay, Christopher Columbus and Gabriel García Márquez, are vastly different. The one is a navigator and supposedly concerned with "truth," the other a novelist and therefore concerned with "fiction"; the one a man of the fifteenth century, the other of the twentieth. The first is a European who discovered the part of the world which the second calls home. These two so disparate figures are, however, comparable in interesting ways. It is not so much that both are undeniably central in the history of Latin American literature and culture, as important to an understanding and appreciation of its tradition as, say, Sophocles, Dante and Shakespeare are to theirs. It is, rather, that both Columbus and García Márquez shed light, from opposite directions, on the history of the colonization of Latin America.In addition, as shall

____________________
From Critical Perspectives on Gabriel García Márquez, edited by Bradley A. Shaw and Nora G. Vera-Godwin. © 1986 by the Society of Spanish and Spanish-American Studies.

-243-

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