You should spend about 20 minutes on Questions 1-13 which are based on Reading Passage 1 below.
READING PASSAGE 1 – MÁRQUEZ AND MAGICAL REALISM
When Gabriel García Márquez died in 2014, he was mourned around the world, as readers recalled his 1967 novel, One hundred years of solitude, which has sold more than 25 million copies, and led to Márquez ‘s receipt of the 1982 Nobel Prize for Literature.
Born in 1927, in a small town on Colombia’s Caribbean coast called Aracataca, Márquez was immersed in Spanish, black, and indigenous cultures. In such remote places, religion, myth, and superstition hold sway over logic and reason or perhaps operate as parallel belief systems. Certainly, the ghost stories told by his grandmother affected the young Gabriel profoundly, and a pivotal character in his 1967 epic is indeed a ghost.
Márquez’s family was not wealthy: there were twelve children, and his father worked as a postal clerk, a telegraph operator, and an occasional pharmacist. Márquez spent much of his childhood in the care of his grandparents, which may account for the main character in One hundred years of solitude resembling his maternal grandfather. Although Márquez left Aracataca aged eight, the town and its inhabitants never seemed to leave him, and suﬀuse his fiction.
One hundred years of solitude was the fourth of fifteen novels, but Márquez was an equally passionate and prolific journalist.
In Bogota, during his twenties and thirties, Márquez experienced La Violencia, a period of great political and social upheaval, when around 300,000 Colombians were killed. Certainly, life was never safe for journalists, and after writing an article on corruption in the Colombian navy in 1955, Márquez was forced to flee to Europe. Incidentally, in Paris, he discovered that European culture was not richer than his own, and he was disappointed by Europeans who were patronising towards Latin Americans. On return to the southern hemisphere, Márquez wrote for Venezuelan newspapers and the Cuban press agency.
In terms of politics, Márquez was leftwing. In Chile, he campaigned against the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet; in Venezuela, he financed a political party; and, in Nicaragua, he defended revolutionaries. He considered Fidel Castro, the President of Cuba, as a dear friend. Since the US was hostile towards Castro’s communist regime, which Márquez supported, the writer was banned from visiting the US until invited by President Clinton in 1995. The novels of Márquez are imbued with his politics, but this does not prevent readers from enjoying a good yarn.
Márquez maintained that in Latin America so much that is real would seem fantastic elsewhere, while so much that is magical seems real. He was an exponent of a genre known as Magical Realism.
‘If you can explain it,’ said the Mexican critic, Luis Leal, ‘then it’s not Magical Realism.’ This demonstrates the difficulty of determining what the genre encompasses and which writers belong to it.
The term Magical Realism is usually applied to literature, but its first use was probably in 1925 when a German art critic reviewed paintings similar to those of Surrealism.
Many critics define Magical Realism by what it is not. Realism describes lives that could be real; Magical Realism uses the detail and the tone of a realist work but includes the magical as though it were real. The ghosts in One hundred years of solitude and in the American Toni Morison’s Beloved are presented by their narrators as normal, so readers accept them unhesitatingly. Likewise, a character can live for 200 years in a Magical Realist novel. Surrealism explores dream states and psychological experiences; Magical Realism does not. Science Fiction describes a new or an imagined world, as in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, but Magical Realism depicts the real world. Nor is Magical Realism fantasy, like Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis, in which an ordinary man awakens to find he has transformed into a cockroach. This is because the writer and the reader of that story cannot decide whether to ascribe natural or supernatural causes to the event. In contrast, in a work by Márquez, the world is both natural and supernatural, both rational and irrational, and this binary nature fascinates readers.
Magical Realism does share some common ground with post-modernism since the acts of writing and breading are self-reﬂexive. A narrative may not be linear, but may double back on itself, or be discontinuous, and the notion of character is more illusive than in other genres.
Naturally, some of these elements disturb a reader although the enormous success of One hundred years of solitude and the hundreds of other Magical Realist works from authors as far apart as Norway, Nigeria, and New Zealand would seem to belie it.
Latin America has had a long history of conquest, revolution, and dictatorship; of hunger, poverty, and chaos, yet, at the same time, is endowed with rich cultures, with warm, emotional people, many of whom, like Márquez, remain optimistically utopian. Gabriel Garcia Márquez has passed away, but his fiction will certainly endure.
You should spend about 20 minutes on Questions 14-27 which are based on Reading Passage 2 below.
READING PASSAGE 2 – Recent stock-market crashes
For as long as there have been financial markets, there have been financial crises. Most economists agree, however, that from 1994 to 2013 crashes were deeper and the resultant troughs longer-lasting than in the 20-year period leading up to 1994. Two notable crashes, the Nifty Fifty in the mid-l 970s and Black Monday in 1987, had an average loss of about 40% of the value of global stocks, and recovery took 240 days each, whereas the Dot-com and credit crises, post-1994, had an average loss of about 52%, and endured for 430 days. What economists do not agree upon is why recent crises have been so severe or how to prevent their recurrence.
