After Macondo: Latin American Literature and the 1960s Samuel Steinberg is a Ph. His work has appeared in Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies and is forthcoming in CR: New Centennial Review. as well as the discrediting of the Cuban Revolution is a forceful and compelling site of Latin Americanist reflection. the destruction of the Mexican student movement. la revolución en América latina está en marcha. and is also emblematic of larger. variously. the Boom novels “consolidate” the state through a thematic-narrative moment. and yet. the Boom also represents a point of entry to the transnational field.or post-national moment. which enters a period of both intensity and disarticulation in the 1960s. Jaime Mejía Duque (1974) t has been extensively noted that the Spanish American narrative Boom’s decline forecasts those of nationalpopular-centered. This entry constitutes its trans. and the specters thereof. Como irreversible proceso de ruptura. 1968. epochal trends with respect to the I Arizona Journal of Hispanic Cultural Studies Volume 11.D. the defeat of guerilla groups on a continental scale. Our discipline maintains as secret legacy a perceived connection between particular forms of literary culture and certain political desires. Latin American literature both culminates and enters its definitive crisis with the Boom. candidate in Hispanic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. the overthrow of the Popular Unity government in Chile. the perceived relation of this decline to. Whether gratuitous or deserved. emancipatory sequences of the twentieth century. In perhaps the most agreed upon version of this story. which implies a kind of telling of the Latin American secret to the even greater transnational reading public whose contribution to book sales is partly what defines the Boom as such. He is currently writing his doctoral dissertation on Mexico. 2007 . as well as through their role in constituting a reading public.

which forms its retreat from the possibility of its social insertion. Thus. The second and third sections of this article. despite the fact that it appears in this revolutionary atmosphere). Following this symptomatic appearance of the Boom. as precisely that moment in which it is most “internal” to the Cuban Revolution. but also. (133) Mejía Duque provides the militant version of a reading of the Boom which has become more or less canonical. I will consider the Boom’s vicissitudes here by reflecting upon three moments of particular intensity. keeping Castro’s program in mind. el ‘boom’—fenómeno particularmente capitalista—apareciera funcionando en una articulación viva y agitacional con la revolución. offer a kind of narrative sketch for the conception of literature and emancipatory politics in sixties-era Latin America for which I am arguing. its failure to secure its own stake in the Latin American social field. “El ‘Boom’ de la narrativa latinoamericana.156 Arizona Journal of Hispanic Cultural Studies Mejía Duque. To understand closure as the task of the literary is to posit the Boom’s “deconstructive” moment as its political promise. as I hope to show.’ de que para la conciencia general en América Latina tanto como en Europa y aun más allá.” published in 1974. however. that this argu- social insertion of culture. the first section reads Fidel Castro’s 1961 Palabras a los intelectuales. an ideological and political ambiguity—entails that the Boom is not itself capable of “overcoming” this ambiguity. in turn. a retreat that simultaneously claims the only possible literary politics. la ‘razón histórica. despite (as a result of ) its own social force (that is. Mejía Duque addresses what he refers to as its “constitutive ambiguity:” También alienta ahí la razón profunda. “Closure is the assignment of the literary” (4). what remains for literature and literary theory is a reflection upon what the literary can still accomplish and under what terms might it secure the future of its own social being. From a perspective that Neil Larsen has described as “revolutionary-historicist” (69). I note from the outset. we can still retrace a specific and resonant opening to the overcoming of this ambiguity in the rhetorical de-constitution of the Boom. Esto es lo que denominamos la ambigüedad constitutiva del ‘boom. As Brett Levinson writes. a programmatic political and aesthetic statement that to some degree orients art and politics for the decade to come. Along these lines we might understand the sense in which the Boom maintains two contradictory alliances: one to the national-popular/ planning state.1 As registered here. more generally. which taken together. Carlos Fuentes and Gabriel García Márquez. Perhaps in this sense the Boom should be defined by its gesture of literary self-cancellation. I take as a point of departure an essay written by Colombian critic Jaime Mejía Duque. if at all. which constitutes a strangely “successful” exteriorization of the Cuban Revolution in spite of not only the waning of the Boom’s commitment to that revolution.’ Precisamente por ser eso—constitutiva—no era superable por el ‘boom’ mismo. the constitutive nature of this tension—for . Latin American literature’s circulation far beyond Latin America forms both an entry of literature as well as Latin American difference—because the latter was both internationally constituted as well as locally sutured through literature—into the market. Yet. engage perhaps the most widely read and relevant of Boom authors. the other to a transnational literary market.

