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The Latin American Canon according to Carlos Fuentes
August 29, 2011 2:55 AM   Subscribe

"The most varied and fervorous literature of spanish speaking America is the Argentinian. The most sui generis (like the country itself) is the Chilean." Carlos Fuentes lists the novels of the 20th and, probably a little bit prematurely, 21st centuries which constitute the Latin American Canon (google translation).

Fuentes just published a new book of essays: The Great Latin American Novel (in Spanish) where he analyzes the evolution of the novel since the discovery of the Americas. The 19th century doesn't make it to the canon as it was only an imitation of European realist literature.

Here's the list:

Canon siglo XX

- El Aleph, Jorge Luis Borges

- Los pasos perdidos, Alejo Carpentier

- Rayuela, Julio Cortázar

- Cien años de soledad, Gabriel García Márquez

- Paradiso, José Lezama Lima

- La vida breve, Juan Carlos Onetti

- Noticias del imperio, Fernando del Paso

- Yo el supremo, Augusto Roa Bastos

-Pedro Páramo, Juan Rulfo

-Conversación en La Catedral, Mario Vargas Llosa

-Santa Evita, Tomás Eloy Martínez

Canon siglo XXI

-Historia secreta de Costaguana, Juan Gabriel Vásquez

- En busca de Klingsor, Jorge Volpi

-Oír su voz, Arturo Fontaine

-El desierto, Carlos Franz

- Las muertes paralelas, Sergio Missana

-Amphitryon, Ignacio Padilla

-El síndrome de Ulises, Santiago Gamboa

-Abril rojo, Santiago Roncagliolo
posted by lucia__is__dada (28 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite

 
Bonus points for publishing it in a Spanish newspaper.
posted by chavenet at 3:06 AM on August 29, 2011


Interesting, I've read about half of the siglo XX and agreed wholeheartedly and then I realised there isn't one female author there.....and that didn't feel right. Hmmm
posted by Wilder at 3:07 AM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


"El escritor mexicano Carlos Fuentes, que lanzará el 24 de agosto un libro ensayístico sobre la novela latinoamericana, señaló que los escritores de la región evolucionaron de preguntarse "quiénes somos" a indagar "cómo somos". "

Pues claro, la respusta tiene que empezar con....somos machos....

I'm not saying this for PC reasons but not having Isabel Allende or Cristina Rivera just doesn't seem right to me.
posted by Wilder at 3:13 AM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Love me some Julio Cortázar.
posted by snwod at 3:20 AM on August 29, 2011


This reminds me that I should read Noticias del Imperio. Del Pasos' Palinuro de Mexico was one of the more insane and inventive books I've read recently.
posted by vacapinta at 3:23 AM on August 29, 2011


No women is Una victoria llena de dudas, if you translate "dudas" as dudes.

He does include Nélida Piñon in the book, but as Fuentes notes she is "atypical", I guess not just because she is Brazilian.
posted by chavenet at 3:24 AM on August 29, 2011


Mmm, I'd add Juan José Arreola, Cabrera Infante and Manuel Puig to the XXc, and Mario Bellatín to the XXIc., Also, some of the novel choices are a bit odd. ¿El Aleph? Ficciones is just as important. ¿Conversación en La Catedral instead of La guerra del fin del mundo or La ciudad y los perros?

I find Carlos Fuentes a bit suspect, frankly. He has published really atrocious novels for the past 20 years, his essays and journalism work are laughably simplistic and not rigorous at all, and his visions and critique of Mexico are never taken seriously inside the country.

He is appreciated for the stuff he did until the late 70s, but he's been really out of the picture for years. A sort of mexican Norman Mailer.
posted by Omon Ra at 4:17 AM on August 29, 2011


Pues claro, la respusta tiene que empezar con....somos machos....

I'm not saying this for PC reasons but not having Isabel Allende or Cristina Rivera just doesn't seem right to me.
posted by Wilder


I'm gonna go ahead and guess you're understanding of Latin American culture is not super profound because:

1) You bring out the tired old trope of Latin American = Macho.

