Global Literatures in English

A qwriting.qc.cuny.edu blog

Oscar Wao (Ch. 3)

March 27th, 2012 · 13 Comments
Uncategorized

Let’s try something different for today.  In your comment, list a) a word/phrase/reference/etc. that you didn’t know before reading the book, then look it up and inform everyone else as to what it is, and/or b) a word/phrase/reference/etc. that you did know before reading, but suspect your classmates might not,  and then fill us in.

I’ll start us off with one of both.  On page 154, footnote 19, the narrator (whom you will discover is a guy named Yunior, a friend of Oscar’s from college) refers to Dominican dictator Trujillo as a “culocrat.”  I don’t speak Spanish, so I looked up “culo” (which is obviously used throughout the book) and discovered it means (as I’d suspected) “ass,” in all the connotations of that word.  “Culocrat” is a word of Diaz’s invention, roughly meaning “rule by [dictators only out to get] ass” (much like “kleptocrat” means “rule by those only out to exploit the country for their own wealth).

For a reference the rest of you might not know–well, as I’m sure surprises none of you, I was something of a comic book nerd back in my day, and actually had a subscription to Fantastic Four through middle school.  Here’s Galactus, quoted in the epigraph and referenced throughout the book–

And here’s his official profile at Marvel Comics’ website.  Short version–he’s a huge intergalactic traveler who feeds on the energy reserves of entire planets.  His first appearance, in a three-issue run of Fantastic Four in 1966 (well before I subscribed), was something of a major event in comic history, given the moral quandaries raised by the conflict between, on the one hand, a whole planet of people who didn’t want to have their world destroyed, and, on the other, the physical needs of a being incomparably more sophisticated and advanced than any of them (hence the epigraph quote).  The whole situation was eventually resolved by Galactus’ herald, the Silver Surfer, who was able to empathize with mankind and helped the Fantastic Four drive Galactus elsewhere for his meal.  Diaz uses Galactus, at points, as a figure for the mysterious, seemingly omnipotent forces of the Trujillo regime, among other things.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email



13 responses so far ↓

  • 1    cbergmann // Mar 28, 2012 at 7:56 pm

    In this section I encountered a lot of phrases in Spanish. I understood some of them thanks to four years of Spanish classes in school, but there was still a lot I did not know. I looked up the word “parigüayo/a” because it appeared in the text more than once. I found out that it basically meant “chump”. When used in the masculine form it usually refers to a guy with no “game”. I thought it was important because many times Beli realized she was being a chump or accused others of being a chump. Not sure if it was dreadfully important, but I figured it was worth looking up because it did appear in the text a few times. On another note, I really like Lord of the Rings so the references to it intrigued me. On page 95 the speaker refers to Beli’s secondary sex characteristics and ability to attract men to be “the One Ring”. If you have ever read to books or seen the movie, the One Ring has immense power that the bearer can use to gain control. It also mentally and physically deteriorates its bearer. By the end of her story Beli uses her “ring” to fulfill her dreams, which in her case was getting attention from men. Her “ring” also leads to physical and mental deterioration because of all the trouble it gets her into.

  • 2    hernandez // Mar 29, 2012 at 2:49 pm

    I am fluent I’m Spanish but on page 151 I came upon this sentence. It’s a baka, a ciguapa, no, a haitiano! Had no clue what baka or ciguapa meant. So baka means to be foolish or basically an idiot. Ciguapa mean a mythological creature of Dominican folklore. They are described as having human female form with brown or dark blue skin, feet facing backwards and beautiful that covers their naked bodies. They supposedly inhabit the high mountains of the Dominican Republic.

  • 3    chris88wong // Mar 29, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    I am quite intrigued by the science fiction references that Oscar Wao uses throughout the story. However, while reading my hands were on the wiki page to translate what he was trying to say. One interesting place was Minas Tirith (p78) which was a Lord of the Rings reference that I completely forgot about. It was the setting of the big battle in the last film of the trilogy. Another place that gave me a chuckle was Oscar’s reference to the Phantom Zone which is a sort of prison that was used in the Superman comic series.