In the conceptualization offered. we might look to the Boom today as a point of rhetorical resolution of the relation between art and politics.” It must exert this right to exist not only against old-school counterrevolution. as the thought-image for today’s capitalism. In its place we find. between. or rather as the conclusion of the expected parallelism that blocks the fulfillment of rhetorical promise. provides an early diagnosis of the ambiguous status of literature as well as culture in general during revolutionary times. more particularly. In this sense. That is. For revolution. they must all remain “inside” the revolution. to the socio-political demand made upon the literary. contra la Revolución: ningún derecho (APLAUSOS)” (2). but also against today’s capitalism. a significant site of artistic-political suturing/unsuturing. He dismisses these concerns as the paranoid expression of the question of whether the revolution will stamp out artistic and intellectual freedom (7). modernist literature and the revolutionary dreams of the sixties. circumscribed as it is by the removal or cancellation of rights. indeed of all rights. whether they are revolutionary or not revolutionary. there is no outside. 157 notable. as Fredric Jameson once noted in a famous formulation: I The 1961 text Palabras a los intelectuales.2 The suggestion of an “inside” to the revolution creates the expectation of an “outside. which the writer or artist is now always already within. Castro asks (or wonders aloud): “¿Cuáles son los derechos de los escritores y de los artistas revolucionarios o no revolucionarios?” He answers: “Dentro de la Revolución: todo. over the course of the three-day meeting. if imprecise duplication or mirror image of capital space. in which Fidel Castro offers a programmatic address on culture and politics to an assembly of intellectuals. The formulation he employs peculiarly invokes an antinomy between inside and outside that has served. we encounter a curious. rather. put in Bruno Bosteels’s terms. it becomes a crisis of artistic-political suture. As the Cuban leader notes. also has a right—it has a “right to exist. which. but the centrality this text grants culture as a mode of articulating and dividing this space is . he has listened with great interest to the concerns of Cuban intellectuals and artists.” as a curious resolution to the parallelism. I mean to develop an understanding of the Boom and its place within a genealogy of the decline of the project of the left as what we might designate. This “every right. There is no leaving. he recasts revolution as a phenomenon in space. in this making-visible. the Boom renders visible how and where the arts are linked (and unlinked) to politics in sixties-era Latin America. “dentro”’s uncommon prepositional partner. It leads us most directly to the point at which politics and art are linked. More specifically. inside”/“no right. It is not the only time he has done so. “contra.” which is not referenced here. against” is guaranteed to all writers and artists.Samuel Steinberg ment does not commence a “reading” of Boom texts in the way one might expect. This position “against” must thus be futile or fundamentally obscure. Yet. Revolution can grant no rights outside of revolutionary dispensation because revolution is the condition of rights and the final right. Castro notes. What remains is a position “against” revolution. among other uses. It is here that Cuba’s leader expressly delimits something like the space of revolution. for there can be only “every right” and “no right” granted to intellectuals within revolution. Rather.

know precisely their responsibility and will always act with fidelity to revolution.3 But there is yet a third position named by Castro. It is this enemy. then.. Yet. prescriptive spatiality for the revolution that contests capitalism by way of a curious and contradictory structural redoubling of the spatial logic of capital itself. The oppositional strategy that remains by way of this prescription is to be against the revolution and not outside of it.” Late capital’s immanence. and because against. “El campo de la duda queda para los escritores y artistas que sin ser contrarrevolucionarios no se sienten tampoco revolucionarios” (8). however. is resolved in Castro’s formulation by a kind of total communist insularity. a position that is neither friend nor foe: the “field of doubt. The 60s will then have been the momentous transformational period in which this systematic restructuring takes place on a global scale.” a task. of Cuba’s external enemies). to thus be treated as an absolute enemy (unless. in order to oppose capital. the question of whether cultural workers will betray or will support revolution only obtains in the first place for those artists and intellectuals in a place of indecision. for we may well deduce that Castro has recognized the key features of late capitalism just as these transformations were underway. not necessarily by force. Revolutionary writers and artists. (Postmodernism 49) Arizona Journal of Hispanic Cultural Studies course. Castro postulates an alternative. on the other hand. its tendential conquest of “extraterritorial enclaves. of course. this realm of indecision must be transformed by revolution into a much more unambiguous matter. according to Jameson. but as a result of the process by means of which “[…] esa Revolución económica y social tiene que producir inevitablemente también una Revolución cultural […]” (4). Put in other terms. Castro creates a quite suggestive (and. that commences globally in the sixties. also. of . Truly anti-revolutionary intellectuals. if only conceptually. which must be eliminated in order to also eliminate symbolically the outside of revolution. Castro’s failure to name that which is outside of revolution underlines the prescient nature of his intervention. Late capitalism can […] be described as the moment in which the last vestiges of Nature which survived on into classical capitalism are at length eliminated: namely the third world and the unconscious. Put in other terms. that is. This field of indecision.158 [. neatly authoritarian) revolutionary space that is equally. which constitutes an unambiguous world apart from capital’s threatened extension.” As Castro puts it. that enemy is willing to undergo correction and incorporate himself into this order of rights). a persistent symbolic presence of an order outside revolution (that is. and finally. must also be liquidated. as internal limit of the insular order. Castro here installs an insular political reason: to be against is to be outside of that reason and thus to deserve no right.] ends up penetrating and colonizing those very precapitalist enclaves (Nature and the Unconscious) which offered extraterritorial and Archimedean footholds for critical effectivity. according to Castro. (“Periodizing the Sixties” 207) Faced. also know their duty: to be the absolute enemy that is against.. with the intense expansion of late capital that the sixties inaugurates. by way of a spatial logic that is conceived as an “inside” without an “outside. As Jameson notes in a text published a few years earlier. immanent.

