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Hyperreality is the theoretical incapability of the consciousness to differentiate reality from fantasy. For instance, Baudrillard’s example from Jorge Luis Borges’s “On Exactitude in Science” about an empire in which the cartographers designed a map so detailed that it covered the exact things it was designed to represent. When the empire declined, the map faded into the landscape and neither the representation nor the real remained but hyperreal.
Carlos Fuentes’s “Aura” is a story about a young scholar who falls in love with the niece of an old widow and then discovers the true relationship between the two women and himself. This book is an example of magical realism; almost everything in the book is on the border of reality and magic. It is too difficult to sometimes distinguish reality from fantasy. Fuentes searches for, and simultaneously mixes up, the life and the death, reality and magic. Young historian Felipe Montero accepts a live-in position editing the memoirs of General Llorente. His elderly widow, Consuelo, wants to publish a book about her deceased husband. In the house of the widow, Felipe meets her young pretty green-eyed niece, Aura. His fervor for Aura and his gradual discovery of the true relationship between the young woman and her aunt seem astonishing and even fantastic. As he continues working on General’s memoirs and reads about Consuelo’s infertility with her fantasy of having a child, and her fascination with youth, he figures out that Aura is actually a ‘simulation’ of the 109-year-old widow. When Montero embraces her, Aura changes into the old woman, Consuelo. Felipe is awestruck by his own desire and actions into the role of the General, together with Consuelo to give birth to Aura, the ‘simulation’ of youth and the delusion of life. Therefore he uncovers the diaries of the General only to find that he himself is a reincarnation of the war hero.
Soon reader finds out that Aura and Consuelo have the same coordinated actions. When Felipe sees Aura butchering a kid and then goes to Senora Consuelo’s room, he sees her cutting the air exactly in the way Aura is beheading the kid outside. (Fuentes 91) And later, in the end, it is shown that Aura is a simulation of Consuelo’s youth, “Now you know why Aura is living in this house: to perpetuate the illusion of youth and beauty in that poor crazed old lady.” (Fuentes 89) while Felipe is of General Llorente. Aura herself is a very mystical figure. Aura does not have her own identity because the Consuelo controls her. The dark house of Consuelo is a perfect place for all the magical and mysterious events that happen during the story. Aura and Consuelo have a secret connection that only people inside the house know about. It is hard to comprehend what is happening between the two women. The story is about presence of magic in love, life, destiny and death. Everything in the novel seems to be unreal, starting with the advertisement in a newspaper that is seemed “to be addressed to you and nobody else.” (Fuentes 3) The novel starts with this magical note as the advertisement in the newspaper seems to be looking only for Felipe Montero. “The advertisement should have two more words, in bigger, blacker type: Felipe Montero.” (Fuentes 5)
He soon gets obsessed with Aura and starts dreaming about having sex and escaping with Aura. Felipe as well as the reader is not able to distinguish reality from the fantasy. He has problems in sleeping; there is a lack of satisfaction in his sleep. “In your dreams you had already felt the same vague melancholy, the weight on your diaphragm, sadness that won’t stop oppressing imagination.” (Fuentes 115) The last few words of this quote say that his confused and repressed mind has made him sad and thus has blocked his imagination. He also feels a disconnection from his own body too “you’re sleeping all alone, far from the body you believe you’ve possessed.” (Fuentes 115) “You put your hands on your forehead, trying to calm your disordered senses” (Fuentes 117), “And you stop thinking because there are things stronger than the imagination.” (Fuentes 117) These quotes show how he faces major difficulties in keeping his perception aligned and distinguish between reality and fantasy. As mentioned before, hyperreality is the hypothetical helplessness to distinguish real from the imaginary. This is the precise state of hyperreality Felipe goes through. He is skeptical of everything around him; even while shaving he cuts himself and then starts touching, counting the objects in his travelling case. “you murmur the names of these objects, touch them, read the contents and instructions, pronounce the names of the manufacturerâ€¦..” (Fuentes 119)
The confusions between reality and fantasy, simulation of Aura and Felipe is like a collapse of the reality into hyperrealism. The setting and the surroundings are very gloomy. There is a suffocated and dark environment all throughout the story. The house is so dark that characters move around by listening and touching. Senora Consuelo’s room is described not as dark but filled with “perpetual shadows”. Darkness symbolizes the the inability to think clearly using all of the senses; in other words darkness in this case breaks the boundary between real and supernatural, therefore it can be called as hyperreal. The symbols and the simulations of Aura have no relation to reality whatsoever. It is just a false projection by Consuelo to reunite her with Felipe who is unaware that he is actually a simulation of General Llorente.
Fuentes through Felipe Montero is trying to depict what happens when the thin line between reality and reality and fantasy disappears and the hypothetical situation of hyperreality comes into play. Hyperreal is the announced topic of Jean Baudrillard in his book “Simulations”. The simulation in “Aura” is the fourth order simulation. This means that according to Fuentes the simulation of Aura is the pure simulation; the simulacrum has no relationship with any kind of reality. Aura was just a projection created by Consuelo and had no real counterpart. While Felipe could be considered as a first order simulation which is a faithful copy of General Llorente except that he did not know that he was a simulation of the General and he was destined to reunite with Senora Consuelo. The use of magical realism can be compared to the concept of Disneyland too. Baudrillard argued that the imaginary world of Disneyland attracts many people and it makes them believe that the surroundings of that imaginary world are actually real; that is simply hyperreal. Disneyland is a set of machinery put together that tries to collaborate imaginary and fantasy into reality. Fuentes’s novel is a bit similar in that it makes Felipe believes that Aura was real but she was just a projection by Senora Consuelo to signify youth and beauty. This misinterpretation of reality and fantasy turns reality into hyperreality. Aura was just a pretty young green-eyed girl, reality, but she was an epitome of youth and delusion of life, this is hyperreal.
“Aura” is not only about magical realism and hyperreal but also it talks about other topics such as simulacrum and simulation. Simulacrum is used to describe a representation of another entity. And according to Baudrillard, simulation is the present stage of simulacrum. It consists of all the references without the objects, hyperreality, exactly like simulation of Aura by Consuelo.
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