John Coates, from the University of Cambridge in the UK and a former trader for Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank, believes three separate but related phenomena explain the severity. The first is dangerous but predictable risk-taking on the part of traders. The second is a lack of any risk-taking when markets become too volatile. (Coates does not advocate risk-aversion since risk-taking may jumpstart a depressed market.) The last is a new policy of transparency by the US Federal Reserve – known as the Fed – that may have encouraged stock-exchange complacency, compounding the dangerous risk-taking.
Many people imagine a trader to have a great head for maths and a stomach for the rollercoaster ride of the market, but Coates downplays arithmetic skills, and doubts traders are made of such stern stuﬀ. Instead, he draws attention to the physiological nature of their decisions. Admittedly, there are women in the industry, but traders are overwhelmingly male, and testosterone appears to aﬀect their choices.
Another common view is that traders are greedy as well as thrill-seeking. Coates has not researched financial incentive, but blood samples taken from London traders who engaged in simulated risk-taking exercises for him in 2013 confirmed the prevalence of testosterone, cortisol, and dopamine – a neurotransmitter precursor to adrenalin associated with raised blood pressure and sudden pleasure.
Certainly anyone faced with danger has a stress response involving the body’s preparation for impending movement – for what is sometimes called ‘Fight or flight’, but, as Coates notes, any physical act at all produces a stress response: even a reader’s eye movement along words in this line requires cortisol and adrenalin. Neuroscientists now see the brain not as a computer that acts neutrally, involved in a process of pure thought, but as a mechanism to plan and carry out a movement, since every single piece of information humans absorb has an attendant pattern of physical arousal.
For muscles to work, fuel is needed, so cortisol and adrenalin employ glucose from other muscles and the liver. To burn the fuel, oxygen is required, so slightly deeper or faster breathing occurs. To deliver fuel and oxygen to the body, the heart pumps a little harder and blood pressure rises. Thus, the stress response is a normal part of life, as well as a resource in fighting or fleeing. Indeed, it is a highly pleasurable experience in watching an action movie, making love or pulling oﬀ a multi-million-dollar stock-market deal.
Cortisol production also increases during exposure to uncertainty. For example, people who live next to a train line adjust to the noise of passing trains, but visitors to their home are disturbed. The phenomenon is equally well-known of anticipation being worse than an event itself: sitting in the waiting room thinking about a procedure may be more distressing than occupying the dentist’s chair and having one. Interestingly, if a patient does not know approximately when he or she will be called for that procedure, cortisol levels are the most elevated of all. This appeared to happen with the London traders participating in some of Coates’ gambling scenarios.
When there is too much volatility in the stock market, Coates suspects adrenaline levels decrease while cortisol levels increase, explaining why traders take fewer risks at that time. In fact, typically traders freeze, becoming almost incapable of buying or selling anything but the safest bonds. In Coates’ opinion, the market needs investment as it falls and at rock bottom – at such times, greed is good.
The third matter – the behaviour of the Fed – Coates thinks could be controlled, albeit counterintuitively. Since 1994, the US Federal Reserve has adopted a policy called Forward Guidance. Under this, the public is informed at regular intervals of the Fed’s plans for short-term interest rates. Recently, rates have been raised by small but predictable increments. By contrast, in the past, the machinations of the Fed were largely secret, and its interest rates fluctuated apparently randomly. Coates hypothesises these meant traders were on guard and less likely to indulge in wild speculation. In introducing Forward Guidance, the Fed hoped to lower stock and housing prices; instead, before the crash of 2008, the market surged from further risk-taking, like an unleashed pit bull terrier.
There are many economists who disagree with Coates, but he has provided some physiological evidence for both traders’ recklessness and immobilisation and made the radical proposal of greater opacity at the Fed. Although, as others have noted, we could just let more women onto the ﬂoor.
You should spend about 20 minutes on Questions 28-40 which are based on Reading Passage 3 below.
READING PASSAGE 3 – ANIMAL PERSONHOOD
Aristotle, a 4th-century-BC Greek philosopher, created the Great Chain of Being, in which animals, lacking reason, ranked below humans. The Frenchman, Rene Descartes, in the 17th century AD, considered animals as more complex creatures; however, without souls, they were mere automatons. One hundred years later, the German, Immanuel Kant, proposed animals are treated less cruelly, which might seem an improvement, but Kant believed this principally because he thought acts of cruelty aﬀect their human perpetrators detrimentally. The mid-19th century saw the Englishman, Jeremy Bentham, questioning not their rationality or spirituality, but whether animals could suﬀer irrespective of the damage done to their victimisers; he concluded they could; and, in 1824, the first large organisation for animal welfare, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, was founded in England. In 1977, the Australian, Peter Singer, wrote the highly inﬂuential book Animal liberation, in which he debated the ethics of meat-eating and factory farming, and raised awareness about inhumane captivity and experimentation. Singer’s title deliberately evoked other liberation movements, like those for women, which had developed in the post-war period.