the Boom novel resides at this intersection between its international extension and the national-popular. y en tal sentido indirectamente subsidiario de ella. aquí y en el extranjero. me parece que la fuerza de sus novelas reside en la intención revolucionaria que proyectan unida la fina sensibilidad del intelectual estrechamente ligado a la vida de su pueblo y la inquietud del joven escritor que busca una nueva y vigorosa técnica literaria. “outside. la que he leído con el mismo interés que las anteriores. we must consider the exterior of a putatively Marxist-Leninist space.) II By turning now to Carlos Fuentes’s La muerte de Artemio Cruz. and once provided the grounds for thinking the world on such terms. More precisely. Esperamos con interés creciente sus nuevas obras literarias que hacen honor a México. (138) 159 In what must appear today like a blatent example of the appropriation of intellectual and cultural work by the state (or rather. both “outside” and “against.” we find the Alliance for Progress. (n. encontrando en ésta también una profunda interpretación de los sentimientos y de la actividad ante de los seres que se desenvuelven en los distintos medios que usted describe en sus novelas con tanta fidelidad. Here again. but on the other. which is inspired by the revolution. La muerte de Artemio Cruz. which is caught in a strange zone of indecision as an exterior cultural form that sympathizes with the revolution. and in light of a perceived degeneration of the Mexican Revolution. he provides the coordinates for inscribing Fuentes’s novel into revolutionary history—into a faithful revolutionary history. The ex-president writes: Gracias por el envío de su novela más reciente. and Yankee imperialism.p. but which is not completely of the revolution.4 Fuentes is said to honor Mexico at home .” in the space of “constitutive ambiguity. el ‘boom’ no era ni hubiera podido ser hecho interno de esta revolución […]. transnational capital.” remains the narrative Boom. Además de sus reconocidas cualidades como escritor. here. conveying a revolutionary form and content.Samuel Steinberg If capitalism proposed to eliminate its opposite (socialism) and conquer its exterior. Arguably the Mexican president most “faithful” to the principles of the Mexican Revolution. I cite Lázaro Cárdenas’s note of approval for Carlos Fuentes’s La muerte de Artemio Cruz. in any case—as well as the novel’s use of the Cuban Revolution as an extraterritorial zone of utopian fantasy and cultural-political self-authorization. as well as its effective insularity. The social presence of the Boom thus announces both the extensive symbolic success of the revolution. As Mejía Duque asserts: Aunque producido en el contexto cultural y político creado por la revolución cubana. by a certain conception of the state).” and not “against. I will argue that this novel exemplifies both the use of the literary object for the reconstitution of the national-popular in the name of the Mexican Revolution—a certain Mexican Revolution. What is visible to the revolution as the possible outside to revolution? On the one hand. we will see a rather clear polemic around how a particular Boom novel locates itself/is located within revolution. some years after his presidency.

Fuentes’s novel closes with a rather conventional form of authorial signature: “La Habana. un nombre que vale por sí solo. the Reading Mejía Duque strongly. and finally. As the commonplace goes. He continues: El escritor del “boom” llega a ser. in Fuentes’s moment. mayo de 1960 / México. the transnational field. of the local. as well as in “our America”). Significantly. It is thus worth reflecting upon the way in which Fuentes’s La muerte de Artemio Cruz inscribes both authorial professionalization (signature-ascontract.p. In other words. de acuerdo con normas de calidad cultural y en libros de precio accesible y presentación sencilla pero digna. his stardom. (n.160 Arizona Journal of Hispanic Cultural Studies author’s commercial success. a solidarity which the Cuban Revolution (and not the Boom) commands regionally and articulates to a global public (122). (122) and abroad by presenting the image of revolution to both international as well as national reading publics. as an allegory .5 It might also be said that the route the signature evokes—from revolutionary Havana to Mexico City—might also serve as an allegory of the author’s own ideological posture. frequently inscribing the aura of place. The signature also finds its way onto the novels themselves. This signature appears on editorial contracts and presages the gradual professionalization and self-commodification of the author. diciembre de 1961” (316). los aspectos más importantes del pensamiento contemporáneo y las obras de interés fundamental para nuestra América. this relation between the national-popular. Already noteworthy is the extent to which the national publishing industry is at pains to contain Fuentes’s text.) By now the novel begins to form a museum of a relation between literature and the national-popular.” Cárdenas thus authorizes. to resignify it. which also appears on the novel’s back cover. undermines his possible solidarity with something like the common destiny of the popular. the quotation appears on the back cover of an edition published by the Fondo de cultura económica.” rather than an aesthetic movement. according to Cárdenas. It reads: La COLECCIÓN POPULAR significa un esfuerzo editorial—y social—para difundir entre núcleos más amplios de lectores. desde la plataforma de un mercado en expansión vertiginosa. that is. las modernas creaciones literarias de nuestro idioma. the Boom signifies the exact opposite. even sanctifies. name/book-as-commodity) as well as an incomplete solidarity with the Cuban Revolution (signature-within-revolution). by way of referring the novel constantly to a concrete historical situation. the writer. emancipatory politics. it would appear that rather than the emergence of a singular artistic mastery. Havana assumes the status of the site from which a critical evaluation of the Mexican Revolution might be ventured. for their “colección popular. Fuentes’s text. asserts that the Boom’s potentials for promoting regional emancipation are largely blocked by the extent to which the Boom reflects a “commercial enterprise. un ente metafísico imbuído de esa deidad: Una firma. demonstrates his link to the Mexican people. on the contrary. to produce its commensurability with the emancipation of the national-popular (both in Mexico. Mejía Duque. all of which is reiterated in the collection’s mission statement.

