Study Guide

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Act 1, Preface

By Junot Díaz

Act 1, Preface

  • Our narrator introduces us to the "fukú." It's a curse and it hovers over the entire novel. (Not just the novel, the narrator might say, but the whole Western Hemisphere.)
  • Christopher Columbus, a.k.a. the Admiral, both brings the fukú into the world and dies because of it.
  • Then, there's this other guy who's responsible for the fukú: Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina.
  • Rafael Trujillo was a cruel dictator who ruled in the Dominican Republic from 1930 to 1961.
  • Trujillo does all the nasty stuff you would associate with a dictator: murder, rape, political corruption, the list goes on.
  • Trujillo—according to our narrator—had "almost supernatural abilities" (1.preface.3).
  • Our narrator even compares him to the super-evil and super-powerful Sauron from J.R.R. Tolkein's Lord of the Rings.
  • Our narrator even blames John F. Kennedy's assassination on Trujillo.
  • In fact, the story you're reading is about a fukú.
  • There's also this thing called a "zafa" or counterspell. It's like knocking on wood. You say a zafa to stop a fukú.
  • This story may be about a fukú, but the story itself is actually a zafa. Got it? Good.