So up to this point, Leyendas de Guatemala has proven itself to be quite dense, but still engaging as long as you have a (lots of) cup(s) of coffee and some time to split up the reading. The language Asturias uses in “Guatemala” introduces a style that creates a strong mystical sense of people and places that are seemingly captured in a timeless sequence of events lacking obvious order. Rather than providing a clear framework for the novel, the reader is provided with little traces of a storyline and is challenged to make sense of endless imagery in order to fashion the text into one form.
In this way, Leyendas de Guatemala is unlike any novel or collection of stories that I have read before; I felt that I walked away with a strong impression created through many unlikely sensorial comparisons in the text that are almost impossible to explain completely without some sort of reiteration. Unlike the majority of novels that I’ve encountered, thus far Leyendas de Guatemala did not provide me with something as simple as a storyline as I was expecting to gather. Instead, Asturias seems to carefully present these legends on a completely different plane. I was surprised and confused with endless descriptions that so perfectly capture a wide range of sensations told by way of surely tangible images of nature that are strung together on the skeleton of legends. For this reason, I think to take on half of the novel at once is definitely a sensory overload, leaving little time to really appreciate and understand these images that make up the backbone of Leyendas de Guatemala.
One of the elements of the legends so far that really interests me is the relationship between the pre-colonial and post-colonial within the text. At first, I felt as if there was not a distinct sense of time in the early parts of “Guatemala” as Asturias describes the different cities and practices (note: if one has a deeper understanding and knowledge of Mayan culture it may be a different story, but I’m speaking from a perspective with a pretty basic understanding of the Mayas). Once Asturias begins to describe the arrival of the Spaniards (17) and the text begins describing colonial scenes (18-20), everything seems more familiar, until the beginning of the second paragraph on page twenty where the text fades back into the unfamiliar once again with the line, “El Cuco de los Sueños va hilando los cuentos.”