taking the Boom’s substitution of aesthetics for politics to its limit.8 The polemical text finally and decisively separates friends and allies (of the revolution) from its enemies..] what is our culture. for it was then that many of the Boom’s writers reevaluated their relationship to the Cuban Revolution. Martí’s “Nuestra América” from Sarmiento’s Facundo. While Fuentes’s inscription projects the Cuban Revolution. the gathering includes comrades as diverse as Zapata. “[. Fernández Retamar’s text already begins to register the limitations of a kind of self-evident and self-policing revolutionary space by speaking of culture in terms that recognize the isolation of the revolutionary project: the essay appears now as a kind of noble last stand for a reconceptualization of a culture of revolution. Arguedas. to both counterrevolution as well as its own perceived repressiveness.Samuel Steinberg of his journey from revolution back home. Fernández Retamar collects the former beneath the sign of Calibán. the 161 ramifications of the Padilla affair seem most decisive for Calibán. while the market secures distribution and proliferation. much less constant enemies. which might well be understood as Fuentes’s “every right” to appropriate the revolution as image-space as a means of dramatically and heroically launching his name—linked to popular emancipation on various fronts—into a transnational literary world. the possibilities of liberation. That is. Fernández Retamar passionately asks. just as Cuba continues to serve. revolutionary enclave—as the place of difference itself—even as the space of that utopia seemed to succumb evermore to internal and external aggressions.7 It is in this sense that Cuba becomes a further instrument through which the writer authorizes his project and sends it into the marketplace. adopting Jameson’s vocabulary. thus. from “inside” revolution and back to its “outside. At a time when revolutionary hopes were on the verge of a global letdown. Cuba and its revolution serve the Boom as a center of regional pride and international curiosity. and Fanon. Calibán centers on the staging of cultural politics as the site of a political struggle for liberation. Accordingly. evocation of the “local”) assures marketability to a world in which revolution was on the move. the text divides Calibán from the enemy. Calibán/Cuba would stand as the continued possibility of a utopian.”6 More forcefully. the minor. around the new mode of reading required under revolutionary dispensation. To be sure. Castro. like Fuentes. Such appears to be the critique of the Boom mounted by Roberto Fernández Retamar in his canonical Calibán.9 Fernández Retamar’s essay thus returns to literary history in an attempt to reorganize it around questions of militancy and commitment. and. “revolution” (and more generally. one does not find listed here the treacherous fellowtravelers of the Boom. Facundo is to be rejected as a violent and .. Among many others. it would not merely be a flight of fancy to suggest that the otherwise customary and unremarkable inscription of place with which Fuentes closes his novel in this case implies an assertion of the revolutionary “every right” that Castro promises. the popular from the hegemonic. which will become the mark of the insular. it also protects it and commands its insularity. like literary critic and “servant of imperialism” Emir Rodríguez Monegal (14). In this context. as an extraterritorial foothold for a reason still putatively external or contrary to capital’s purview and which keeps utopian dreams alive. to recall the Mejía Duque quotation that serves as my epigraph. if not the history and culture of Calibán?” (14). the local. In this way. all of whom share the culture of Calibán.

the reactionary and radical components of literature are exposed not as one but as coincidental. began a Boom novel. which is only amplified by Padilla’s show trial and imprisonment. Fuentes disingenuously falsifies his leftist credentials in a bid to secure his place in letters as a means of compensating for his apparent lack of talent. for Fernández Retamar. From that day on.. the violence with which Fuentes must be denounced suggests more. in part.. Fuentes renders legible the need to impose a line between friends and enemies as increasingly an instrumental necessity for a certain mode of thought to continue. according to the authorial signature at its conclusion.162 Arizona Journal of Hispanic Cultural Studies ideological content: through Marxism-Leninism. those who would seek to authorize themselves in the revolution’s name begin to feel not a little discomfort. Fernández Retamar projects the cultural field of future political struggle. the vehemence of this debate. the support of the mafia grew increasingly diluted up to the last few months when—taking advantage of the wild vociferation occasioned by a Cuban writer’s month in jail—they broke obstreperously with Cuba. would claim it for themselves. against the authority that both traitors and enemies consolidated for themselves during the Boom era. After this revolution within the revolution. Fernández Retamar strikes out with particular fury against Fuentes. in 1961. In the Boom. Fuentes stands as an early example of a certain appropriation of the revolution. an open. he speaks of a “Mexican mafia. in Havana in May of 1960. In this sense. in other .” finally becoming a figure that collapses this distinction (or that marks the point of its convergence).] misses a key point.” of which Fuentes is a standing member: This group warmly expressed its sympathy for the Cuban Revolution until. The suggestion appears to be that unlike Borges. which is to be waged. as a possible inversion or overturning of such a literary model. but also more importantly its very being. after the decisive declaration of its Marxist-Leninist By way of exploiting his position “outside” and not “against. The Boom stamps the convergence of these opposites. a revolution that has in its forefront the worker-peasant alliance. the revolution declares not only its political project. This debate. The Marxist-Leninist declaration serves as yet another crucial separation.” While from a certain perspective Fernández Retamar merely takes Fuentes to task regarding his less than revolutionary politics. the revolution proclaimed itself and proved to be Marxist-Leninist—that is. as we have seen. a truly important writer who “decided to adopt openly his position as a man of the Right” (30). As Brett Levinson writes: The debate whether the Boom is radical or conservative. who. like Fuentes. an intervention into the market or a movement that plays to the market [. Through these paradigmatic past texts. here referred to with almost humorous understatement as “a Cuban writer’s month in jail. to borrow a phrase from Régis Debray. La muerte de Artemio Cruz. (23) subalternizing representation of Argentina. As Fernández Retamar continues. (30) It would seem that the revolution only arrives. while Martí is to be celebrated as an alternative. unnamed occurrence for all who. Until this moment it must be assumed that the revolution is merely a vague upheaval.

