Dominican Republic:  For Fukú’s Sake

The world is filled with literature, and unfortunately it is not possible to read more than a minimal percentage of all them. I wonder how many books are out there that I would actually want to read. Infinity? Every day new books see daylight, and I have a love-hate relationship with this. On one hand I am always happy to see new books, but on the other hand my to read list grows, and I will never be able to read everything. I wish I would get paid to read (what I like). I feel like there are so many books to be discovered, so many unknown literary treasures out there. The Dominican Republic is yet another country I have read exactly zero books from – until now. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz is a book I have not laid my eyes on before, even though it has won several prestigious literary prizes, for example the Pulitzer prize.

Oscar has a short and tragic life, being an overweight nerd obsessed with love he gets rejected by women, but manages to woo the woman he fell for, just to end up dead. The title of the book kind of gives the ending away. Oscar’s family members have a strong presence in the book. Fukú, the curse, has been hanging over his family’s head for years, and it is also a major theme in the book.

There are several interesting elements in the book. It was intriguing to read about life in the Dominican Republic under the regime of dictator Rafael “El Jefe” Trujillo. I realized, yet again, how little I knew about the subject I was reading. Another interesting subject is fukú, the curse. I would be interested in reading more about both aforementioned subjects. I am going to repeat myself yet again, but magical realism is not for me, and sadly this book contained that aspect as well. The main characters, as well as the narrators were not to my liking. I felt a distance towards each and every one in the book. I usually like to read about characters like Oscar Wao, because he is a misfit who loves books, and there were several references to both books and movies, which is to my liking.

I can understand that there are many people who enjoy the book very much. I found it to be OK. Recently I have found it extremely disturbing not to know who exactly is narrating the story. I feel like I am lost in a big and unwelcoming city, with not a clue where to go, and everyone seems to ignore me. In many ways life in the book seems to be as brutal as life could be in this big unwelcoming city, with all the beatings, shootings and stabbings, that is what (apparently) every story set in the Dominican Republic is all about. Surprisingly enough the widely used Spanglish did not bother me. It actually fits into the story quite well. It gave it all an authentic feel.

Did I learn a lot from this book? Yes. Did I feel a connection with the book and its characters? No. Was it worth reading the book? Yes. Would I read it again? No.

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