More recently, an interest in the cognitive abilities of animals has resurfaced. It has been known since the 1960s that chimpanzees have sophisticated tool use and social interactions, but research from the last two decades has revealed they are also capable of empathy and grief, and they possess self-awareness and self-determination. Other primates, dolphins, whales, elephants, and African grey parrots are highly intelligent too. It would seem that with each new proof of animals’ abilities, questions are being posed as to whether creatures so similar to humans should endure the physical pain or psychological trauma associated with habitat loss, captivity, or experimentation. While there may be more laws protecting animals than 30 years ago, in the eyes of the law, no matter how smart or sentient an animal may be, it still has a lesser status than a human being.
Steven Wise, an American legal academic, has been campaigning to change this. He believes animals, like those listed above, are autonomous – they can control their actions, or rather, their actions are not caused purely by reﬂex or from innateness. He wants these animals categorized legally as nonhuman persons because he believes existing animal-protection laws are weak and poorly enforced. He famously quipped that an aquarium may be fined for cruel treatment of its dolphins but, currently, the dolphins can’t sue the aquarium.
While teaching at Vermont Law School in the 1990s, Wise presented his students with a dilemma: should an anencephalic baby be treated as a legal person? (Anencephaly is a condition where a person is born with a partial brain and can breathe and digest, due to reflex, but otherwise is barely alert, and not autonomous.) Overwhelmingly, Wise’s students would say ‘Yes’. He posed another question: could the same baby be killed and eaten by humans? Overwhelmingly, his students said ‘No’. His third question, always harder to answer, was: why is an anencephalic baby legally a person yet not so a fully functioning bonobo chimp?
Wise draws another analogy: between captive animals and slaves. Under slavery in England, a human was a chattel, and if a slave were stolen or injured, the thief or violator could be convicted of a crime, and compensation paid to the slave’s owner though not to the slave. It was only in 1772 that the chief justice of the King’s Bench, Lord Mansfield, ruled that a slave could apply for habeas corpus, Latin for: ‘You must have the body’, as fee men and women had done since ancient times. Habeas corpus does not establish innocence or guilt; rather, it means a detainee can be represented in court by a proxy. Once slaves had been granted habeas corpus, they existed as more than chattels within the legal system although it was another 61 years before slavery was abolished in England. Aside from slaves, Wise has studied numerous cases in which a writ of habeas corpus had been filed on behalf of those unable to appear in court, like children, patients, prisoners, or the severely intellectually impaired. In addition, Wise notes there are entities that are not living people that have legally become non-human persons, including ships, corporations, partnerships, states, a Sikh holy book, some Hindu idols and the Wanganui River in New Zealand.
In conjunction with an organisation called the Non-human Rights Project (NhRP), Wise has been representing captive animals in US courts in an eﬀort to have their legal status reassigned. Thereafter, the NhRP plans to apply, under habeas corpus, to represent the animals in other cases. Wise and the NhRP believe a new status will discourage animal owners or nation-states from neglect or abuse, which current laws fail to do.
Richard Epstein, a professor of law at New York University, is a critic of Wise’s. His concern is that if animals are treated as independent holders of rights there would be little left of human society, in particular, in the food and agricultural industries. Epstein agrees some current legislation concerning animal protection may need overhauling, but he sees no underlying problem.
Other detractors say that the push for personhood misses the point: it focuses on animals that are similar to humans without addressing the fundamental issue that all species have an equal right to exist. Thomas Berry, of the Gaia Foundation, declares that rights do not emanate from humans but from the universe itself, and, as such, all species have the right to existence, habitat, and role (be that predator, plant, or decomposer). Dramatically changing human behaviour towards other species is necessary for their survival – and that doesn’t mean declaring animals as non-human persons.
To date, the NhRP has not succeeded in its applications to have the legal status of chimpanzees in New York State changed, but the NhRP considers it some kind of victory that the cases have been heard. Now, the NhRP can proceed to the Court of Appeals, where many emotive cases are decided, and where much common law is formulated.
Despite setbacks, Wise doggedly continues to expose brutality towards animals. Thousands of years of perceptions may have to be changed in this process. He may have lost the battle, but he doesn’t believe he’s lost the war.
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