The brief wondrous life of Oscar Wao

I had never heard about Junot Díaz or The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao before A. & C. brought it to me as an hospital present. I should have, if only because it got the Pullitzer Prize (among other awards). The story is a family saga of a Dominican family, between the Dominican Republic (DR) and New Jersey where the central character Belicia Cabral de Léon emigrated. Oscar (nicknamed Wao) is her overweight son, very much into science-fiction and fantasy (from collecting cards to writing five novels)  and who has indeed a brief (if definitely not wondrous) life. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is a complex tale of doom (fukù) and bad-luck, of ill-fated attractions and constantly wrong choices, with in the background the dark and lengthy era of the dictator Trujillo, and the still uncertain democracy in the DR. I liked very much the story, told from several characters’ perspectives, and the style as well, mixing some Spanish words with the mostly English text (which means I had to guess some sentences from my inexistent Spanish and to check for frequent words like cuero), with constant references to nerdy culture. The book time-line corresponds to the lives of Oscar and Beli and it is only towards the end that the reader finally understands how closely intertwined with Trujillo it was… (The book also includes a lot of [definitely useful] footnotes about the history of the DR from the 1930’s till the end of the dictature.) Besides the doomed (or cursed) family theme and a rather unsurprising entry into college nerdy subculture, I think The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao achieves a convincing description of (some) emigrants’ lifes, torn between two countries and somehow trapped by the “old country” culture to the point of dying from it.

2 Responses to “The brief wondrous life of Oscar Wao”

  1. If you like another book of the Trujillo era, read “La fiesta del chivo” (The feast of the Goat) by Mario Vargas Llosa. Excellent.

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