(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

A Meditation consists of one long, rambling paragraph, without divisions, in which the narrator sets forth his memories of growing up in Region and the outlying area. There is no coherent plot. Instead, the work consists of isolated scenes, philosophical meanderings, fragments of speech, parts of a letter, and diverse reflections, all arranged in no particular order. Through recollection and reflection, the narrator hopes to understand better his own life, as well as the lives of his family and acquaintances. Memory becomes a tool in the process of existential self-creation, which serves to give meaning to the existence of the individual. As Region is a symbol of Spain and a microcosm of the world, the narrator’s meditation is an ambitious search for the meaning of not only his own life but also that of his nation and of human beings in general. At the end, however, the narrator is no closer to an understanding of reality than he was at the beginning.

Although memory is the operating force of the narrative, there is an element of will that assigns greater or lesser importance to every recollection. Will is not necessarily subject to reason or logic: It “has its own predilections.” For will, “the death of a blood aunt can be much less a reason for concern than the loss of a cigarette lighter.” Thus, memory dredges up and dwells on those incidents for which the individual feels a particular passion or interest. That is why seemingly unimportant details sometimes occupy pages, while major events may be mentioned only in passing. For example, on one occasion, the narrator’s family sends his cousin to pick hazelnuts outside the house of a prestigious clan with which his aunts have become obsessed, in the hope that the girl will be invited inside. On the way, the narrator, then a young child who is fascinated with his cousin, falls and scratches his knee, then runs to catch up with the group, so that he will not miss Mary’s entry onto the terrace. The episode is described in great detail. “I don’t know why I keep that entry so engraved in my memory, why I remember it with such insistence and precision, and why at times I see myself trying to inquire into its most insignificant details, as if the discovery of one of them might change the whole balance of the system remembered,” the narrator muses. Then he realizes that falling, shedding blood, and pushing himself to go on had taken on “heroic characteristics” in his then-childish mind. He had subconsciously transformed the incident into a sort of sacrifice, a proof of valor, that he must make on behalf of Mary, whom he greatly admired. On the other hand, when...

(The entire section is 1081 words.)