2) You think of Isabel Allende as an importan author

3) You can't spell 'respuesta'.
posted by signal at 4:31 AM on August 29, 2011


Second the Isabel Allende comment. She isn't really very good. I'd argue instead for Rosario Castellanos or Gioconda Belli. Also, most publishing houses and magazines in Latin America and Spain were controlled by men, who published mostly male writing well into the 80s (with some exceptions like Silvina Ocampo). It's no surprise that there is a dearth or women on that list.
posted by Omon Ra at 4:40 AM on August 29, 2011


I know I'm nitpicking, but I think it's a shame to talk about Latin American literature while ignoring half of Latin America. If Brazil was included, João Guimarães Rosa's Grande Sertão: Veredas (The Devil To Pay In The Backlands) would have to be on that list...
posted by jhandey at 5:52 AM on August 29, 2011


It's not like there's a dearth of great women writers in Latin America. To Fuentes' credit, he does mention a few female writers, e.g. Luisa Valenzuela, Gabriela Mistral and Clarice Lispector, but not a single one contributes a work to his canon. I'm no expert on the Spanish-language novel, but just off the top of my head I thought of María Luisa Bombal, Laura Restrepo and Tatiana Lobo as obviously overlooked novelists and I'm sure someone even half-way conversant in Latin American literature could add a hundred names. I don't know much about Latin American literature, but enough to know this is an embarrassing list.
posted by Kattullus at 6:02 AM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]



2) You think of Isabel Allende as an importan author


She's clearly important. Whether or not she is good is a different question. I can't stand her writing, but I would never say that she is not an author who belongs in the modern canon.
posted by Forktine at 6:03 AM on August 29, 2011


It really depends how you define canon. For me a canon writer has to have an impact such that a lot of novels that come after him/her are impacted and changed by his/her work. Canon writers are also aided greatly by marketing and exposure (you reach more people and have a wider influence) so it's no surprise that latam women writers of the xxc got the short end of the stick there.

In that sense Allende wouldn't be a canon writer, given that her style is just really derivative.
posted by Omon Ra at 6:30 AM on August 29, 2011


For comparison: Bloom's 20th century Latin American list which includes poetry and Brazil.

Rubén Dário
Jorge Luis Borges
Alejo Carpentier
Guillermo Cabrera Infante
Reinaldo Arenas
Pablo Neruda
Nicolás Guillén
Octavio Paz
César Vallejo
Miguel Angel Asturias
José Lezama Lima
José Donoso
Julio Cortázar
Gabriel García Márquez
Mario Vargas Llosa
Carlos Fuentes
Carlos Drummond de Andrade
posted by lucia__is__dada at 6:39 AM on August 29, 2011


Ugh, Carlos Fuente continues to go out of his way to pry the title of DOUCHIEST LATIN AMERICAN WRITER from the evil, right-wing hands of Mario Vargas Llosa.

He's a douche for not admitting he doesnt get Luis Rafael Sanchez nor his
GUARACHA DEL MACHO CAMACHO

and he's a sexist idiot for insisting in excluding women like Elizabeth Burgos and her seminal
ME LLAMO RIGOBERTA MENCHU Y ASI ME NACIO LA CONCIENCIA


and of course you can't fucking call it Latin American Literature and exclude PORTUGUESE, CREOLE, FRENCH and even ENGLISH. even if you were to only include Brasil, it should be a crime to omit from any list of greatest novels of Latin America

Graciliano Ramos'
VIDAS SECAS

and Clarice Lispector's
Ora Da Estrela

seriously, Carlos Fuentes needs to STFU and sit down. bigoted spanish-only douche.
posted by liza at 7:41 AM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I find his prioritizing novels over poetry incredibly problematic.
posted by PinkMoose at 8:16 AM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jeez, what's with the Vargas Llosa bashing. ¿Evil hands? ¿Have you even read the guy? He has extremely nuanced political positions and his novels are amongst the richest ever written in spanish.
posted by Omon Ra at 8:49 AM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


The nice thing about contentious lists like this, at least, is that I get all sorts of excellent additional reading recommendations from the comments! :)
posted by eviemath at 9:15 AM on August 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


