On desire and destiny, love and solitude

Megan Segarra

Megan Segarra

Megan Segarra of Meganda Films, a young Latina and independent filmmaker who has recently finished the revision of a screenplay based on the last chapter of Rosa Martha Villarreal’s novel The Stillness of Love and Exile, is currently raising money to bring the film to fruition. At the following Web address (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1355189502/noche-intempesta) you can read some more about the project as well as watch a trailer and a brief interview between author and screenwriter / director. A contribution of $10 or more, if you are able, would be very deeply appreciated and help in the creation of one more object of sublime beauty in a world so troubled by hate and violent absolutisms.

Rosa Martha Villarreal

Rosa Martha Villarreal

Villarreal was my editor at the former webzine Tertulia Magazine and author, previous to this novel, of a modern version of the Faustian myth (Doctor Magdalena) and a historical novel called Chronicles of Air and Dreams. The Stillness of Love and Exile has been honored with the 2008 PEN Oakland / Josephine Mile Literary Award and the Silver Medal for Best Regional Fiction for the 2008 Independent Publisher Book Awards. She is also the author, more recently, of a very charming children’s story about a boy, his dogs, and a baby dragon – The Adventures of Wyglaf Wyrm – which is available as an e-book (http://www.amazon.com/Adventures-Wiglaf-Wyrm-Martha-Villarreal-ebook/dp/B00E7G044U) for the equally agreeable price of $1.99.

stillness_cover_300_0.book%20large%20teaser[1]I wrote briefly of The Stillness of Love and Exile in my journal of June 7, 2007: “From the outset, it’s quite a read, first the engrossing tale of a young woman – raped and taken away to Ciudad Juarez by a drug lord – and her road to escape and freedom; secondarily, a hopeful tale about her slow awakening to a sense of her own desire and the spiritual liberation that facilitates her movement to the fulfillment of that desire in her chosen destiny. I like this definition of terms in the opening lines of her opening prologue: ‘Fate is what happens upon us, an accident born of impassivity. Destiny is the journey which we choose, an awakening of the deepest desire for self-destruction and rebirth in the love of another.’”

In her personal dedication to my copy of The Stillness of Love and Exile, she invites me to enter “the dreams of desire and the possibilities of destiny.”

The title of her final chapter (and of the short screenplay) is in Spanish, though richly defined and elaborated in the English narrative and script: Noche Intempesta [Night of Stillness]: “In times past,” Villarreal writes, “when silences were part of the daily rhythms of men, the stars would realign themselves on the nights of stillness and the animals that hid themselves in the moon shadows rejoiced at their moment of freedom, and the diviners of the unseen worlds changed themselves into wolves, owls, and jaguars. Even in the Christian lands of Medieval Europe, the stoic monks who counted God’s heartbeats secretly awaited the nights of stillness. Though the constant din of machines has obscured the magic of the nights of stillness, in the small desert towns it is still conceivable to lose one’s self in the heart-spirit of silence.

noche-poster1[1] “When the night of stillness, la noche intempesta, descended upon the desertic lands of Texas-Coahuila, the invisible Natures that had haunted the poet Coleridge suddenly became visible. In the impenetrable stillness, Lilia’s heart became the mirror of a terrible wonder …”

Here’s hoping for the success of this venture in independent cinema. In times as troubled as ours (perhaps they have always been this way), the magic of literary and cinematographic narrative and art is as welcome as water in a parched landscape.


While Rosa Martha Villarreal’s novel ends up in a happier place than Gabriel García Márquez’s Cien años de soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude), his great novel – the crowning achievement of Latin American magical-realist fiction, at the very least – ends up pointing in the same direction. In its final chapter, unnumbered and untitled, which I finally came to the end of the other night after quitting decades earlier without (it appears) having gotten further than the end of chapter four of twenty, it almost looks like the troubled family dynasty begun by the first José Arcadio Buendía is going to be saved from the dust of oblivion by the son (last of the Aurelianos) of the ecstatic and prodigious love of Amaranta Úrsula and the second-to-last Aureliano:

Image from the Author's Website (www.themodernworld.com/gabo)

Image from main page of the author’s website (www.themodernworld.com/gabo)

“Through her tears [of childbirth],” we read (in my hasty and imperfect translation), “Amaranta Úrsula saw that he was one of the great, strong, willful Buendías like the José Arcadios, with the open and clairvoyant eyes of the Aurelianos, and predisposed to start the lineage over again from the beginning and purify it of its pernicious vices and its solitary vocation, because he was the only one in a century who had been conceived in love.”

But in almost the next breath the child’s mother dies and his father places him in the little basket that she had prepared for him and begins wandering aimlessly around the town, coming to realize that he was “incapable of resisting the overpowering weight upon his soul of so much past.” In the novel’s final words (which I feel it is safe to reveal without giving too much away, should you want to read the book yourself) we are informed that the saga of their lives “was forever and ever unrepeatable because lineages condemned to one hundred years of solitude do not have a second chance on the earth.”

Still, the very illusion of the transformative power of those two lovers’ love, and all the positive magic that occurs in the length of the book to transform plain reality into something as timeless and significant as the sad saga of the Trojan War as narrated in Homer’s Iliad, or the troubled homecoming of Ulysses in the Odyssey, is more than enough to lift the heart even as it cries a little at this last of many misfortunes.

There is so much more to say, but I think I’ll leave it at that.


2 responses to “On desire and destiny, love and solitude

  1. Among the multiple and overlapping themes of Garcia Marquez’s novel is the warning that civilizations must change, else they be condemned to a hundred years of solitude.

    Carlos Fuentes in “La region mas transparent,” says the the original is the impure, i.e., the constant fusion of old blood, ideas, passion are reborn creates the authentic self (or nation).

    I see our present American era as one of these historical junctures: we can cling to the exhausted idea of American Exceptionalism and go by way of Rome, or we can reinvent the nation and remain a superpower albeit a very different one.

  2. Thanks for the very well considered comment.

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