Koncepts of Place & Time

One thing that Atomik Aztex undoubtedly succeeds in is making the reader feel disoriented. In a very necessary way, though. Before being able to wrap one’s head around the story of Zenzontli & Zenzón, the reader needs to be disoriented from the eurocentric framing of our own reality. The novel presents an alien reality, one that is hard to grasp for an American reader. How much of our history hinges on the European conquest of the New World? All of it? It’s a painstaking process for the average reader, especially when shifting that narrative to the perspective of Zenzontli involves erasing everything you know about your familial history and your current place in the world.

Another way this disorientation is accomplished is through the perception and explanation of time. Our perception is linear, but the Aztex sees things as a cykle.

The Mayan calendar                                                              https://www.timecenter.com/articles/the-mayan-calendar-and-concept-of-time/

This is referenced especially one last time at the close of the novel: “Aztek calendrikal science denotes numbered interstices in cycles of death & rebirth for transitions to new seasons” (200). This idea of Aztek calenders represents the fiction of the work, but we have an example of how this would intersect with reality. In 2012, there was a trending idea that the world just might end. This was based on the Mayan calendar accounting far past the existence of the Mayans, but abruptly ending at the year 2012. What the doomsday believers failed to recognize was that the calendar they all feared was actually cyclical. Once it reaches the end it starts again, nothing dies forever.

In a eurocentric society we can fling ourselved far into the past and future, but there is very little thought on how the future may meet the past. We have the physics to understand the age of the universe, and I make no claims to the true perception of time, but even abstractly there is an unwillingness to connect the two. Are we more afraid of the cycle ending or repeating?



Foster, Sesshu. Atomik Aztex. City Lights, 2005.


2 thoughts on “Koncepts of Place & Time”

  1. I’m pretty sure everyone in our class felt that Atomik Aztex was a difficult book to get into, and I feel like you summed up exactly why that was the case in your post. The novel definitely challenged my own perceptions of time, and I think it’s interesting to frame those perceptions as euro-centric. I think our cultural understanding of time being linear is so ingrained into us, that we never really stop to think about how it’s really an arbitrary cultural invention. Who’s to say that time is truly linear? It’s too abstract of a concept, in my opinion, for us to really make any definitive statements about it.


  2. Yes, I completely agree, disoriented is the perfect way to describe the way Atomik Aztex caused me to feel. It is an interesting point you bring up that we have to be disoriented from the framing of our reality before understanding the story, I complete agree. I think Foster does this to wipe away all previous expectations of how a novel should be…you know, a linear plot, chronological timing, etc. all things we are familiar with from our western conception of the novel. Just like you are saying in your post, the way time is constructed cyclically in the novel blends the past, present, and future together…how could this not be disorienting for the reader? It’s the opposite of what is normal for us, its the abnormal! Its internet for the abnormal to be unnerving and disorienting, but that is what makes the novel one that captures our fascination, attention, and untimely, our admiration!


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