The above would suggest that if the Boom today appears as a fallen movement. that a dominant feature of the Boom was not the mediation of a profoundly conflicted Latin American modernity. I would like to suggest. as critics such as Fernández Retamar have proposed. after all.Samuel Steinberg words. its desire to dissolve literature’s constitutively treacherous socio-political presence. Yet the Boom is outside of revolution. 163 to lose itself in the moment of its greatness. a working out of those conflicts as the very limit of literature’s political potential. By way of understanding this future—our present—we look now to a moment in which literature faces the future by imposing its own closure to the social world in which it circulated and grounded its legitimacy. Indeed. in short. if its ability to finalize. market and culture. a future that is symptomatically made present in both the Boom as well as the Cuban Revolution. is a fake that distracts those who wage it from the future to which literature and politics will both submit. then perhaps the Boom is not lost after a failed attempt at mediating global and local. it enacts this power in a bid The Boom’s self-negation thus hinges upon its own epiphanic realization (a moment of realization. disturbance. it is perhaps because we have not yet fully recognized the epochal. that follows the aesthetic norms of the Boom novels themselves) that it has been complicit in the dissolution of the imagined wall of separation between market functions and rebellion. to blow itself up. that rather than some kind of appropriating instrument to be supplanted. into the Same. in effect. It seems possible. if at times unintentional. to give end. literature ceases both to sustain and disrupt the social dichotomies upon which the globe banks and thus concludes its modern function. a failure. . is what the Boom now commemorates. (28) III If the Boom’s decline is a constant. in order to cancel the substitution of aesthetics for politics. As we have seen. indeed. then the autonomy of planning state is simultaneously threatened by transnational forces. this self-cancellation might stand as its apology to a politics of liberation and to the revolutionary sequences of the sixties. That is. the revolution and liberal democracy.’ when aesthetic innovation. With the Boom Latin American literature eventually denies itself as political form in order to protect the future of an emancipatory politics. invention of the Boom itself as a political commitment. the Boom is already Latin American literature’s desire for negation. self-cancellation is uniquely the power of the Boom and its only remaining power as an emancipatory politics. Rather the Boom is itself a calling into being of its own failure as a pseudo-ethical act. or rather a commitment. As Brett Levinson forcefully notes: When we cannot distinguish ‘literature as intervention’ from ‘literature as conservation. revolt. revolution cannot definitively stamp out that which lives beyond the reach of its insular order. transitional drive it had. but rather. for if Latin American literature becomes subject to the transnational market during the Boom. that it provides certain grounds for indecision in revolutionary times. and difference represent entrances into the market. It is through this fact that we might understand both Castro’s and Fernández Retamar’s cultural critique as well as their attempts to distance the Cuban Revolution and emancipatory politics in general from certain cultural forms. For this reason.

a book between literature’s commitment to the national-popular and the planning state and that which succeeds it. this liberated island. which perhaps might be best understood as a kind of decision to no longer reproduce the national-popular or work for its emancipation in writing. However. Fuentes writes. but the sign of its cancellation. is organized by its own undoing. in other words. As Jean Franco reminds us. In this sense. Como la Utopía de Moro. in this sense. This is not only true in the sense that Cien años de soledad became so genre-defining that it closed the very meaning of the Boom. y todo lo Against the better judgment of one who has pretensions of speaking as a critic and not as a fan. The book does not mark a failure. antes de llegar al verso final ya había comprendido que no saldría jamás de ese cuarto. It is. In this literary cancellation resides the rhetorical—but not necessarily effective—cancellation of the ambiguous frontier dividing two enemy spatio-political orders. conceived as a mode of bringing into being a liberated Latin American modernity. Ángel Rama offers the publication of Cien años de soledad—according to many definitions the culmination of the Boom at its most widely intelligible moment—as a possible moment of its closure (“El ‘boom’” 85-86).164 Arizona Journal of Hispanic Cultural Studies escrito en ellos era irrepetible desde siempre y para siempre porque todas las estirpes condenadas a cien años de soledad no tenían una segunda oportunidad sobre la tierra. Carlos Fuentes’s characterization of the text makes even more explicit the relation between literature and utopian thought/practice. the text evokes Cuba’s insular liberation and the kind of literary imaginary that necessarily sustains such liberations. the text concludes in its own erasure: Macondo era ya un pavoroso remolino de polvo y escombros centrifugado por la cólera del huracán bíblico. “La fundación de Macondo es la fundación de Utopía […]. but an apprenticeship in the problematic linking of literature to the political. this imagined utopia. in other words. Nor is it merely that the novel’s extensive international circulation and continued popularity have functioned as a reductive emblem for the whole of Latin American culture. (448-49) As I note above. It seems also that the novel itself ends in a kind of prescriptive cancellation of writing. profetizándose a sí mismo en el acto de descifrar la última página de los pergaminos. the taking root of an alteration in literature’s social insertion between the national-popular and transnational market. I am tempted to concede to García Márquez the last word. Cien años de soledad suggests. pues estaba previsto que la ciudad de los espejos (o los espejismos) sería arrasada por el viento y desterrada de la memoria de los hombres en el instante en que Aureliano Babilonia acabara de descifrar los pergaminos. As the reader will remember. cuando Aureliano saltó once páginas para no perder el tiempo en hechos demasiado conocidos. the . “García Márquez’s Macondo only needed to be mentioned for people to understand that it was a fantasy of a liberated territory” (7). y empezó a descifrar el instante en que estaba viviendo. It would seem that García Márquez ends his great book by learning the lesson of the sixties. We may wish to understand Macondo. como si se estuviera viendo en un espejo hablado […]. Macondo es una isla de la imaginación” (La nueva novela 60). descifrándolo a medida que lo vivía. Sin embargo. not the high point of this relation. Cien años de soledad is.

