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Ha Llegado una Mujer.

Virtually unknown outside of Central America, Argentina Diaz Lozano is a respected writer in her native Honduras and in Guatemala, her adopted country. A winner of the Premio Nacional de Literatura (National Literary Prize) in Honduras and the Quetzal de Oro (The Golden Quetzal) in Guatemala, she was suggested as a candidate for the Nobel Prize by the former Guatemalan president Juan Jose Arevelo.

Ha llegado una mujer is a retelling of the classic myth of Phaedre, Theseus, and Hippolytus, versions of which have come down to us from Sophocles, Euripides, and Seneca, as well as more modern writers such as Racine. (Phedre) and Lope De Vega (El castigo sin venganza). Diaz Lozano sets her story among the coffee groves of Guatemala. The intense heat, the eruption of a volcano, the lugubrious cry of a tecolote (owl), and other omens create a sinister atmosphere in which the story of the fated love affair unfolds.

Like the mythical Theseaus, Don Abel Rivera is an aging husband whose young wife would have been matched more appropriately with one of his sons. Rivera is a small plantation owner who has built up a respectable business by working the land he inherited from his deceased wife. A socially unpretentious hard-working man, he cultivates his coffee with his own hands, along with Manuel, his legitimate son, and Genaro, another son. Rivera is a tough, hard-drinking, macho type, who keeps his emotional distance from everyone, including his own boys. When he eventually marries Rosalia in order to have someone to look after the house, Manual, who never cared much for his father, becomes enraged, for he thinks that the newcomer will inherit the land that belonged to his mother.

Manuel's feelings for his stepmother are ambiguous, however, for his hatred is tinged with fascination. At first, he cannot admit, even to himself, that he finds her attractive, but his girlfriend Lola perceives his ambivalence right away and accuses him of falling in love with Rosalia. One day he catches his stepmother bathing naked in a river. Rosalia puts up a weak fight, but soon succumbs to Manuel's advances. The two become lovers and everyone except Abel Rivera knows it.

To complicate matters further, the older Rivera is growing fonder of his son. While Genaro seems to be something of a dolt, Manuel displays the same intelligence and manliness as his father. He attempts to break down the barrier he has built between himself and his son by showering favors upon the boy. Confused, Manuel struggles with his guilt. The more affection Abel shows, the more Manuel fights against the passion that torments him. At last, Manual decides to break off with Rosalia and marry Lola, but Abel's new wife is by now totally infatuated with the handsome younger man and determined not to give him up. In the meantime, Lola embittered and jealous, takes her vengeance by informing Abel Rivera of the betrayal of his wife and son.

A tragic denouement is inevitable. Yet, Diaz Lozano pulls her punches at the end, failing to take the plot to its logical conclusion. Some bloodletting is inescapable, of course, but at the last minute the author reins in her characters and softens the impact of the unavoidable clash between father and son. The power of the classical, Spanish, and French versions of the story results from the sense of doom generated by the deadly mechanism thrown into gear by Phaedra's ardor, which leads inexorably to Theseu's unleashing his terrible rage upon the boy he loves. In Diaz's novel, it is the woman - the outsider - who must bear the full brunt of the father's anger. The reader is led to believe that this is as it should be because, as usual, it is all the woman's fault.

Diaz Lozano writes as though the "new narrative" and the Boom never took place. Her style is direct and unpretentious. The symbolism is transparent, but just in case the reader misses the significance of the owl hooting ominously in the dark, the Indian Juana is there to offer a full explanation.

In spite of its lack of narrative innovation, Ha llegado una mujer is not without charm. Diaz Lozano captures the atmosphere of rural Central America - its color, its dialects, its customs and values. While not intellectually challenging, it does provide a pleasant read.
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Title Annotation:A Woman Has Come
Author:Mujica, Barbara
Publication:Americas (English Edition)
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 1991
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