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CR: The New Centennial Review 5.3 (2005) 83-104
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The Creation of Imaginative Reality in García Ponce's Pasado presente
Juan García Ponce's works of fiction bring light to various categories of reality. These categories are products of the written work that flow simultaneously, often contradictorily, in the text. In this way, García Ponce's conceptualization of literature opens up liberating and transgressive interpretations of reality. His works are liberating because they challenge the reader's assumptions of what is real. That is, García Ponce invites his readers to enter a literary world where they become participants in the search for new and contradictory categories of reality. This search becomes a transgressive exercise because it goes against any rational assumption of reality and social norms.
What interests me about the works of García Ponce are the interconnections between these different categories of reality and the way they provide the reader with multiple ways to interpret a text. These interconnections, however, are never given directly, thus forcing the reader to leave behind his or her own experiential certainties of reality in order to become an interactive interpreter and connector of new kinds of reality that exist in the text. Huberto Batis (1997) helps explain this transitory process by [End Page 83] stating that for García Ponce, literature "is capable of making us doubt what we see, what is apprehensible through our senses, perceptively, it is the only thing that can take us away from our own tranquil acceptance of reality" (73).1 For example, a reading of García Ponce's last novel, Pasado presente (1995), shows how the author establishes new connections of meaning that give form to alternative experiences of reality.
Pasado presente is a novel about changes and contradictions. The changes are represented through the deterioration of the urban landscape of Mexico City, and the contradictions through the coexistence of different levels of reality. As Hugo, the narrator, drives around the main streets and avenues of the city almost three years after the 1985 earthquake, he suffers from seeing the physical destruction of the city and his own physical deterioration and that of others in the urban crowd. As he sees this urban devastation, he thinks back to a "lost" era when the members of his generation dreamed of becoming writers and artists. Hugo considers writing a chronicle of these lost years as a way to remember the past and to recover from his present nostalgia. A careful interpretation of the novel's opening chapter shows its autobiographical character, "Hugo," who could be confused for García Ponce, resembles the writer Salvador Elizondo; and Lorenzo, the narrator's friend, reminds the reader of García Ponce himself.2 These characters, and the many others with whom they interact in the novel, take the fictional roles of the writers and artists who formed the Generación de Medio Siglo in Mexico. The fusion of these different categories of reality in Pasado presente emblematizes the creation of an imaginative reality.
Italo Calvino (1982) explains how a work of literature is defined by including various categories of reality. These categories, or "levels" as he calls them, can either coexist without mixing with one another or can merge together, without losing their own particularities and differences, to produce stability or distress (Calvino 1982, 101). This distinction is based on whether the various categories of reality function in the same plane or not. In the case of Pasado presente, there are at least five different levels of reality: the author's life; the historic time between the 1957 and the 1985 earthquakes in Mexico; the late 1980s when Hugo plans to write a chronicle about the "lost" time and space of his youth; the time in the 1950s when [End Page 84] Hugo and his generation are coming of age; and the reality of the unidentifiable narrator in the last chapter of the novel. Although these different categories can be individually identified, García...