I cannot recommend Carpentier enough, eviemath. El reino de este mundo is incandecent.
posted by Omon Ra at 9:42 AM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


inre MARIO VARGAS LLOSA, from the horses' mouth:
El indigenismo en Ecuador, Perú y Bolivia está provocando un verdadero desorden político y social, y por eso hay que combatirlo... De Ecuador sé muy poco lo que está sucediendo ahora... Si queremos alcanzar el desarrollo y elegir la civilización y la moralidad, tenemos que combatir resueltamente esos brotes de colectivismo... Creo que en el movimiento indígena hay un elemento profundamente perturbador que apela a los bajos instintos, a los peores instintos del individuo como la desconfianza hacia el otro, al que es distinto. Entonces se encierran en sí mismos.
My quickie translation:
The Indian Rights Movement in Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia are striving for a true political and social upending and that's why it has to be defeated. I know very little of what's happening in Ecuador .... but if we want to become developed and choose civilization and morality, we have to defeat these outbreaks of collectivism.

I believe in the indian rights movement there's a perturbing element that appeals to base instincts; to the worse instincts in individual such as lack of trust on the other, on who is different. And that's why the close in on themselves.
Mario Vargas Llosa uses interchangeably "indigenismo" (which is, ironically, true nativism vis-a-vis the US definition) and "indian rights movement". He compares the "collectivism" or tribal rights & responsibilities espoused by First People's cultures to soviet communism and german nazism. It's why he would love nothing more than to wipe them out because indigenous tribal collectivism is the embodiment of barbarism.

This isnt new for MVLL. He's always been an europeanish dilettante who just happened to have been born in Latin America. He embodies the enemy within POC in Latin America have to deal with; especially First People and Afrolatin@s.

btw: in terms of that snobby dilettantism, and not that am comparing the two men, but GORE VIDAL reminds me a lot of Mario Vargas Llosa.


as to Fuentes Vs. Vargas Llosa: it's old gossip they've always feuded as to who is more important after el Gabo. Vargas Llosa winning the Nobel that many felt was denied to Fuentes made matter worse.

and FWIW: i have the dubious honor of having studied literature with BOTH of them during my undergrad/graduate years :P
posted by liza at 10:59 AM on August 29, 2011


SORRY!

i linked to the wrong article. this is my original source

Mario Vargas Llosa: Batracio y vibora
América Latina En Movimiento
http://alainet.org/active/5526&lang=es
posted by liza at 11:03 AM on August 29, 2011


Luscious Skin and The Visceral Realists will be hunting down Fuentes on September 16th.
posted by xod at 11:37 AM on August 29, 2011


He compares the "collectivism" or tribal rights & responsibilities espoused by First People's cultures to soviet communism and german nazism. It's why he would love nothing more than to wipe them out because indigenous tribal collectivism is the embodiment of barbarism.

That is a bit of a stretch, I think. For what its worth, the over-the-top article you grabbed this from says "Mario Vargas Llosa me hacer recordar a Heinrich Himmler, el verdugo principal de Hitler, el horrible jefe de la S.S"

Really? Vargas Llosa reminds him of Himmler? That whole article is pretty rabid.

MVL is a bit of an elitist snob but he is not an advocate of genocide or wiping anybody out.

FWIW: I studied with Fuentes too.
posted by vacapinta at 11:46 AM on August 29, 2011


Leaving out Roberto Bolaño's Los detectives sauvages and anything by Paco Ignacio Taibo suggests that Fuentes may be stuck in the seventies, if not actively suffering from dementia.
posted by Fnarf at 12:29 PM on August 29, 2011


Uh liza, so basically you source from an extremely questionable article, filled with trite ad hominem attacks, where Vargas Llosa is mentioned (using very selective quotations) to attack the indigenismo movement, not the indians themselves, as something that has bad repercussions for latam countries. I guess under that logic Claude Levi Strauss is Hitler as well.