simultáneamente. the novel closes the literature-emancipatory politics alliance that characterizes much of Latin America’s literary modernity. también corona un proyecto que comienza a esbozarse y a plantearse a fines de la década del cuarenta. His novel thematizes the destruction of writing as a submission to Castro’s programmatic statement by means of which. I take this chance to refer my argument to one made by Alberto Moreiras in his Exhaustion of Difference with respect to José María Arguedas’s suicide. as the product of the author’s prescience. García Márquez’s text registers most ambivalently the vicissitudes of utopian regional or local thinking in precisely the moment during which the nation-state/literature seemed to be losing ground as a primary organ of hegemonic articulation. es justamente el de representar una literatura nacional y popular.” he writes. (30) 165 This novel culminates a project because. as I cite above. y ese proyecto. “Latin American foundational utopianism comes to its end” (207). testimonio. new media. founded in the collective social subject that once answered to the name of the national-popular. yet when the perceived fulfillment of the global or transnational field had not yet forged other. whether forwarded by writing or the state. marks literature’s cancellation of literature precisely as a commitment to revolutionary utopias. but before anything had arrived to replace (or displace) the literary as such (say. que en varios textos iniciales de García Márquez comienza a delinearse. (Edificación 30) [e]nfrentamiento de materiales que se destruyen a sí mismos. cultural studies. In other words. written as a kind of midwife text for the transition towards a new epoch. “With Arguedas’s literary act. and so on). for Rama. “[…] esa Revolución económica y social tiene que producir inevitablemente también una Revolución cultural […]” (4). the self-realized futility of phantasmatic insular liberations. Macondo is the point of degeneration of the utopian. he writes this novel in the midst of a kind of literary decay. it represents a dialectical advance. understood as the: Perhaps what Rama observes here is the expression of García Márquez’s willing conceptual inclusion in the insular revolutionary order. alternative modes of representing a given social field. Suffice it to say. after García Márquez’s literary . generan la posibilidad de unas formas superiores de las cuales emerja la línea interna zigzagueante que va desarrollando la cultura. As Ángel Rama writes: Cuando en el año sesenta y siete la publicación de Cien años de soledad cierra un determinado período de la obra de García Márquez. y que. literature loses—in this “literary act”—its power and razón de ser.Samuel Steinberg peculiar spatial enclave that appears centrally in Cien años de soledad. Such desires can only be achieved. as a thinking of what must come after Macondo. Macondo’s dissolution thus represents an advance for thought and politics. figuring the symbolic-effective extension of the Cuban Revolution. not in the obscure fashion in which “opportunists” have made it circulate. It is here that literature closes itself off from its power to mediate and resolve the social conflicts characteristic of the Latin American nation-states. but rather as a power over writing. Macondo’s dissolution. going further. which he casts as both literary-symbolic as well as actual-effective.

the suggestion appears to be. even today. but more strongly. is cancelled and dispersed in the air. He writes: Writing. cannot serve as the instrument for redemption and cleansing that the novel envisions. this unsuturing commences. The text thus not only stands as a statement on the fallen status of the political and social insertion of the writer’s intervention. the Boom continues as its own constant self-cancellation. (162) act. and always without literature’s redemption. Through the erasure of Macondo. to “unsuture art and politics” (158).11 Carlos J.10 By way of concluding. This double cancellation. which. as a dying labor. Macondo’s dissolution. as I note above. García Márquez lives on and must commit to repetition. or instead. Unlike Arguedas. over against the historical alliance literature-state). brings this fallen status into being. possesses a structural similarity to Macondo. Macondo’s dissolution marks a closure of literature and revolutionary-utopian politics. Through the reading act the potential of imagined liberated territory dissolves. programmatically. since it is itself constituted and sustained through a violence that traverses it to the very core. which in turn poses a challenge to any expectation of Macondo’s eventual redemption. it disappears. and not only with respect to its status as territorial enclave. This now ritualistic literary cancellation. The novel foresees the loss of the potential of all such liberated territories in writing. through a revolutionary politics proper (again. Crónica de una muerte anunciada. is by the time of Crónica de una muerte anunciada. and we are yet condemned for betraying revolution by believing that our liberation could ever have been read. In this sense. but it is also an opening. to emancipatory politics as a failed project. What remains to be seen. Crónica de una muerte anunciada produces its own death as a comment on its own writing as a failed project. If García Márquez rather melodramatically sweeps away Macondo in what might be the more celebrated self-imposed literary cancellation. is whether that opening is a call to forgiveness between literature and revolution. as Bruno Bosteels has put it. but in this case formally. a politics that resides neither in the domain of culture. nor in its negation. I would like to suggest that Crónica de una muerte anunciada . the loss of obscure imaginary liberated territories. in effect. a chance to cut our losses by forging a different politics beyond the reaches of literature. a figure for the utopian enclave. The community figured in García Márquez’s later novel. Alonso begins his conclusions on Crónica de una muerte anunciada by noting how the text seems to comment on the very failure of the writing task. A re-appropriation of this act of literary-utopian self-cancellation might rescue us yet from a static relation to literature as a contingency of the market. it is worth repeating. at some point seemed to aver a radical rupture. a ritual that saturates the text. represents the emergence for literature of a new razón de (no) ser following the termination of the political forms of social integration and emancipation that previously had organized and legitimated the Latin American literary task. This very repetition suggests the way in which the spectral continuity of literature is literature’s bid to constantly void redemption. The text seems. presents itself as the only way of grounding the writing task and allowing it to continue after Macondo.166 Arizona Journal of Hispanic Cultural Studies turns on the repetition of Macondo’s dissolution. and thus. that is. generically. Crónica de una muerte anunciada reiterates this closure.

