NÉSTOR QUIROA, PH.D.
Associate Professor of Spanish
Todos los fuegos un fuego, by Julio Cortazar
Upon returning to Wheaton in March from a sabbatical project in Guatemala, I realized that I was in for a long quarantine and wondered what to read during this new dismal, disruptive, and surreal “reality.” My literature discussion group turned to the work of Latin American writer Julio Cortazar who, in addition to being a forerunner of Magical Realism and the author of the canonical novel Rayuela [Hopscotch](1963), is also a master of short stories. We selected Todos los fuegos un fuego [All Fires the Fire](1966), a collection of stories that seamlessly juxtaposes multiple plotlines, with characters who reveal the ambiguities and senselessness of living in multiple realities. Like the protagonists, the reader is left in state of perpetual incertitude as the resolution of the plot is brought about by an unexpected turn of events. Cortazar’s works remind me of a Zoom classroom reality of protagonists situated in multiple geographical spaces—the classroom, California, Taiwan, Indiana, a dorm room—yet of no particular place other than the world of the screen. I can see all of them and myself within my laptop, a screen in a room that is decorated with mirrors giving the effect of endless reflections. While Cortazar does not offer an optimistic tone for these times, the reader soon empathizes with his characters’ agony and inability to make sense of (or alter) their fate. I highly recommend Cortazar’s writing as a challenging intellectual exercise that interrupts the sameness of the current isolation.
Narrow Gate, by Ecclesia
Ecclesia is an indie Christian singer whose genre could be defined as pop or even experimental on occasion. His unique beats and very powerful lyrics combine to be a great ministry that I am very thankful for! The song “Narrow Gate” specifically refers to Matthew 7:13-14, which calls us to “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” One of my favorite lyrics from this song is part of the chorus and it says, “Keep me meek and mild, dependent like a child; only by Your blood, will I rise up with the Son.” The song is a reminder of our dependence on God and the gracious salvation that we receive through faith in Christ. I enjoy listening to this song and others by Ecclesia because they are catchy, unique, and fun, but more importantly also contain such powerful and important truths. I suggest his music to any and all!