Yunior mentions how there had been a spell of fuku on Oscar’s grandfather Abelard. There was a belief in the island in which Abelard lived, namely, that a fuku is haunting the island. In the tradition of curses being passed down generations, Oscar’s written work is suppressed just as his grandfathers’ was several years ago. But as it invariably happens in the novel, every fuku is mitigated through a fitting zafa at a later point in the narrative. The fact of Yunior’s careful preservation of Oscar’s texts for Lola’s daughter Isis sets up the zafa. These saved-up texts “become the ‘zafa’ or counterspell to the fuku, which has been associated with traditional Dominican masculinity.
Oppositional writing functions as one of the ‘barrier shields’ against the forces of totalitarianism.” (Weese 89)
Indeed, Diaz’s invocation of fuku even harks back to the discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus. In Yunior’s interpretation, this ‘curse of the New World’ is something that affects both the colonial masters and their subjects. In the case of the Dominican Republic, it is the Spanish inquisitors and the indigenous peoples of the Americas. There is much historical evidence to support the claim that the ‘discovery’ of the continent was indeed a curse upon its natives. While this broadly conceived fuku is returned to at several places in the novel, there are passages where Diaz treats the existence of fuku as an open question.
“Despite numerous clues and suggestions, the reality of the fuku remains rather vague; it is never absolutely clear where the fuku comes from, how it operates, who exactly is cursed, or who has done the cursing and why. Indeed, the notion of what the fuku is responsible for is sometimes so amorphous and diffuse that it becomes comic in its triviality. This is particularly true with regards to the notion of the “small fuku,” the smaller, more personal, or familial experiences of bad luck…” (Bautista 42)
Finally, the banality of the range of these small curses makes for comic diversion in the novel. For example, one small fuku is the “cramp caused by a bad meal of shrimp”. The triviality of it leads one to believe if fukus are no more than superstition. It leads the reader to question if the characters are merely attempting to rationalize their bad fortune. This is most evident in the thoughts of Lola and Yunior. Even Oscar seems to display misgivings toward the existence of fukus, certainly in the early part of life, before he embraced the escapist fare of science fiction. The rigid dichotomy between Oscar’s love of fantasy and his belief in fukus is underscored by the fact that during his visit back to Dominican Republic he barely makes an effort to find out about the family curse. Instead he exclusively devotes his time to writing two science fiction works. He even dismisses the fukus as rumours. His growing up in the United States during his formative years partially accounts for this indifference. But as he grows older Oscar displays a cultural identity that is more in touch with his Dominican roots. In one dramatic event in his life, he witnesses the powerful intervention of a zafa in saving his life.