Crónica de una muerte anunciada cancels itself by way of fulfilling its own narrative order. El otoño del patriarca.. which organizes the constant interruption of our own desire to reconstitute literature’s socio-political grounds and task. Only one novel. at least compared to what he calls the “aestheticist” approach of the Boom authors themselves or the “vulgar sociological standpoint” adopted by Rama in the essay “El ‘boom’ en perspectiva.] violent essence. 2 For an excellent reading of this speech. In Larsen’s excellent essay. Yet. A widely known anecdote holds that García Márquez forswore writing another novel as long as Pinochet held power in Chile. While this gap evinces the futile power of literary silence. to put it in other terms. Seen in this light.” It is worth noting that both Mejía Duque as well as Rama appear in the present essay as symptoms of what Larsen insightfully names. This writing thus allegorizes. This repetition. long before Pinochet would pass from the scene.” Here I take the chance to thank him for alerting me to this passage. one should add. Along the lines of Cien años de soledad. however. Crónica de una muerte anunciada appeared in 1981. stands between the writing of Cien años de soledad and Crónica de una muerte anunciada. which is effected in distinct and diverse manners but particularly through similarities between characters’ names. after Macondo—there must be repetition of this literary non-redemption. literature’s own decline as an instrument through which the national-popular might emerge and the planning state might effectively imagine social justice.. above all. in a gloss on Halperín Donghi. finally evinces its own “[. equally compelling is the repetition of literary cancellation witnessed by García Márquez’s return to form. nor its own appearance as literature and thus effaces its textuality. no longer offered through the national-popular and the planning state whose desire the novel once promised to embody or inspire. the “seeming right/left aphasia of the ‘boom’” (72). but rather as the hope of continuing the very meaning As Larsen notes. The text can protect neither the Latin American secret.] also appears to be incorporated into the novel as a persistent attempt to eradicate the structure of differences on which the text is constructed. Chronicle of a Death Foretold seems to be forever on the verge of reverting to a state of undifferentiation that would jeopardize the system of differences that rules the text. a redemption. should not be read as the recovery of some kind of “failed” attempt at decisive literary cancellation in the case of Cien años de soledad. (162) 167 of that cancellation.. This knowledge [. From the perspective of literature—after the Boom. The erasure that Alonso observes in the text. by a series of texts in which 1 Notes . scholars such as Gerald Martin share this understanding of the Boom as being “overdetermined” by the Cuban Revolution and the atmosphere it created (70). 3 My understanding of the friend/enemy divide as a key dimension of the political is informed. he regards this “revolutionaryhistoricist” critical optic as the one that “[…] brings us closest to the complex truth of the phenomenon itself ” (70).. demonstrating that it must speak the contradictory knowledge that it embodies even at the expense of its own unmaking” (163).Samuel Steinberg Alonso argues that the text itself is organized or reigned by its own reflection on writing as a possible “instrument for redemption and cleansing” (162). see Desiderio Navarro’s “In Media Res Publicas: On Intellectuals and Social Criticism in the Cuban Public Sphere.

