Friday, January 25, 2013
3:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Professor William Viestenz presents on "La pell freda by Albert Sánchez Piñol: The Neighbor as the Monstrous Other"
Albert Sánchez Piñol's debut novel, La pell freda (2002) narrates in Conradian fashion an unnamed Irishman's voyage to one of the "many blank spaces on the earth". More specifically, the narrator, a nationalist revolutionary involved in the Irish War for Independence (1919-1921), travels to an isolated, unmarked island near the Antarctic circle in order to fulfill the role of atmospheric scientist and carry out various experiments during the space of one calendar year. In a move that takes Sánchez Piñol definitively away from Conrad, a horde of cold-skinned, blue-blooded monsters that live underwater attack the island's human inhabitants each night.
In distinction to common cultural analyses of the monster, I argue that Sánchez Piñol crafts a form of monstrosity in the novel that is absolutely non-metaphorical; a tangible form of monstrosity belonging to nature that is more akin to a catastrophe such as a hurricane or earthquake. The novel thus pushes the reader away from figurative interpretations of the island's blue-skinned monster and instead trains the critic's eye on the kinds of associations and partnerships that human beings form in the face of indecipherable, chaotic displays of 'tangible' monstrosity. What emerges, then, is a theory of the neighbor - a contingent partner forever set apart by an imponderable abyss that, at turns, provokes ethical behavior and violent reprisals.