The Threshold by Cristina Peri Rossi, 1993
The magic trick:
Establishing an illogical dream reality into which the reader then tries to apply logical assumptions and assessments during the more straightforward second half of the story
Today begins a month-long trip into Latin American literature. Emphasis on the word trip. Reality will most certainly get distorted throughout these stories. So many of these authors employ magical realism not as a gimmick or even a device, but rather as a standard form of storytelling. The exceptional isn’t exceptional. It’s the norm. Which makes this literary genre pretty cool.
“The Threshold” is a nice starting point. It explores dreams, which right off the bat you know is going to lead us down some strange paths. The story’s first half finds us kind of spinning our wheels in unexplained territory. But about halfway through, we find traction and the plot propels forward into a more coherent place. The coherence, however is based on the odd dream reality established in the first half, so the reader (and narrator) is left trying to apply logic to an illogical scenario. It’s very disconcerting. And that’s quite a trick on Peri Rossi’s part.
“A dream is a piece of writing,” she says sadly, “a work that I don’t know how to write and that makes me different from others, all the human being and animals who dream.”
She is like a tired traveler who stops at the threshold and stays there, stationary as a plant.
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