Presentation on theme: "El Boom An introduction to late 20 th C. Latin American literature Or Some politico-cultural reasons why “the story is truer than truth”"— Presentation transcript:
El Boom An introduction to late 20 th C. Latin American literature Or Some politico-cultural reasons why “the story is truer than truth”
El Boom El Boom ► Boom ► Boom-and- Bust =a deep, hollow sound like the roar of a cannon or of big waves... a sudden activity and increase in business, prices or values of property... =an economic cycle of great prosperity followed by a serious depression.
Literature’s curious problems in Latin America ► The Spanish Inquisition established branches in capitals such as Lima and México. The Index Librorum Prohibitorum (Index of Forbidden Books, c.1570) codified what books were to be censored, thus recognizing the power of literature to subvert the status quo. ► Importing novels to colonial Spanish America was strictly prohibited by the Spanish Crown since the late sixteenth century. But this was not foolproof and books of chivalry, picaresque novels and even Cervantes's Don Quixote (1605, 1615) managed to circulate. However, the early Latin American writers were forced to channel their inventiveness differently. History texts, chronicles, accounts of the conquest and exploration of America become the only ‘legal’ space where the native imagination can prosper. ► As a result, Fiction and History become united in a particularly curious way. What is history? and What is fiction? are questions that at some level or other can be asked in dealing with colonial texts and beyond.
T wo examples of Fiction and History in Latin American Literature: 1. Historia verdadera de la conquista de la Nueva España (The True Account of the Conquest of New Spain, 1580) written by Bernal Díaz del Castillo, foot soldier in Cortéz's army before independence from Europe of any American state autobiographical description of the conquest of México (1519-1521) chronicle of historical events seen by some critics as the "first Spanish American novel“ characterisation of Cortéz, Moctezuma, and many other historical figures accentuates the humane, the personal, and other qualities narrative composition reminiscent of fictional best-sellers of the time – i.e. books of chivalry like Amadís de Gaula (Amadis of Gaul 1508), Tirant lo Blanc (1490), etc. – where valiant knights travelled to unknown lands to face uncertain perils in the pursuit of high minded victories.
T wo examples of Fiction and History in Latin American Literature: 2. El periquillo Sarniento (The Itching Parrot, 1816) written by Mexican journalist Joaquín Fernández de Lizardi after independence of México from Spain considered the first Latin American Novel censorship prevented journalists from freely writing any opinions in local gacetas (newspapers) Lizardi uses a ‘novel’ to criticize ► The backwardness of his native country ► The flaws in the "national character" of its people.
Evolution of the Latin American novel ► Constrained by religious and political strictures, and conditioned to glorify and differentiate the character of emerging nations, the novel in Latin America evolves out of the necessity to speak out, to preach, to educate the emerging peoples of the continent. ► Writers see themselves as privileged voices in charge of “creating a national literature that refers to and documents the national reality” (Argentinean writer Esteban Echeverría, 1805-1851)
Notes on Chilean author José Donoso's “The Boom...A Personal History” ► On the regional nature of the Spanish American novel prior to 1960: Before 1960 it was very uncommon to hear laymen speak of the "contemporary Spanish American novel": there were Uruguayan, Ecuadorian, Mexican or Venezuelan novels. (...) The novelist in the Spanish American countries wrote for his parish: about the problems of his parish and in the language of his parish, addressing himself to the number and level of his readers – quite different, certainly, in Paraguay than in Argentina, in Mexico than in Ecuador – which his parish was able to offer him, without much hope of anything else.
Notes on Chilean author José Donoso's “The Boom...A Personal History” ► On the different non-Hispanic influences in 1960s Latin American fiction: On the other hand, today's Spanish American novel was from the very beginning a mestiza, a crossbreeding, a disregarding of the Hispanic American tradition (as much disregard for what was Hispanic [+Spain] as for what was American [-Spain]) and draws itself almost totally from other literary sources, because without a whimper, our orphaned sensibility let itself be infected by the North Americans, the French, the English, and the Italians, all of whom seemed to us more "ours," much more "our own" than a Gallegos (Doña Bárbara) or a Güiraldes (Don Segundo Sombra) for example, or a Baroja [Spanish novelist (1872- 1956)].