There's obviously no mention of "La casa verde", an honest inditement of the way in which religion and the criollos screwed up the indians, or the dozens of articles where VLL has examined the issue from many different angles, or the way he was especially critical (during his political campaign) of racism in Perú. Frankly, your source is as trustful as a Tea Party screed and it doesn't seem as you've really read him with any kind of care.

This isnt new for MVLL. He's always been an europeanish dilettante who just happened to have been born in Latin America.

Right, which is kind of the same old lazy attack that has been leveled against every succesful latam writer from Borges (lived in Switzerland) to Carpentier (had a french accented pronunciation) to Fuentes (grew up in the US) to Volpi (wrote a successful novel w/o hispanic characters). What does it even mean to be a europeanish dilettante? Yeah, he was influenced by european writing, please tell me one successful major writer who wasn't. Do you even know what diletante means? He's written two critical books on two french writers, has a phd in literature, has written hundreds of in depth articles about books.

You might not agree with his political positions and that's fine, but one thing is his politics and quite another his writings; otherwise please stop reading Borges and Sabato who tacitly approved of the argentinian dictatorship of Videla, stop reading Neruda, who wrote positively joyous poems about Stalin, and never ever read García Márquez, who is still friends with Castro even after the Padilla Affair and even after the disclosure of the concentration camps for dissidents and homosexuals. And please do praise Vargas Llosa, who has spoken out consistently against every dictator on the left and right.

MVL is a bit of an elitist snob…

Vacapinta, ¿in which way is he elitist or snob? I've met him on several occasions and he's been very pleasant and generous with his time (compared to say Monsivais who barely glanced at me when we sat eye to eye at a meal). He's always been in favor of a democratic widespread reading culture, insisting that literacy is achievable by everyone; true he's no fan of artistic expressions which hold escapism to be the highest value, and he's a stickler for rigorous scholarship but is that elitist? Do you fault him for not enjoying videogames and comicbooks?
posted by Omon Ra at 3:33 PM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here's an interesting interview with Cristina Rivera Garza I found while creating a Wikipedia article about her. She talks about female writing in the Americas.
CF: Issue 5 of Belletrista focuses on Latin American literature. What authors might you recommend to readers who are looking to explore Latin American literature written by women?

CRG: While usually neglected in literary publications and Latin American presses in general, there is much being done in this regard. Luisa Valenzuela and Diamela Eltit continue to be a must. Poetry-wise: Alejandra Pizarnik, Olga Orozco, Marosa di Giorgio. Risky (as in life vs. death), adventurous, finest intelligence. In México, in addition to Dávila, whose name I mentioned earlier, you would have to read Josefina Vicens, Guadalupe Dueñas, Inés Arredondo—unfortunately translations of their works into English are hard to find, if they exist at all. In my generation: Mayra Santos-Febres from Puerto Rico, for example.

CF: When someone talks about Latin American literature, the names that come up are generally male. Why do you think this is? Is there a current trend towards female writers who might counter a more masculine tradition?

CRG: Just as North American women writers included in the book Feminaissance state, there is much still to be done in terms of balancing the access to publication, and more. In a very interesting article called "Number Trouble", poet Juliana Spahr documents the numbers of women poets NOT included in major anthologies published in the last half of the twentieth century. You might have thought that things had changed, but numbers keep on proving otherwise. There are more and more women writers publishing indeed, and their work covers an ample range of aesthetic explorations, but this does not mean and has not meant that much critical or meaningful attention has been paid to them.
posted by Kattullus at 5:03 PM on August 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Mwaa-haa-haa-haa, Oh, signal I must have got you on a bad day....

in response? I'm guessing your knowledge of written English is not super profound as you dropped a t in important..... :) Honestly?

Golly gosh, normally there's a higher level of criticism in lit threads. I still maintain you have to include Allende and just because I'm not an academic specialist in LatAm lit crit doesn't mean I can't have an opinion, Metafilter would be a poorer place if that were the case.
posted by Wilder at 6:45 AM on September 6, 2011


just because I'm not an academic specialist in LatAm lit crit doesn't mean I can't have an opinion

Of course not, I wasn't trying to silence you, just pointing out the low worth of your opinion.
posted by signal at 8:37 PM on September 12, 2011


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