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Quotes

Quote #1

If the Yanks commit an error in the late innings it's zafa; if somebody brings shells in from the beach it's zafa; if you serve a man parcha [passionfruit] it's zafa. Twenty-four-hour zafa in the hope that the bad luck will not have had time to cohere. Even now as I write these words I wonder if this book ain't a zafa of sorts. My very own counterspell. (1.preface.13)

There are two opposing supernatural forces in this novel: fukú and zafa. A fukú is a heavy-duty curse; a zafa is something like a good luck charm or a counterspell. You say a zafa to protect yourself from a curse. Although writing isn't the major theme of this novel, Díaz privileges it enough to call it a zafa: a powerful counterspell against evil.

Quote #2

That summer his mother sent him and his sister to Santo Domingo, and this time he didn't fight it like he had in the recent past. It's not like he had much in the States keeping him. He arrived in Baní with a stack of notebooks and a plan to fill them all up. Since he could no longer be a gamemaster he decided to try his hand at being a real writer. The trip turned out to be something of a turning point for him. Instead of discouraging his writing, chasing him out of the house like his mother used to, his abuela [grandmother], Nena Inca, let him be. Allowed him to sit in the back of the house as long as he wanted, didn't insist that he should be "out in the world." (1.1.8.14)

It goes without saying that Oscar's mom doesn't support his interests. Beli is just that kind of mother. She's really traditional; she wonders, Shouldn't Oscar be doing manly things like scoring chicks or playing sports? La Inca, however, seems to be more sympathetic to what Oscar wants.

Quote #3

What is it with Dictators and Writers, anyway? Since before the infamous Caesar-Ovid war they've had beef. Like the Fantastic Four and Galactus, like the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, like the Teen Titans and Deathstroke, Foreman and Ali, Morrison and Crouch, Sammy and Sergio, they seem destined to be eternally linked in the Halls of Battle. Rushdie claims that tyrants and scribblers are natural antagonists, but I think that's too simple; it lets writers off pretty easy. Dictators, in my opinion, just know competition when they see it. Same with writers. Like, after all, recognizes like. (1.3.6.9)

Díaz says that writers and dictators are actually in competition with each other. Why? Well, when you read a novel, you're totally at the whim of the author. You have to believe what the author tells you, because the author has total control over this world. Same thing with being a citizen under a dictatorial leader. So, of course, dictators would like to restrict what gets written during their regimes; writers can breed dissent, can write alternative versions of history that portray dictators in unfavorable lights. That's what's with dictators and writers.

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