Marta Brunet’s “Piedra Callada”

“—¡Je! —gruñó, quedándose perplejo.”

I tend to like short stories, like the ones I have read by JD Salinger and James Joyce in English, and Jorge Luis Borges in Spanish. I really enjoyed this story and found it ultimately very affecting and sad. I thought that the characters were developed in a way that made me really take an interest in them and care, when they could have easily just been simple types of familiar characters; the simple-minded farm labourer who grunts like a beast, the wicked witch of a mother-in-law.

As we discussed in class, in the story’s dialogue, Marta Brunet uses phonetic spellings to imitate the accents of Bernabé and Esperanza, while Eufrasia uses standard Spanish, as does the narration. I have read several books that do the same thing with dialogue in English, imitating the dialects of Black Americans in the works of Toni Morrison, Ralph Ellison or Alice Walker, southern Americans in the writing of William Faulkner and Mark Twain, Scots in Irvine Welsh’s writing, Irish Australians in Peter Carey’s books, or Maoris in New Zealand author Alan Duff’s novels. There are lots of other examples of this technique, which I have found really effective in many cases. A lot of readers complain that it can be difficult to understand what the characters are saying when the author writes in a style imitating their dialect, as opposed to using standard English.

Reading “Piedra Callada,” I found that it’s a lot harder to read dialects like this in Spanish, since English is my first language. So I had some trouble with the dialogue written with the Chilean accent. “Claro qu’es así, medio lerdo, pero güeno y trabajaor como ni uno. D’esto puee dar fe cualesquiera en el fundo.” What? Pardon me, Esperanza? I sort of had to imagine the words spoken aloud in order to understand. But I found that it was well worth it, and I enjoyed the story.

Published in: on February 12, 2007 at 1:29 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. Daniel, You expressed very well the same feelings I had while reading Piedra Callada. I had to read the book a couple of times, especially because of the different dialects. I too had to try and imagine what they were saying. For me what was really amazing is that on the second read, the characters took on different dimensions. They became more than characters in a novel. They demonstrated that there are part of us that are not always likeable and we too experience pain, joy, jealousy, anger and sometimes revenge. After all, we are human.

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