Notes on Chilean author José Donoso's “The Boom...A Personal History” ► On the pernicious effect of the regionalista / criollista canon and the prescriptions of social realism: A novel was considered good if it loyally reproduced those [indigenous] concerns, all that which specifically makes us different – which separates us – from other areas and other countries of the continent: a type of foolproof, chauvinistic machismo. (...) the only true criterion of excellence is the precision required to depict what is inherently ours, the verifiable verisimilitude that tends to transform a novel into a faithful document portraying or capturing a segment of univocal reality.
Notes on Chilean author José Donoso's “The Boom...A Personal History” ► More on the harmful effects of criollista literary dogma In addition to being unmistakably ours, as the criollistas wanted, the novel should be, above all else, "important," "serious," an instrument which would be directly useful to social progress. (...) Formal experimentation was prohibited. The architecture of the novel and its language were to be simple, flat, colourless, sober, and poor. (...) The fantastic and the personal elements, the strange and marginal writers, those who "abused" the language or the form, were exiled by these criteria, which reigned for so many years that the magnitude and the potential of the novel were sadly impoverished.
The first phase of the Boom: A. A novel: Carlos Fuentes's La región más transparente (Where the Air Is Clear, 1958) B. A momentous event : The Congress of Intellectuals at the University of Concepción, Chile (1962) C. A personality: Carlos Fuentes D. A socio-political phenomenon: The Cuban Revolution
The second & third phases of the Boom: 2. Mario Vargas Llosa ► received the Biblioteca Breve Prize from the Barcelonese publishing house of Seix Barral in 1964, when only twenty-four- years-old ► La ciudad y los perros (The Time of the Hero, 1963) caused the whole continent to talk. ► Perhaps it would not be too risky to offer the opinion that its success was in part due to the fame and ‘maneuverings’ of Carlos Fuentes, who had fertilized the land so that the thing could take root.(61) 3. Gabriel García Márquez ► One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) ► Perhaps the definitive moment of the Latin American Boom occurs with [this] publication (... ) One edition untiringly follows another: one speaks in terms of millions of copies. (62)
The writers of the Boom discovered, as if for the first time and all at once, that:
The World is an Inescapable Fabrication 1. the world is a FABRICATION and full of delirious improbabilities but, alas, still real enough and thus INESCAPABLE (cf. the mirror of J L Borgés)
Where the Imagination is King 2. the imagination is nearly always right, either because a.SOMEONE HAS ALREADY DONE WHAT YOU HAVE ONLY IMAGINED (‘tradition’ - reinventing Shakespeare; ‘intertextuality’ - all texts refer to other texts, starting from the same base of ‘language’; repetition - from one’s own daily routine all the way to the cycles of history) or because b.YOU HAVE IMAGINED A FITTING METAPHOR, image or representation for someone else’s need, desires, hopes, aspirations
And Fiction is deadly serious play… 3. fiction, under these circumstances, is both a PLAYGROUND and a BATTLEFIELD - the place where a culture’s central quarrels may be fought out and seen to be fought out CULTURE = how you (or your society) define your identity, values, beliefs
Realism... ? ► What is ‘realism’ in Latin America? It did not work as a literary and artistic style because it rested on a commitment to a solid material and historical world no one in South America quite believed in. ► The best known play of Ruíz de Alarcón is called The Suspect Truth and its moral is that habitual liars make even the truth sound uncertain when they happen to tell it (Richard III, 1984, political spin doctors).
… or truthful doubt? ► A poem by Sor Juana says “solamente lo que toco veo” – she takes her eyes into her hands and will only see what she can touch (a powerful reinvention of St Thomas’ doubt at Christ’s resurrection)
The other novel ► Thus the Boom produced the other (super realist) novel, which reported absolutely everything (like Borgés’ autistic savant character Funes) that could be seen, even in hallucinations – a modernized baroque* that showed the brilliant trail of its deceptions (in a self-conscious narrative style known as ‘metafiction’) BUT ALSO lovingly and carefully relating the fragile life of facts which in other places (back in Europe and its realistic novel) would seem safe, stable, ordinary. * baroque = a flamboyant and exaggerated late classical style begun in 16th Europe but typical of colonial architecture in Latin America
Magic Realism ► So the ultimate effect of this new narrative style was to reinvent, for very local reasons, what all great literary art worldwide has always tried to do – make us see the familiar with new eyes…
A set of characteristics discernible in many of the novels of the Boom: 1. The use of complex narrative structures requiring an active reader capable of organizing the narrative matter by him/herself. 2. The development of linguistic experimentation from: ► the pursuit of a cultural identity that creates its own reality within the novel (i.e. the universe of Macondo in One Hundred Years of Solitude). ► to the baroque displays of writers like Carpentier, Lezama Lima, and others. 3. The insistence on the writer's right to create his/her own fictional reality. ► Frequently the problem of literary creation is dealt with as a theme, that is, the tendency towards metafiction (self-conscious writing). 4. Historical/Social novels abound: ( i.e. The Lost Steps, Pedro Páramo, The Death of Artemio Cruz, The Time of The Hero, etc.) 5. The exploration of immediate reality to grotesque extremes of caricature. ► Humour makes its debut in Latin American fiction.
