English 363

Response #4
November 16, 2011, 4:35 am
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Caitlin Machicote

Professor Alvarez

Response #4

16th, November, 2011


Zenzontli The Unreliable: Unreliable Narration in Sesshu Foster’s Atomik Aztex


            In Atomik Aztex Sesshu Foster constructs an omniverse narrated by Zenzontli the keeper of the house of darkness. Zenzontli has the responsibility of telling the story of the Aztex. Manfred Jahn would call Zenzontli an unreliable narrator. “A narrator “whose rendering of the story and/or commentary on it the reader has reasons to suspect. […] The main sources of unreliability are the narrator’s limited knowledge, his personal involvement, and his problematic value-scheme” (Rimmon-Kenan 1983: 100). Many first-person narrators are unreliable” ( Jahn 7.6). Zenzontli uses suspect many times in Atomik Aztex. The first page of Atomik Aztex can be read as an example of unreliable narration. Zenzontli states “ I am getting fucked in the head and I think I like it” ( Foster 1). Considering this statement the reader knows that anything Zenzontli says cannot be taken seriously or fully believed. The portrayal of Zenzontli as an unreliable narrator has begun. Many other instances where the reader should question the reliability of Zenzontli’s narration follow. For example in chapter four Zenzontli describes his events at the meatpacking plant as he stamps pigs with the USDA stamp, Zenzontli states “ I did my job quietly and efficiently” ( Foster 63). This statement has little reliability and leads the reader to suspect that Zenzontli is not being truthful. If Zenzontli dislikes his job so much why would he do his job quietly and efficiently? And how efficient can Zenzontli peering at Max suspiciously.

            Zenzontli shows his unreliable qualities all throughout the novel, in chapter five he calls himself a genius, on page 103 he states “ perhaps they killed us all”, seeming stating that he does not even know if any other Aztex live. In chapter seven Zenzontli tells the reader they are lucky to be reading his Codex ‘ instead of some horseshit’. After this statement Zenzontli tells his opinion about all other writings that a reader may encounter. Here Zenzontli shows his unreliability, if Zenzontli feels this negative way about all these groups, his depictions of events are not reliable accounting of them or of his own. Since Zenzontli believes he has great intelligence, and his people to be superior, his accounts can never be taken as truth. The first page when Zenzontli describes himself as keeper of the house of darkness of the Aztex also suggests his unreliability. In literature darkness typically alludes to secrets. Zenzontli as keeper of the house of darkness of the Aztex would be keeper of the secrets of the Aztex, as an unreliable narrator, he keeps the secrets of the Aztex. He makes the Aztex seem more superior than they are and changes the readers opinions of the Aztex , possibly through lies, misleading, omissions, and coercion.


Works Cited


Foster, Sesshu. Atomik Aztex. San Francisco: City Lights, 2005. Print.

Jahn, Manfred. “Narratology: A Guide to the Theory of Narrative.” 28 May 2005. Web. 27 June 2011.

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Thank you Caitlin, much better. I should have mentioned you could have used that response for some of your blog posts, but I didn’t think of it.

The unreliability of the Zenzo has something to do with the shape of his consciousness that is somehow affected by visions, but also by the cycle of time and “multi”-verse he lives in (as in not just one uni-verse).

I think you’re right to bring in whether or not we could trust him. Then the question to consider is which of the realities in the novel is the more realistic. What if the Aztek reality is more “real” than the the other one? You might think about how the war of the characters relates to The People of Paper.

I counted 5 “to be” verbs, but you still used the passive voice when you used “to have” as well, “had begun” means the same was “was begun”.

Revise out as much “to be” as possible, I will take off points in the next response and the final project for that.

4.4 out of 5 points.

   salvarez 11.18.11 @ 5:23 pm

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