The Strongest Passion
About this book
Using only dialogue as its narrative technique, Luis Zapata recounts the story of his protagonist Santiago, a middle-aged businessman hopelessly in love with Arturo, a 19-year-old teenager, who is the son of Sarita, his best friend. Through skillful and entertaining dialogues during their courtship, which continue once the conquest is achieved, the novel reflects the deep generational chasm between the characters. Santiago is the completely dedicated representative of that mythical first generation of gringos born in Mexico--but in a gay version--who cultivates values and pursues goals in life and who believes in the middle-class version of national progress through personal and individual commitment. Arturo, on the other hand, is the typical postmodern teenager: pragmatic, addicted to working out, hedonistic, vain to the point of being narcissistic, cynical to the point of being cruel, and materialistic to the point of accepting money as the only God. The personalities of each character are in stark contrast. Arturo is gossipy, smooth-tongued, biting in his commentaries, and as Santiago says to him: "too intelligent and very mature for his age." Santiago is jealous and obsessive, as insecure as an adolescent, and already deeply worried about the imminent arrival of old age and the loss of being physically attractive to others. Santiago is politically correct almost all the time. While Arturo says "balls," Santiago says "testicles." Arturo enjoys talking about sex, while for Santiago "it's not good to talk about those things" although in the moment of passion his language becomes less conventional. In spite of the seductive physical attributes of Arturo, for Santiago sex is no longer everything, and it is because of this that he believes he sees in the young man the ideal candidate to receive his love. Arturo, for his part, convinced of the worth of his body as a means to obtain money and frustrated at the few material possessions that his mother allows him to have, decides to explore a possible relationship with Santiago to the fullest extent even though to do so may mean that he will have to alternate between the role of a "trophy husband" and that of a bored "house husband." Because of its formal structure and theme, The Strongest Passion could be classified as a psychological novel because it permits the full exploration of the subjectivity of the characters through language. Whether what is said occurs during telephone conversations or in face to face meetings, the reader is a witness to the constant dialogue between Santiago and Arturo. Zapata demonstrates his mastery of this technique, which will serve as a multifaceted recourse to develop a complex portrait of the characters and reflect their entire objective and subjective world. Thus, through every day discourse, the characters are defined by what they say and the way they say it as well as by what they do not say. Thus, in The Strongest Passion, Zapata shows us that if indeed there are "women who love too much," there are also "homosexuals who love too much." As Santiago realizes the impossibility of a reciprocal love, the reader experiences the process of an existential adaptation and the deconstruction of Santiago's discourse on love. When Santiago realizes how his life must be, he gladly accepts his fate: during his life he has played, plays and will continue to play the role of the fool. Nevertheless, far from being worried by it, he accepts such a role as a sign of identity that will give him the desired peace and the tranquility of knowing who he is in life.
En esta novela, Luis Zapata utiliza el diálogo como técnica narrativa, llevándonos por la historia a través de las conversaciones que sostienen Santiago, un hombre de negocios ya entrado en años, y Arturo, su amante de 19 años e hijo de su mejor amiga, Sarita. Los personajes son muy humanos en sus contradicciones: Santiago, a pesar de su edad y su mundo, es inseguro como un adolescente; Arturo, por su parte, es inteligente y maduro, pero también frívolo, cínico e incapaz de dejar entrar por completo a Santiago. Es un personaje fascinante, que a pesar de odiar a su madre, no puede dejar de parecerse a ella. Sarita, por su parte, no habla nunca por sí misma, pero es un tema de conversación y conflicto frecuente entre los dos amantes. La novela explora, entre otras cosas, la inseguridad, la soledad, la lujuria, la codicia, el miedo, la diferencia generacional, las obsesiones y la posibilidad o imposibilidad de amar en nuestros tiempos. Una lectura muy recomendable.