  • 4    Jamie Rohr // Mar 29, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    Since I am in no way a comic book buff, a reference to anything comic book-ey goes right over my head. So when it says on page 94 that Beli’s desirability is like a power, and knowing this was “like stumbling into the wizard Shazam’s cave”, this is completely lost on me because I do not know how exciting or empowering that could be. So for those of you who are like me, Shazam is the Egyptian wizard who grants Billy Batson the ability to turn into Captain Marvel. Being allowed into his cave is essentially looking behind the curtain of the Wizard of Oz. You are stepping into a place of great wonder and amazement.

  • 5    azaharopoulos // Mar 29, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    I speak no espagnol so suffice it to say I have been looking up lots of spanish words and sentences. I can understand most of his references but I really didn’t know anything about Shazam and his cave (pg.94). Shazam is an acronym for 6 ancient heroes.
    S=wisdom of Solomon
    H=strength of Hercules
    A=stamina of Atlas
    Z=power of Zeus
    A=courage of Achilles
    M=speed of Mercury
    He is an ancient wizard, who guards the Rock of Eternity which is at the exact center of space and time, meaning that different locations can be accessed. In this cave the seven Deadly Sins are imprisoned. He is a character that is from the Detective Comics universe(DC).

  • 6    hamidah // Mar 29, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    I had Spanish for a very long time and I knew many things but I forgot about it. On page 110 the word “jueguito” interested me because I wanted to know what Beli was trying to say to the Gangster.What I found out was that it means little game and it is similar to what “parigüayo” which means game. Beli was mocking the Gangster. She was trying to mock “his little game.” I like how they way it is written in spanish for us to wonder what it means and drive us nuts to fiure out what exactly is the narrator trying to say about these characters.

  • 7    khaff88 // Mar 29, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    One word I came across was “melniboién” on pg. 89 when the narrator is describing Jack Pujols. When I went to research I found that it has a lot more meaning than I thought it would. Being melniboién means non humans who are characterized as beautiful, and full of magic. Obviously Jack is being admired to someone who is beyond human.

  • 8    gvelella // Mar 29, 2012 at 7:50 pm

    A phrase I came across was “Forget that hijo de la porra, that comehuevo” to describe Constantina. hijo de la porra in english is described as a son of a bitch, and comehuevo means ball-less, or some sort of homosexual reference. I still can’t make sense of the sentence because in english, it sounds like he’s saying, “forget that son of a bitch, she has no balls.”

  • 9    javeriasid // Mar 29, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    A word that I came across was “Plátano Curtain” which I tried to google but the only thing I came across was Rafael Trujillo and the bloody regime he ruled with in the Dominican Republic. In “The Brief, Wondorous Life Of Oscar Wao,” Beli wants to run away from her life but is unable due to the regime of Trujillo.

  • 10    mhealy101 // Mar 29, 2012 at 11:08 pm

    The spanish words of the book weren’t very confusing to me at all. When Diaz would throw in a spanish word here or there it was pretty much basic words that people learn their first year of learning the spanish language, so for me that wasnt an issue. I’d have to say though, things that I would be slightly thrown off on would be when Diaz would discuss places/traditions/inside jokes(whatever it may be) in spanish. Examples of this would be “Platano Curtain”/”Malecon”/ etc.

  • 11    nmulet // Apr 3, 2012 at 3:12 am

    If there was a word I didn’t know, I would just try to figure it out based on the context and its stem. That being said, I did actually look into one thing. I asked a friend about one word/phrase. It was “meteselo” on pg. 24. I know it’s in Chapter 1, but there’s a variation of it in Ch. 3. It means “put it in her.”

  • 12    GordonWTam // Apr 3, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    A little late for this blog.. Slipped my mind while studying for midterms..

    In any case, all comic book references were understood by me and almost made me sad since I did know them all. And since I DID, I choose option B to tell you guys a little bit about it.

    In the beginning, Oscar describes the “Omega Effect” to being the fuku, which was described as a curse. In the DC universe, the Omega Effect is the lasers that come out of Darkseids (Enemy of Superman) eyes and have a number of different effects, including vaporizing, transmuting, annihilating, and even send through time. In effect, it IS kind of like a curse, or fuku. The last person the Omega Effect hit who everyone would know is Batman. He got sent back to the stone age and had to find a way back. Fun stuff!

  • 13    costantinipatti // Apr 24, 2012 at 9:45 pm

    The word ” hijo de puta is simililar to ” hijo de la porra” they both mean son of a bitch and that I was familiar with. However the word comehuevo translates in Spanish, eat eggs and I don’t know how that relates to the story.

You must log in to post a comment.