The Mirror of Lida Sal
by Miguel Ángel Asturias

"The Mirror of Lida Sal," by Miguel Angel Asturias, is a noteworthy piece of 20th century fiction by a giant of Guatemalan literature. Subtitled "Tales Based on Mayan Myths and Guatemalan Legends," this volume has been translated into English by Gilbert Alter-Gilbert. Miguel Angel Asturias (1899–1974) is one of the notable literary figures in Latin America who in the 1920s contrived both to explore and to define Latin literature within the mainstream of Western history. He managed to be poetic, political and mythological at the same time, and with a degree of synthesis rarely achieved then or since. In this book, Asturias draws upon Central American history and culture to create several fascinating short pieces. His style (as I read it through Alter-Gilbert's translation) is psychedelic and florid; Asturias mixes realistic and fantastic elements throughout the book. The result is comparable to a prose version of the paintings of Spanish artist Salvador Dali. As is the case with many Latin American writers, Miguel Angel Asturias work is inextricably linked with politics, and he lived in exile for many years. He was influenced by Indian mythology, fantasy and Surrealism and was the first Latin American novelist to understand the implications of anthropology and structural linguistics for culture and for fiction. Miguel Angel Asturias turns to the cultural traditions of the ancient Maya and combines them with the rhetoric of surrealism in order to produce highly complex and widely misunderstood masterpiece. I don't find all of the stories in "The Mirror of Lida Sal" to be equally effective. At times, Asturias' indulgence in ornate wordplay seems to overwhelm plot and characterization. But this is still a richly rewarding volume for the attentive reader. Some of the major themes of the book include magic, transformation, and cultural hybridization. The best pieces in the book include the title story, which tells of a working class mulatta's attempt to ensnare the man of her desire; "Anteater Juan," a bizarre fantasy; and "Legend of the Silent Bell," a story of religious fanaticism and trans-Atlantic intrigue in colonial Central America. Miguel Angel Asturias is one of the most important figures in Latin American literature, and "The Mirror of Lida Sal" is definitely worth gazing into.

About Author:
Miguel Angel Asturias was Guatemalan poet, novelist, diplomat, and winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1967. Asturias's writings combine the mysticism of the Maya with epic impulse toward social protest. Asturias spent much of his life in exile because of his public opposition to dictatorial rule. Miguel Angel Asturias was born in Guatemala City. His father and mother were forced to move to the town of Salamá as a result of their political differences with the Guatemalan dictator Estrada Cabrera. Asturias gave up a career in medicine in 1917 and studied law at the Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala (1917-23), and participated in the 1920 uprising against Cabrera. In 1923 Asturias received a law degree and continued his education in Europe. Instead of taking economics as his father had intended him to do, Asturias studied anthropology under Georges Raymond in Paris at the Sorbonne (1923-28) and encountered French translations of Mayan writings. He developed a deep concern for the Mayan culture and in 1925 he translated the sacred Mayan text Popol Vuh into Spanish. During these years Asturias also began to write poetry and fiction. In 1923 he founded the magazine Tiempos Nuevos. Asturias lived in Paris for ten years. After returning to Guatemala in 1933 Asturias worked as a journalist and made broadcasts for El Diaro del Aire. He was a journalist between the years 1933 and 1942. In the 1940s he a entered diplomatic career, and served as a cultural attaché in Mexico (1945-47) and held a number of other diplomatic posts, from 1947 to 1953 he was in Buenos Aires, in Paris in 1952-53, and as ambassador to San Salvador in 1953-54. He separated from his first wife Clemencia Amado and married Blanca de Mora y Aruaho in 1950. Asturias's career in the diplomatic corps ended for a while when he was banished by the right-wing forces of Carlos Castillo Armas, never to live in Guatemala again.

 

Other Books of Miguel Ángel Asturias:


Sociologia guatemalteca, 1923 - Guatemalan Sociology
Rayito de estrella, 1925
La Arquitectura de la Vida Nueva, 1928 - The Building of a New Life
Leyendas de Guatemala, 1930 - Leyendas
Emulo lipolidón, 1935
Sonetos, 1936
Alclasán, 1939
Anoche, 10 de marzo de 1543, 1943
El Señor Presidente, 1946 - The President - suom. Herra Presidentti
Sien de alondra, 1948
Poesía, 1949
Hombres de Maíz, 1949 - Men of Maize
Viento Fuerte, 1950 - The Cyclone/Strong Winds
Ejercicios poéticos en forma de soneto sombre temas de Horacio, 1951
Carta aérea a mis amigos de América, 1952
EL Papa Verde, 1954 - The Green Pope
Bolívar, 1955
Obras escogidas, 1955 (3 vols.)
Soluna, 1955
Week-end en Guatemala, 1956 - Weekend in Guatemala
La audiencia de los confines, 1957
Nombe custodio, e Imagen pasajera, 1959
Los Ojos de los Enterrados, 1960 - The Eyes of the Interred
El alhajadito, 1961 - The Bejeweled Boy
Mulata de tal, 1963 - Mulatta
Juan Girador, 1964
Teatro, 1964
Rumania, sua nueva imagen, 1964
Obras escogidas, 1964 (2 vols.)
Sonetos de Italia, 1965
Clarivigilia primaveral, 1965
El espejo de Lida Sal, 1967
Torotumbo, La audiencia de los confines; Mensajes indios, 1968
Latinoamérica y otros ensyaos, 1968
Antología, 1968
Obras completas, 1968 (3 vols.)
Maladrón, 1969
Comiendo en Hungaría, 1969 (with Pablo Neruda) - Sentimental Journey around the Hungarian Cuisine
Novelas y cuentos de juventud, 1971
En novelista en la universidad, 1971
The Talking Machine, 1971 (Engl. translation)
Viernes de dolores, 1972
Juárez, 1972
América, fábula de fábulas y otros ensayos, 1972
Mi mejor obra, 1974
Tres obras, 1977
Tres de cuatro soles, 1977
Edición crítica de las obras completas, 1977- (24 vols.)
Actos de fe en Guatemala, 1980
Sinceridades, 1980
Viajes, ensayos y fantasías, 1981
El hombre que lo tenía todo, todo, todo, 1981
Paris 1922-1923, 1988
Cartas de amor, 1989

 pu-erh, oolong