Thursday, September 3, 2015

All the Light We Cannot See/Charly Garcia Comparison

All the Light We Cannot See

“The bony figure of Death rides the streets below, stopping his mount now and then to peer into windows. Horns of fire on his head and smoke leaking from his nostrils and, in his skeletal hands, a list newly charged with addresses.

Gazing first at the crew of officers unloading from their limousines into the chateau.
Then at the flowing rooms of the perfumer Claude Levitte.
Then at the dark tall house of Etienne LeBlanc.

Pass us by, Horseman. Pass this house by.”
(Doerr 333)
Charly Garcia - No Bombardeen Buenos Aires

Estoy temiendo al rubio ahora 
no se a quién temeré después. 
Terror y desconfianza por los juegos 
por las transas, por las canas 
por las panzas, por las ansias

Los pibes de mi barrio 
se escondieron en los caños 
espían al cielo 
usan cascos, curten mambos 
escuchando a Clash.

No bombardeen Buenos Aires, no nos podemos defender

(Note: The lyrics are not in the order they appear in the song)

After reading All the Light We Cannot See, I found a number of parallels between its depiction of war and that seen in Charly Garcia’s No Bombardeen Buenos Aires. Charly Garcia is an Argentinian rock singer, and he wrote No Bombardeen Buenos Aires during the Falklands War as a criticism of British military action and as a plea for mercy. All the Light We Cannot See and No Bombardeen Buenos Aires both depict cities living in fear, a fear of invasion, of occupation.
In the first section, Etienne describes Death prowling the streets of Saint-Malo, looking for new lives to take. It can be assumed that he sees the Germans, and the war that comes with them, as bringing Death to his city. Similarly, Garcia explains his fear for the ‘blonde man’, which can be assumed to be the British. He questions whom he’ll be afraid of next and describes fear and uncertainty seeping into the streets of Buenos Aires. The Germans and British fulfill similar roles for Etienne and Garcia, as harbingers of death and paranoia.
In the second section, Death ominously stares at some of the inhabitants of Saint-Malo, including Etienne himself. Meanwhile, in Buenos Aires, “los pibes” (a slang term in Argentinian Spanish that is similar to ‘dude’) hide in sewers, scan the horizons for British planes, and, somewhat ironically, dance to songs by “The Clash”, a British rock band. In this case, the 2 cities react to their respective manifestations of Death rather differently. Garcia’s Buenos Aires seems more aware of the danger that the British pose, while in some ways Death goes by unnoticed in the dark night of Saint-Malo.
In the third section, Etienne begs the Horseman of Death to ignore his house and spare his life and Marie’s. Garcia similarly urges the British not to attack Buenos Aires, stating that the Argentinian’s cannot defend themselves.
Although written 32 years apart from each other in different languages, No Bombardeen Buenos Aires and All the Light We Cannot See are surprisingly similar in how they deal with the topics of death, war, and fear.

- by Alejandro Cegarra

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