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The Censors, Essay Example

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The protagonist is Juan, his girlfriend is Mariana, a friend is named Lola, and the author was born in Argentina, so the physical setting is Latin. (I thought of Cuba.) It’s setting in time is much more obscure. If you didn’t know that the story was published in 1991, you might think it was post 9‑11, due to the reference to looking for “poisonous powder” in letters. But paper letters taking months or years for approval, and an all powerful and all knowing Secret Commandos of Censorship makes this story an example of Magical Realism, a style of writing popular with Latin writers of the ‘60s and ‘70s, a time when the Iron Curtain was still firmly in place.

The theme of The Censors is ancient: love destroyed. Juan tries to deceive the State to save Mariana. He fails. If you accept a magical landscape and time, then its affect on the development of the theme is obvious: the story could only happen at all in such a place. Juan is too easily permitted to easily get a job at the Censorship Bureau. As in a dream, he intercepts his own letter. But holes appear in the fabric of the magic: if Juan put his name and address on the letter, why would an all-knowing Bureau permit Juan to see it? Since it did, why didn’t Juan suspect a trap? And if he didn’t supply his name, why would Mariana even write him a letter in such a culture of secrecy and fear?  In real life neither Juan nor Mariana would have written those letters. And if writing an “innocuous” letter could get them in trouble, why was Mariana permitted to go abroad in the first place? So we have to accept the magical properties of the story and read it for what it is: a light and enjoyable story of a Soviet era totalitarian nightmare.

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