A set of characteristics discernible in many of the novels of the Boom: 6. Existential themes are still dealt with, but while ignoring psychological analysis, and often pursuing mythical or allegorical formulations (i.e. Pedro Páramo, Hopscotch, etc.) 7. Rejection of bourgeois – middle class – morality, certain conventional social mores, and even the customary way of perceiving reality (rationalism). 8. Rejection of dominant cultural contexts and models (such High vs. Low culture), especially in younger novelists such as Manuel Puig, Reinaldo Arenas, Luis Rafael Sánchez, etc. 9. A tendency to unify different genres: poetry and narrative, music and narrative, film and narrative. 10. Segmentation and fragmentation of narrative structures (i.e.. Hopscotch, The Kiss of the Spider Woman, etc.) 11. The incorporation of popular culture and mass produced cultural artefacts in theme and/or form.
Isabel Allende ► Born in Lima, Peru, in 1942 to a Chilean diplomat who ran away when Allende was 3 ► Allende's mother, Panchita Llona Barros, took her to her grandfather's mansion in Chile, where she lived until she was 10 ► At 19, she married a Chilean engineer and had a thriving career as a journalist, writing an advice column and hosting her own TV program ► Her uncle, Salvador Allende, the first avowed Marxist to be elected president in a Latin American country, was killed in 1973 in a CIA-backed military coup that established the military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet. Shortly after the coup, Isabelle Allende fled the country for Venezuela, followed by her husband and children.
The House of the Spirits ► On Jan. 8, 1981, Isabel Allende began a letter to her grandfather, who was nearing 100 and on his death bed. “People die”, he had told her, “only when they are forgotten.” ► After 500 pages, Allende realized she had a novel, not a letter. "Writing a book," she thought, "might hold him to the Earth." She has, for luck, begun all subsequent books on the same day, each serving in some way as a spell or a talisman to revive flagging spirits or exorcise demons. "A book," she has written, "is only a way to touch someone, a bridge extended across loneliness and obscurity." ► Allende's childhood was the raw material for The House of the Spirits but it put her in the vanguard of “el boom’s” younger generation of novelists…
One Hundred Years of Solitude and The House of the Spirits : parallel novels One Hundred Years of SolitudeThe House of the Spirits Context Written after the triumph of the Cuban revolution (1952) Written after the tragedy of Salvador Allende’s defeat by military coup (1973) Historical themes Historical cycles in the novel are always vicious, inescapable defeats Progressive enlightenment is portrayed as a possibility (or even as essential for women) Female protagonists Ursula Iguarán is the backbone of the Buendía family, but as such also underpins a patriarchal society Clara maintains both family and narrative continuity by constantly resisting patriarchal society Genealogies Lineages are masculine – through either an Arcadio or an Aureliano Lineages are feminine – Nivea to Clara to Blanca to Alba Narrative voice The narrator is external, omniscient and male; and the writing of the book is symbolised by the magical male Melquíades The family notebooks are kept by female writers, and all narration is intrinsic to the novel or internal Identity The repetition of names represents the confusion dominating the lives of characters Characters have similar but different names because “repeated names sow confusion in notebooks that bear witness to life” Style The deadpan style plays up the use of tricks, illusions and a labyrinthine plot The novel moves very quickly from the child’s-eye-view magic of young Clara to a matter-of-fact style that eventually achieves a powerful self effacing realism
Eva Luna ► This, Allende’s third novel, was published 6 years after her first and moves beyond it in several ways: The family saga and romance genres of House of the Spirits and Of Love and Shadows have been replaced by a free adaptation of the Spanish picaresque form While seemingly located in an anonymous South American country, Allende has moved her socio- political setting from the Chile of her childhood and youth to the Venezuela of her adult exile Though maintaining the feminist concerns of her earlier novels, Eva Luna comes closer to the magic realism of her male literary forebears than the political pragmatism to which House of the Spirits aspired.