” Latin American Subaltern Studies Revisited. In part. Avelar. Special Issue of Dispositio/n 25. Bruno. In fact. Luis. and that he wants his readers to know this. no justification for existence vis-à-vis a putatively national-popular state. that is. which was found by the Unión de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba (UNEAC) to be “against” the revolution. there is no relation supposed between literature and politics. Durham: Duke UP. Ed. the narrator’s curious search for the truth revolves around a different question. betrayed in Mexico. “Writing and Ritual in Chronicle of a Death Foretold. 9 The point of reference here is Idelber Avelar. as not only an intertextual function but as a marker of something like a time lapse between the two texts’ writing as well. A Coruña: Tambre. 10 I will briefly recall the novel. Carlos J. Of crucial importance here is Moreiras’s take on the Schmittian “nomic order. More notable is the repetition of the name Aureliano Buendía. 5 Maarten van Delden’s formulation puts it well: “Fuentes sketches a narrative in Artemio Cruz in which the revolutionary ideal. as we can see from the dates and place names that appear at the close of the text” (60). and the Subaltern in Latin America. of which Luis Alonso Girgado reminds us (63). The purportedly central secret—whether Santiago Nasar truly went to bed with Ángela Vicario (his murderers’ sister)—is never resolved. now experiences a new dawn in Cuba […] It is of crucial significance that Fuentes wrote part of Artemio Cruz in Cuba in the year after the Revolution. 11 Crónica de una muerte anunciada repeats Cien años de soledad in other ways as well. Fuera del juego (1968). From this we might conclude that Fuentes’s now-waning commitment to the revolution finds a spatial articulation traced in his signature. Alonso Girgado. Cambridge: Cambridge UP. this seems to be central to Fernández Retamar’s critique of Fuentes and might even provide grounds for thinking Cuba’s own ambiguity.” Gabriel García Márquez: New Readings. future wife of the narrator/García Márquéz. Idelber. the utopian dreams that Cuba allows are not strictly communist dreams. in both texts. for art. Hybridity.168 Arizona Journal of Hispanic Cultural Studies tional left to sever ties with Cuba. The text’s central event is the murder of Santiago Nasar. Ed. 6 Jorge Castañeda notes that following the Padilla case (as well as Castro’s support for the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia) “[…] Fuentes never went back [to Cuba] but refused to criticize the Revolution directly […]” (185). a compensatory function that produced not merely the aestheticization of politics but the “substitution of aesthetics for politics” (11). The Untimely Present: Postdictatorial Latin American Fiction and the Task of Mourning. Because we know who killed him and how. who has argued most clearly that Boom narrative exerted something like a compensatory function for the uneven or incomplete modernization of Latin America. Alberto Moreiras engages Carl Schmitt. 4 The relation between literature and the state that culminates and declines in the sixties is sustained by a postulation of the nationalpopular as the site of political potential. The duplication of the character Mercedes Barcha. 7 To be sure. 1993. without this extension into the domain of the nationalpopular. and defeated in Spain. His imprisonment aroused suspicions of a perceived Stalinization and provoked significant sectors of the interna- Works Cited Alonso. Bernard McGuirk and Richard Cardwell. See “Beyond the Line: On Infinite Decolonization” (580-83). Gustavo Verdesio.” although its precise terms are not applied here. 1999. . Crónica de una muerte anunciada: guía de lectura.52 (2005): 147-58. 8 The point of reference here is Heberto Padilla’s collection of poems. Bosteels. as the site of the realization of a relation between literature and politics. “Theses on Antagonism. suggests further the continuity between the two narratives. 1987. and thus.

Brett. Buenos Aires: Crisis. Nepantla: Views from South 2. Trans. Fredric. 2003. La narrativa de Gabriel García Márquez: edificación de un arte nacional y popular. Ángel Rama. Durham: Duke UP. Padilla. 1981.” Trans. La nueva novela hispanoamericana. “Periodizing the 60s. Moreiras. Dust Jacket. The Decline and Fall of the Lettered City: Latin America in the Cold War. Maarten. Fuentes. Stanford: Stanford UP. ———. Montevideo: Comité de intelectuales y artistas de apoyo a la revolución cubana. 1962. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P. and Politics. Navarro. The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. “Beyond the Line: On Infinite Decolonization. Escala: Bogotá. Levinson. . New York: Vintage Español. Roberto.3 (2005): 575-94. Castro. 1997. 1975. “The ‘Boom’ Novel and the Cold War in Latin America. 1973. ———. Gabriel. 1991. Mexico. El otoño del patriarca. 1967. ———. La muerte de Artemio Cruz. Desiderio. 1983. 2002. 2001. Mass: Harvard UP. Jameson. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P. 1981. “In Media Res Publicas: On Intellectuals and Social Criticism in the Cuban Public Sphere. 1961. Durham: Duke UP. Caliban and Other Essays.” Reading North by South: On Latin American Literature.2 (2001): 355-71. “El ‘boom’ de la narrativa latinoamericana. 1974. Edward Baker. 2001. García Márquez. ———. Fuera del juego. Mexico: Marcha. Nashville: Vanderbilt UP. The Exhaustion of Difference: The Politics of Latin American Cultural Studies. Alberto. Madrid: Espasa Calpe. van Delden. Palabras a los intelectuales. Alessandro Fornazzari and Desiderio Navarro. Cien años de soledad. “El ‘boom’ en perspectiva. Jean. Mexico: Joaquín Mortiz. Ed. Buenos Aires: Aditor 1969. Postmodernism. Ed. Heberto. Lázaro. ———. 1989. Franco. Mejía Duque. 1994. 1969. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P 1995. 1984. Mexico: Fondo de cultura económica. La muerte de Artemio Cruz.” Más allá del boom: literatura y mercado. 1962. 2001. 1991. Jaime. Barcelona: Plaza y Janés. Crónica de una muerte anunciada. Neil. Carlos. and Modernity. The Ends of Literature: The Latin American “Boom” in the Neoliberal Marketplace. New York: Vintage. Fidel.Samuel Steinberg Cárdenas.” American Literary History 17. Mexico: Fondo de cultura económica.” Narrativa y neocoloniaje en América latina. 169 Larsen. Ángel. Fernández Retamar. Culture. Jorge.” The 60s Without Apology. or. Castañeda. Carlos Fuentes. . Cambridge. 1998. Utopia Unarmed: The Latin American Left After the Cold War. ———. 1973. Sohnya Sayres. Rama.

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