Jimmy's Reviews > School of the Sun

School of the Sun by Ana María Matute
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it was amazing
bookshelves: female, spain, year-1950s, novel, buried-unburied
Recommended for: lovers of Felisberto Hernandez, Emmanuel Bove, Rikki Ducornet, Marcel Proust

A tiny green lizard came out from under a stone. The two of us remained very quiet looking at it. Our eyes were close to the ground and, from between the grasses, the lizard looked at us. His tiny eyes, like pinheads, were sharp and terrible. For moments it seemed like the awful dragon of Saint George, in the stained-glass window of Santa Maria. I said to myself: "He belongs among the men: the ugly things of men and women." And I was at the point of growing and changing into a woman. Or probably I already was. My hands felt cold, in the midst of the heat. "No, no, let them wait a little longer... a little longer." But who had to wait? It was I, only I, who was a traitor to myself at every turn. It was I, I myself, and no one else, who was betraying Gorogo and the Island of Never-Never. I thought: "What kind of monster am I now?" I closed my eyes in order not to feel the tiny-but-enormous look of the dragon of Saint George. "What kind of monster am I that I no longer have my childhood, and am still far from being, in any way, a woman?"
Matute draws out the past, summoning details out of deep recesses, out of a well where a rotting carcass of a dog has been thrown. Each image gleams magical and bright green, the green that says “not yet ripe,” surrounding me with her landscape of sun scorched slopes washed up by the sea, and amidst it all, that stifling sense that something is quietly wrong. Something is lurking, is toxic within every house, broodingly polite as adults are, where nothing is talked about, yet children know even without knowing, picking it up themselves, they re-enact those same cruelties to scale, also without knowing. But who's to say adults know them better?
There, on the loggia, I clutched my small Negrito who had been mine for as long as I could remember. It was this doll I had taken with me to Our Lady of the Angels, the one the assistant headmistress tried to throw in the rubbish, so that I had kicked her and been expelled. This was the doll I sometimes called Gorogo--and it was for him that I drew miniature cities in the corners and margins of my books, invented at the point of my pen, with winding spiral staircases, sharpened cupolas, bell towers, and asymmetrical nights--and whom at other times I simply called Negrito, and who was only an unfortunate boy who cleaned chimneys in a very far-off city in a Hans Christian Andersen story.

Turned against everyone, when I returned in the Leontina--banished for being a girl (not even a woman, not even that) from the excursion to Naranjal--against all of them, I went up to my room, and took my small Negrito out from under the handkerchiefs and socks, stared into his tiny face and asked myself why I could no longer love him.
This book sits at the edge of experience, of knowing and not knowing. It makes no distinction, it is the experience of experiencing. Its language so exact yet strange, so immediately vivid, the emotions it describes were mine as I read them. There was no distinction of personhood until there was. Just as its mint-eyed protagonists discovered themselves in the moment, ever watchful, ever wary and probing with bravado, so did I. And with awareness came a new sense of sadness, almost as sudden, of something lost. Yet on the other side, there is joy in spite of knowing. Because of knowing. There is innocence hand in hand with self awareness. To have both is the ultimate promise of literature.
At times, I awoke at night and sat up startled in bed. Then I felt a lost sensation from my earliest childhood, when twilight would unnerve me and I used to think: "Night and day, night and day forever. Won't there ever be anything more?" The same confused desire came back to me: the desire that I might find, upon awakening, not merely the night and the day, but rather something new, bewildering and painful.
When everything's sloughed off, like the skin of that lizard with the unforgiving eyes, I remember that I want this feeling. Yes I want the knowing, the dizzying inventiveness, the corrupting perspectives, no absolutes, meta-meta-meta, an endless versioning of reality, but I want both. I want all that and I want this feeling of total connectedness too--knowing and not knowing, innocence and jadedness. Matute knows that sense of looking back after all is known and therefore lost. She has that awareness but also that immediacy and sincerity, of experience bright and human and for the first time, every time, of the world as magical ethera coaxed from some deep unknown memory, as if my own, as if I had forgotten it myself.
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Reading Progress

