And of Clay Are We Created

by Isabel Allende

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In "And of Clay Are We Created," what is the relationship between Rolf Carlé and the narrator?

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In “And of Clay We Are Created,” the relationship between Rolf Carle and the narrator is that of lovers. Both are journalists, and yet they are physically and emotionally separated by the mudslide accident that tragically claims the life of a little girl.

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The narrator in this story is Rolf Carlé's lover. She is miles away while Rolf is attempting to calm and comfort the young woman who has become stuck in a mudpit in the aftermath of an earthquake. However, she does her best to provide support by being with him in spirit and attempting to leverage her contacts to have help sent to the site.

While Rolf stays at Azucena's side, Eva Luna supports them in every way that she can from a distance. She tries unsuccessfully to get a pump sent to the site, and shows her love ahd compassion by trying to help Rolf through her "force of mind."

Eva Luna watches for three days and three nights as Rolf holds his vigil at Azucena's side. At the point when Rolf and Azucena have to accept that they cannot change anything, and that Azucena will die, Eva Luna mourns with them from across the distance.

It seems inevitable that Rolf enduring this trauma will create an emotional gap between Rolf and Eva, because much as she supports him, he must endure the experience and witness the girl's eventual death alone. The event brings to the surface other traumas that Rolf has experienced in his life, and the story ends with him needing to take time to allow various emotional wounds to heal.

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Although Rolf Carlé and the narrator Eva Luna are lovers, their relationship isn't quite as close as it might be. To a large extent, this is because they have different jobs in the news media, and this often keeps them apart, both physically and emotionally. When Rolf heads off to Colombia to report on a devastating mudslide, Eva can only watch from a distance as the events unfold on live television.

The two lovers are also emotionally separated by Rolf's traumatic childhood experiences. Although Rolf is able to relate these experiences to Azucena, the dying little girl trapped by the mudslide, after he returns from his latest assignment, it's notable that he remains withdrawn. The cathartic expression of his deepest traumas has clearly not helped, and Eva finds him a changed man, and not in a good way.

There's little doubt that, when the tragedy is finally over, Eva still loves Rolf as much as she ever did. But by the close of the story, it's clear that their relationship is likely to face many trials and tribulations ahead. This is because Rolf has become more troubled and more self-contained due to the disturbing range of emotions that has been stirred up by his experiences in reporting on the mudslide.

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"And of Clay Are We Created" is a short story by Isabel Allende from her 1989 anthology The Stories of Eva Luna. The narrator, unnamed in the story, is Eva Luna, a documentarian and the lover of Rolf Carlé, a reporter who goes to cover a volcanic eruption and becomes emotionally attached to a young girl who has been trapped in heavy mud, unable to move.

Early in the story, the narrator says:

When the station called before dawn, Rolf Carlé and I were together. I crawled out of bed, dazed with sleep, and went to prepare coffee while he hurriedly dressed. He stuffed his gear in the green canvas backpack he always carried, and we said goodbye, as we had so many times before. I had no presentiments. I sat in the kitchen, sipping my coffee and planning the long hours without him, sure that he would be back the next day.

They have been separated by his work many times before. His leaving to cover a story is nothing new, and the narrator takes it all in stride. As the story wears on and takes its emotional toll on Carlé, the narrator says:

The screen reduced the disaster to a single plane and accentuated the tremendous distance that separated me from Rolf Carlé; nonetheless, I was there with him. The child's every suffering hurt me as it did him; I felt his frustration, his impotence.

Deeply connected to Carlé's suffering, the narrator attempts to use influence in media to arrange help, but cannot, and feels as helpless as Carlé does on the impersonal television screen. Without a connection, the narrator is forced to infer what Carlé is feeling and thinking, and despite the tragedy of the story and Carlé's descent into guilt and sorrow, the narrator remains optimistic:

You are back with me, but you are not the same man. ... Your cameras lie forgotten in a closet; you do not write or sing; you sit long hours before the window, staring at the mountains. Beside you, I wait for you to complete the voyage into yourself, for the old wounds to heal. I know that when you return from your nightmares, we shall again walk hand in hand, as before.
(All Quotes: Allende, "And of Clay Are We Created,"

Carlé had done everything he could to save the girl, but he is still obsessed with the story because he spent so much time investing himself in it. The narrator, on the other hand, was invested through Carlé but not in the story itself; recognizing that Carlé needs to come to his own reconciliation with the event, the narrator takes the role of supporter, being strong where Carlé cannot so that when he is able to accept that he was not responsible and that his actions eased the last days of a young girl, they can be together as before, instead of separated by the story.

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In "And of Clay Are We Created," why does Rolf Carlé get so involved in helping the girl?

Part of the anthology The Stories of Eva Luna, "And of Clay Are We Created" is a short story by Isabel Allende about a reporter who tries to save a victim of a volcanic eruption.

Rolf Carlé reports on the plight of a young girl, Azucena, who is stuck in heavy mud after the volcano erupts. Initially, he is confident that Azucena will be rescued easily, providing a great human interest piece for his network:

She was thirteen, and she had never been outside her village. Rolf Carlé, buoyed by a premature optimism, was convinced that everything would end well: the pump would arrive, they would drain the water, move the rubble, and Azucena would be transported by helicopter to a hospital where she would recover rapidly and where he could visit her and bring her gifts.

His first interest is in the story. However, as time wears on and the proper equipment is not obtained, Carlé becomes emotionally invested in Azucena; he sees it as his mission to rescue her and refuses to leave her side, without concern for his career or safety:

Rolf Carlé had a growth of beard, and dark circles beneath his eyes; he looked near exhaustion. Even from that enormous distance I could sense the quality of his weariness, so different from the fatigue of other adventures. He had completely forgotten the camera; he could not look at the girl through a lens any longer.

The damage from the volcano is massive and Azucena is only one facet of it, yet Carlé is obsessed with her rescue and ignores all other distractions. As he tries to keep her spirit strong, Carlé begins to see himself as trapped like her, but in his own past and memories:

That night, imperceptibly, the unyielding floodgates that had contained Rolf Carlé's past for so many years began to open, and the torrent of all that had lain hidden in the deepest and most secret layers of memory poured out, eveling before it the obstacles that had blocked his consciousness for so long.

Finally, both he and Azucena come to terms with her inevitable death; no one is taking steps to help and there is simply nothing Carlé can do by himself.

"Don’t cry. I don’t hurt anymore. I'm fine," Azucena said when dawn came. "I'm not crying for you," Rolf Carlé smiled. "I'm crying for myself. I hurt all over." ... I recognized the precise moment at which Rolf gave up the fight and surrendered to the torture of watching the girl die. ... I watched as he leaned down to kiss her poor
forehead, consumed by a sweet, sad emotion he could not name. I felt how in that instant both were saved from despair, how they were freed from the clay, how they rose above the vultures and helicopters, how together they flew above the vast swamp of corruption and laments. How, finally, they were able to accept
(All Quotes: Allende, "And of Clay Are We Created,"

In his mind, rescuing Azucena would be a confirmation of his own goodness and absolution of his life, of which he is ashamed. The emotional investment of the story gave Carlé a reason to continue trying to help, day after day, and each time he failed he felt the guilt of his previous life; when he finally gives in, it is because Azucena herself forgives him, letting him know that her death is not his fault.

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