La Mujer Quimicamente Compatible
by Jordi Soler
I think a lot of what Mcondo is about is de-romanticizing Latin America. It is busting the Disneyland-esque bubble that grew with North American and European perceptions of magical realism. Soler's story is brutally unromantic. It is basically an essay in which the narrator describes a man's cold, calculated and chemical method for choosing his women.
There is interesting play on the identity of the narrator. Up until the last page, the story seemed like a description of how a man named Vancouver chooses his women. Then we get to the last page and the identity of the narrator is revealed and it turns out that the narrator is not the one man who chooses many women, it is one woman (who is also the many women -Alabama, Nebraska, Milwaukee- described in the story) who is writing the story to better understand how her lover, Vancouver, operates. Why do all the people in the story have the same names as cities or states? And cities or states outside of Latin America, no less? I haven't a clue, but Soler, I'm sure, had a reason.
The piece has a sterile aura. I almost feel like I'm peering into a scientist's laboratory. The subject, choosing a mate, has to be one of the most mysterious and magical undertakings in a persons life. There few ways to describe it logically and Soler lays it out with the feeling of a lab coat and fluorescent lights rather than a nice shirt and candlelight. He could be reacting to the “latin lover” stereotype.
There is nothing being exoticized in this story. It reads like an essay in which the narrator is describing how Vancouver chooses women based on 1,000 year old French alchemist theory. The reference alchemy reminded me right away of Cien An~os de soledad, but in this context, the alchemy is used in a dry and mechanical way for a purpose that generally involves more mystery.
Vancouver could use some dating advice (just saying). Using an old french alchemist's technique based on how people respond to stones has some romantic resonance, but his method has about as much soul as a well balanced chemistry equation. He says, “Amor es pura quimica”. The author is removing the mystery out of finding a mate by distilling it down to a purely chemical process. It is mechanical, scientific. He describes how Vancouver watches his women like a scientist watches lab results.
A modern-day version of the stone test is something like the machine naturopaths use to test for allergies. The method is called Vega testing and operates on the premise that each element has a frequency and if that frequency doesn't gel with our organism, there is an audible changing page on the machines display. I guess sometimes we have reactions to certain people that can almost be considered allergic.
This story shows a very different vision of Latin America than the “boom” presented. Is not about the land and it's fantastical inhabitants. The reader can't taste or drink in anything specific to Latin America. La Mujer Quimicamente Compatible could take place anywhere and the only thing that gives it time and place is the sushi that the lovers eat and the Smashing Pumpkins that comes on the radio: lovers in a globalized world practicing love-chemistry like a science rather than a mystery.