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El teatro mitico de Carlos Solorzano.

Originally submitted as a doctoral dissertation at SUNY-Albany in 1987 (original title: Mythmaking and Theatricality in the Drama of Carlos Solorzano) and then substantially reworked, El teatro mitico de Carlos Solorzano is an enlightening study of the Indo-Hispanic roots in the art of the Guatemalan playwright stationed in Mexico, on and off, since age seventeen - a self-described "mestozo dramatist" who, unfortunately, seems somewhat out of fashion lately. Written with ease, grace, and, most important, without a hint of the pontificating, self-serving style in vogue among academics, the book's main objective is to use the playwright's work as a key to explain the mysteries of mestizaje in Guatemala's and Mexico's collective psyche. To fulfill her goal, Wilma Feliciano (b. 1946), on the faculty at SUNY-New Paltz, brings forth a whole gamut of pertinent books, native and foreign, from Octavio Paz's Labyrinth of Solitude to works by C. G. Jung, Mircea Eliade, and Alan Watts.

The first thirty pages constitute an analytic biography of Solorzano's first thirty years, from 1922 to 1952, and discuss his childhood and adolescence in one of Guatemala's oldest families. Feliciano examines his views on class and religion; his apprenticeship in Paris (he studied at the Sorbonne with the help of a Rockefeller Fellowship); his interest in music and architecture; his fascination with a handful of artists, renaissance and existential, including Camus, Sartre, Unamuno, Antonin Artaud (whose theater of cruelty palpitates in Solorzano's stage), Calderon de la Barca, and Michel de Ghelderode; and his compulsion to articulate his mitopoesis around pre-Columbian rituals and medieval autos sacramentales. Next, she covers Solorzano's decade of utmost creativity, the fifties, by dividing his most celebrated and controversial plays (Dona Beatriz, al sin ventura [1952], El hechicero [1954], Las manos de Dios [1956], Los fantoches, El crucificado, Mea culpa [all three 1958], and El sueno de un angel [1960]) into three major groups - "Creation," "Redemption," and "Final Judgment" - and then examining each of them against the backdrop of Indian beliefs and their Catholic counterparts.

His deep interest in the clash between indios and espanoles links Solorzano's work to that of his compatriot Miguel Angel Asturias, and Feliciano devotes a few pages - though not enough - to their connections. What concerns her far more is Solorzano's polemical stature, which emerges from his relentless courage in attacking the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church and investigating, without subterfuge, the relationship between God and man. Happily, Feliciano's analysis benefits from a close reading of the plays as well as from a fruitful ongoing dialogue with Solorzano himself. He guides her curiosity and answers all her questions, both biographical and artistic. But a word of caution: at times Feliciano takes her subject's opinions at face value, allowing him to dictate her moves, and the reader should be aware of her occasional "uncritical" critique.

In the seventies, after publishing a couple of novels (Los falsos demonios [1966] and Las celdas [1971]), Solorzano fell silent after the tragic death of his twenty-five-year-old son Diego. His career came to a standstill, from which it has not moved. Feliciano does not address this silence, and neither does she examine his work as critic. (Solorzano edited a handful of invaluable volumes of Latin American theater and wrote a treatise, Del sentimiento de lo plastico en la obra de Unamuno [1944].) In order to get a better, more complete picture of this crucial Guatemalan figure, others must do so.

Ilan Stavans Amherst College
COPYRIGHT 1996 University of Oklahoma
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Author:Stavans, Ilan
Publication:World Literature Today
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 1996
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