December 4, 2013 – Shelved
March 23, 2015 – Started Reading
March 24, 2015 –
page 70
28.93% "Between Aunt Emilia and the Chink, grandmother was helped up the steps. They took her, each one by an arm, as if they were raising a big earthen jar by its handles, with infinite care, so as not to spill the oil. (And that was grandmother: a rich substance that everyone esteemed, even if the jar was old and ordinary.)"
March 24, 2015 –
page 75
30.99% "(Perhaps I only wanted someone to love me for once. I cannot remember very well.)"
March 24, 2015 –
page 105
43.39% "It was the same sea I saw in my atlas, but immense and alive, trembling with a great green vertigo, marked with thicker zones and spots, fringed with gulls quivering like flags perched off the coast. From above, from the plaza, where Jews were once burned alive, the sea appeared full of terror, of unease: it was like a round blue menace, blending into the wind and sky, where shining universes..."
March 24, 2015 –
page 107
44.21% "How foreign and absurd is the race of adults, the race of men and women! How foreign and absurd we were! How outside of the world and even of time. We were no longer children. We suddenly did not know what we were. And in this way, without knowing why, face downward on the floor, we did not dare come close to one another. He put his hand on top of mind and only our heads touched. Sometimes I was aware of the curls..."
March 24, 2015 –
page 109
45.04% "There, on the loggia, I clutched my small Negrito who had been mine for as long as I could remember. It was this doll I had taken with me to Our Lady of the Angels, the one the assistant headmistress tried to throw in the rubbish, so that I had kicked her and been expelled. This was the doll I sometimes called Gorogo--and it was for him that I drew miniature cities in the corners and margins of my ..."
March 24, 2015 –
page 111
45.87% "Grandmother used to thrust her long bony finger into my mouth, like a hook:\n \n "At your age you should no longer eat candy, aren't you ashamed? Besides, you'll spoil your teeth."\n \n I recall that one of the most humiliating things of those days was grandmother's constant preoccupation with my possible future beauty: with a hypothetical beauty that I ought to acquire, come what may."
March 25, 2015 –
page 139
57.44% "A tiny green lizard came out from under a stone. The two of us remained very quiet looking at it. Our eyes were close to the ground and, from between the grasses, the lizard looked at us. His tiny eyes, like pinheads, were sharp and terrible. For moments it seemed like the awful dragon of St. George, in the stained-glass window of Santa Maria. I said to myself: "He belongs among the men: the ugly things of men and..."
March 25, 2015 –
page 172
71.07% "At times, I awoke at night and sat up startled in bed. Then I felt a lost sensation from my earliest childhood, when twilight would unnerve me and I used to think: "Night and day, night and day forever. Won't there ever be anything more?" The same confused desire came back to me: the desire that I might find, upon awakening, not merely the night and the day, but rather something new, bewildering and painful."
March 25, 2015 –
page 189
78.1% "Jorge was not as we imagined him. He was neither a god, nor the wind, nor the wild and savage hurricane of which Marine, the Chink, and even Borja spoke. Jorge of Son Major was a tired, sad man, whose sadness and solitude were magnetic. Seeing him, hearing him speak, looking at his almost white hair, I felt that I loved his weariness and his sadness as I never had loved anything. Perhaps because he possessed ..."
March 26, 2015 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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message 1: by Fionnuala (new)

Fionnuala This book sits at the edge of experience, of knowing and not knowing. It makes no distinction, it is the experience of experiencing. Its language so exact yet strange, so immediately vivid, the emotions it describes were mine as I read them.

Gosh, you write so well, Jimmy. Between your sentences and Matute's, I'm intoxicated already - and it's not even aperitif hour yet!


Jimmy Thank you Fi! You're too kind :). And yes, Matute's sentences are intoxicating. I was a bit drunk from them when I wrote this review.


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