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Fuego de marzo.

The last five years have seen an enormous growth in Spanish literature relating to homoerotic themes, and Eduardo Mendicutti has achieved a firm reputation as an exemplary figure in the area. The nine texts that make up Fuego de marzo, while written over a twenty-year period, have an internal coherence based on the first-person narrative voice of a thirteen-year-old boy in a coastal town near Cadiz. The experiences he describes all involve the general theme that can be denominated as the formation of masculinity. In the context of what appears to be the 1950s in Franco's Spain, the narrator details a series of circumstances and events that relate to the definition of masculinity, the dominance of the masculinist ideology, specific instances of its recognition and its acceptance by or imposition on the individual, and - as an issue crucial to an awareness of an alternative sexuality - its dangers and its unrelenting "aversion therapy" for the individual unwilling or unable to concede its primacy.

Since Mendicutti writes through the consciousness of a young boy, there is no direct mention of either the general masculinist discourse of adults (except for snippets of comments that he overhears or what he can deduce from reactions and asides) or the sort of theoretically grounded discussion that one might expect to find in the case of a third-person omniscient narrator. Thus, the stories function more as oblique stagings of experiences that are significant to the narrator in the sense that they reveal to him his uneasiness in the face of the program of masculinism, while demonstrating to the reader the significance of seemingly trivial moments in crystallizing individuals' sense of their sexuality. What is of particular interest is that, except for a few occasions, the majority of the narrator's crucial experiences occur not only out of the view of his presumably ever-vigilant respected and decent parents, but in the company of socially marginal members of society - a street hawker, a black American serviceman, a released prison inmate, a servant girl, an orphaned cousin, a scandalous great-aunt - which serves to underscore how, despite the best efforts of bourgeois hegemony to control the process of identity formation, it is most likely to take place in gray areas outside that hegemony. It would also seem to indicate the conviction that the formation of a sexual identity is indeed the result of "irregular" influences which decent society is at a loss to control because in most cases it may not even be in a position to see them.

One of the best stories in the volume is "Los parecidos," in which the narrator and a group of other boys, led on by a marginal member of the group, pretend to see prominent townspersons in the men who frequent a brothel lost down in the coastal dunes. At one moment the boys begin to play at seeing themselves as grown-up men among the clients. The narrator notes, with a certain sad melancholy, that he was never able to see his grown-up self among the men tending to their sexual needs with the inhabitants of the house. The stance as a sexual outsider, without his really being able to label it as such, is what most colors these very fine stories.

David William Foster Arizona State University
COPYRIGHT 1996 University of Oklahoma
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Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Foster, David William
Publication:World Literature Today
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1996
Words:544
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