One of the things I enjoy most, as a reader, is to spot how writers, separated in time, space, culture, and language – nonetheless often end up using very similar words and expressions to convey similar sentiments. The most spectacular form that this takes is using an identical image, but often, even non-imagery based similarities are quite striking. Recently, I read Amjad Nasser’s Land of No Rain, (a part of) Mario Vargas Llosa’s’ The Dream of the Celt and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ Love in the Time of Cholera, and was, indeed, struck by the similarities between the Jordanian and the two Latin Americans.
Reflecting on nostalgia, Nasser writes:
” Nostalgia amplifies things. The memory preserves tastes and smells and images that are of its own making, or that are not as they were in reality.”
” Or does the extraordinary power of nostalgia exaggerate what was minor and erase the marginal, the peripheral, the accompanying symptoms, while preserving the stable essence, an elixir that might be of nostalgia’s own making, impervious to the ravages of time?”
And in Love in the Time of Cholera, Marquez writes:
“He was still too young to know that the heart’s memory eliminates the bad and magnifies the good, and thanks to this artifice we manage to endure the burden of the past.”
The similarities between these turns of phrase, and some of the best passages from Proust in Swann’s Way would also present an interesting study.
As I mentioned in my review, a large part of Land of No Rain is about split identities within the same person, to the point where the two narrative selves of the same narrator enter into conversation and argumentation with each other. Unfortunately, I did not take down a representative quote, but was intrigued when, at the beginning of The Dream of the Celt (which, just like Land of No Rain, is about revolution), Llosa quotes Jose Enrique Rodo:
” Each one of us is not one, but many. And these successive personalities that emerge one from the other tend to present the strangest, most astonishing contrasts among themselves.“