Often, I like to share the concept of "universal stories" and why it takes an incredible talent for an artist to produce such pieces of work. No doubt, every work of art has some universality attached to them. However, few of them distill the universal appeal for you much more than others. They become classics. We all cry, love, laugh, and die. Even then, some of us tell a story that makes us connect strongly - from Boston to Cairo to Bloomington to Cochin.
Sometime ago, I suggested Aranyi, a well-travelled cosmopolitan Mumbaiker to read "Chronicle of a Death Foretold" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez through blog comment conversations. She really loved it. I had read the book in early 80s and thought about for a long time. Recently, I read it again. I had missed a lot of meaning back then.
"Chronicle of a Death Foretold" is an universal theme of revenge, loss of virginity, family honor, guilt, complicity of the society for real inaction, the power and inevitability of fate set in South America. Simply put, you do not have be a South American to empathize. Marquez describes the fragile human soul no matter wherever they reside on earth. It is not at all an exercise in "exoticism".
Some selected quotes from the "Chronicle of a Death Foretold" are presented below to highlight my point. Right of "-" underlined is my viewpoint to the selected parts of the book.
"Don't bother yourself, Luisa Santiaga," he shouted as he went by, "They've already killed him." - We all feel for somebody who is doomed. We will always want to save.
"They're perfect." she was frequently heard to say. "Any man will be happy with them because they've been raised to suffer." - Women in any society are reservoirs of strength with infinite capacity to suffer.
"Love can be learned too." - Love is more complex than pulp literature makes out of it.
"When you sacrifice a steer you don't dare look into its eyes." - Brutality of killing.
"That day," she told me,"I realized just how alone we women are in the world!" - An universal sense of helplessness a woman might feel.
..listened to their parents in Arabic and answered them in Spanish - That is how immigrants assimilate.
Give me a prejudice and I will move the world.
"Shit, cousin", Pablo Vicario told me, "you can't imagine how hard it is to kill a man!"
- Do you want to share an "universal story" by an artist you know of?
- How about Malgudi Days? Graham Greene spoke of Narayan stories and their universality.
- How about works from Ernest Hemingway?
- Picasso's Guernica.
- James Thurber's "The Secret Lives of Walter Mitty". Do we have to be a hen-pecked husband from middle America to totally identify with his day-dreaming?
- You need not know deep South to understand the father-daughter bond from "How to Kill a Mocking Bird".
Please leave a comment about your favorite universal piece of work. Especially, from non-English cultures that have been translated to English or paintings from lesser-known artists. This is not entirely my original concept -It has been around. It is a really old universal concept.
Note: This is not a review for "Chronicle of a Death Foretold" nor discusses the story. Neither, this is a critique on universal stories nor on Marquez's work - It is an attempt to highlight the power of a story, irrespective of your culture, experiences, and upbringing.