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Delirium: Layers of Imagination
Born in Bogotá, Colombia in 1950, Laura Restrepo knew and experienced life in Latin America. Using her experience and knowledge Restrepo wrote her book Delirium, in 2004 Restrepo won the Premio Alfaguara de Novela for her amazing insight into Colombian life with her novel Delirium. Restrepo placed layer upon layer of social, cultural, and political undertones within the large and small details of her book. Narrated with talent and excitement, the main plot of this novel is fragmented into narration by numerous characters. Each of Restrepo’s characters exhibits qualities that relate to conflict within Colombia and Latin America as a whole. On one side, Delirium throws out information to discover the reason of Agustina’s madness. But it is also a remarkably simile whose veins run much deeper, delving into the lives of five characters: Aguilar, Agustina, Bichi, Midas, and Nicolás, Agustina’s grandfather. Through the mixing of these distinct voices, Laura Restrepo creates a portrait of the Colombian society plagued by war and corruption.
I find Restrepo’s portrayal of Colombia to be very strong, I have had some first hand experience with culture and society in Latin America. I spent five weeks in Costa Rica living with a home-stay family with in a very rural community and had the opportunity to see some of the social stressors described in Delirium. The first parallel to my experiences that comes up in this novel has a lot to deal with the image of the United States from the stand point of Latin America. Restrepo does an exemplary job in wording this viewpoint but referencing the "technological God of the Americans" (Restrepo 2007, 15). When speaking with my home-stay family they mentioned many of the students that stay with them often focus on the technological devices they bring along, such as: laptops, cell phones, and PDAs. A belief has grown within Latin America that North Americans are replacing their gods in a religious sense with technology and electronics. Restrepo was specifically commenting on the wealthy Latin Americans who fly to the U.S. for medical treatment instead of staying in their home country. The medical technology that was evolving during the time period that Delirium takes place in was very advanced in retrospect.
The next distinguished social stressor that Restrepo outlines in her book deal with the gender roles in the traditional Latin American family. The way Restrepo paints Agustina’s father to be a dark, overbearing, and hot tempered is an excellent way to shine light on Latin American family structure. The father is meant to be shown with power and will, not to mention certain expectations of his family. One of those expectations is a common theme among Latin American families and it is the social idea of machismo. Machismo is the idea of typical masculine male. Many mothers in Costa Rica while I was there spoke about the topic of a machismo son, and the importance of it. “The girl Agustina hugs another, smaller child tight; it’s her brother Bichi…It is the last time, Bichito, Agustina promised him, my father will never hit you again,” (Restrepo 2007, 8) you can see from this passage the resulting anger in Agustina’s father when he is displeased with the fact that his youngest son, Bichi, does not exhibit a machismo attitude. This is a great example of the general viewpoint in Latin America on homosexuality. Many homosexuals in Latin America have to hide, because of fear of death or ridicule. This can also be seen in Costa Rica; in the community I spent five weeks in. Some of the community members mentioned that homosexuals meet in secret, as to not bring to much attention to there selves.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed Delirium, and a personal look inside Colombian society from the mind of Laura Restrepo.
[Editor's Note: Edited for plot spoilers]