Latin American literature both culminates and enters its deﬁnitive crisis with the Boom. the overthrow of the Popular Unity government in Chile. and the specters thereof. la revolución en América latina está en marcha. and yet. 2007
Como irreversible proceso de ruptura. His work has appeared in Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies and is forthcoming in CR: New Centennial Review. variously. In perhaps the most agreed upon version of this story. the perceived relation of this decline to. 1968. This entry constitutes its trans. the defeat of guerilla groups on a continental scale.After Macondo: Latin American Literature and the 1960s
Samuel Steinberg is a Ph. Our discipline maintains as secret legacy a perceived connection between particular forms of literary culture and certain political desires. Jaime Mejía Duque (1974)
t has been extensively noted that the Spanish American narrative Boom’s decline forecasts those of nationalpopular-centered. candidate in Hispanic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. He is currently writing his doctoral dissertation on Mexico.D. the destruction of the Mexican student movement. the Boom novels “consolidate” the state through a thematic-narrative moment. which enters a period of both intensity and disarticulation in the 1960s. emancipatory sequences of the twentieth century. as well as through their role in constituting a reading public. the Boom also represents a point of entry to the transnational ﬁeld. Whether gratuitous or deserved. as well as the discrediting of the Cuban Revolution is a forceful and compelling site of Latin Americanist reﬂection. 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. epochal trends with respect to the
Arizona Journal of Hispanic Cultural Studies Volume 11.or post-national moment. and is also emblematic of larger.
its failure to secure its own stake in the Latin American social ﬁeld. “El ‘Boom’ de la narrativa latinoamericana.’ Precisamente por ser eso—constitutiva—no era superable por el ‘boom’ mismo. As Brett Levinson writes. Mejía Duque addresses what he refers to as its “constitutive ambiguity:”
También alienta ahí la razón profunda. I take as a point of departure an essay written by Colombian critic Jaime Mejía Duque. keeping Castro’s program in mind. the ﬁrst section reads Fidel Castro’s 1961 Palabras a los intelectuales. despite the fact that it appears in this revolutionary atmosphere). To understand closure as the task of the literary is to posit the Boom’s “deconstructive” moment as its political promise. a programmatic political and aesthetic statement that to some degree orients art and politics for the decade to come.” published in 1974. however. The second and third sections of this article. as I hope to show. if at all. Thus. which taken together. more generally. 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. the constitutive nature of this tension—for
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Mejía Duque. that this argu-
social insertion of culture. 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. oﬀer a kind of narrative sketch for the conception of literature and emancipatory politics in sixties-era Latin America for which I am arguing. “Closure is the assignment of the literary” (4). Following this symptomatic appearance of the Boom. From a perspective that Neil Larsen has described as “revolutionary-historicist” (69). I will consider the Boom’s vicissitudes here by reﬂecting upon three moments of particular intensity. which forms its retreat from the possibility of its social insertion. in turn. a retreat that simultaneously claims the only possible literary politics.1 As registered here. an ideological and political ambiguity—entails that the Boom is not itself capable of “overcoming” this ambiguity. el ‘boom’—fenómeno particularmente capitalista—apareciera funcionando en una articulación viva y agitacional con la revolución. engage perhaps the most widely read and relevant of Boom authors. Along these lines we might understand the sense in which the Boom maintains two contradictory alliances: one to the national-popular/ planning state. la ‘razón histórica. despite (as a result of ) its own social force (that is. (133)
Mejía Duque provides the militant version of a reading of the Boom which has become more or less canonical. as precisely that moment in which it is most “internal” to the Cuban Revolution. Carlos Fuentes and Gabriel García Márquez. Esto es lo que denominamos la ambigüedad constitutiva del ‘boom. Yet. I note from the outset. 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. we can still retrace a speciﬁc and resonant opening to the overcoming of this ambiguity in the rhetorical de-constitution of the Boom. the other to a transnational literary market. Perhaps in this sense the Boom should be deﬁned by its gesture of literary self-cancellation.’ de que para la conciencia general en América Latina tanto como en Europa y aun más allá. but also.
but also against today’s capitalism. as Fredric Jameson once noted in a famous formulation:
The 1961 text Palabras a los intelectuales. the Boom renders visible how and where the arts are linked (and unlinked) to politics in sixties-era Latin America. if imprecise duplication or mirror image of capital space. it becomes a crisis of artistic-political suture. which the writer or artist is now always already within. he recasts revolution as a phenomenon in space. we encounter a curious. Castro notes. to the socio-political demand made upon the literary. In this sense.” It must exert this right to exist not only against old-school counterrevolution. a signiﬁcant site of artistic-political suturing/unsuturing. There is no leaving. The formulation he employs peculiarly invokes an antinomy between inside and outside that has served. As the Cuban leader notes. whether they are revolutionary or not revolutionary. 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. It is here that Cuba’s leader expressly delimits something like the space of revolution. It is not the only time he has done so. He dismisses these concerns as the paranoid expression of the question of whether the revolution will stamp out artistic and intellectual freedom (7). contra la Revolución: ningún derecho (APLAUSOS)” (2). but the centrality this text grants culture as a mode of articulating and dividing this space is
. or rather as the conclusion of the expected parallelism that blocks the fulﬁllment of rhetorical promise. among other uses. also has a right—it has a “right to exist. for there can be only “every right” and “no right” granted to intellectuals within revolution. over the course of the three-day meeting.2 The suggestion of an “inside” to the revolution creates the expectation of an “outside. In the conceptualization oﬀered. in which Fidel Castro oﬀers a programmatic address on culture and politics to an assembly of intellectuals. he has listened with great interest to the concerns of Cuban intellectuals and artists. What remains is a position “against” revolution. More speciﬁcally. between. indeed of all rights. modernist literature and the revolutionary dreams of the sixties. which. rather. Yet.Samuel Steinberg
ment does not commence a “reading” of Boom texts in the way one might expect. Revolution can grant no rights outside of revolutionary dispensation because revolution is the condition of rights and the ﬁnal right. against” is guaranteed to all writers and artists. “contra. as the thought-image for today’s capitalism.” as a curious resolution to the parallelism. This position “against” must thus be futile or fundamentally obscure. they must all remain “inside” the revolution. provides an early diagnosis of the ambiguous status of literature as well as culture in general during revolutionary times. 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.” which is not referenced here. That is. “dentro”’s uncommon prepositional partner. there is no outside. put in Bruno Bosteels’s terms. we might look to the Boom today as a point of rhetorical resolution of the relation between art and politics. in this making-visible. inside”/“no right. It leads us most directly to the point at which politics and art are linked.
notable. circumscribed as it is by the removal or cancellation of rights. In its place we ﬁnd. Rather. For revolution. more particularly.
according to Castro. Put in other terms.] ends up penetrating and colonizing those very precapitalist enclaves (Nature and the Unconscious) which oﬀered extraterritorial and Archimedean footholds for critical eﬀectivity. (Postmodernism 49)
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course. if only conceptually. Put in other terms. its tendential conquest of “extraterritorial enclaves. also know their duty: to be the absolute enemy that is against. that commences globally in the sixties. a position that is neither friend nor foe: the “ﬁeld of doubt. with the intense expansion of late capital that the sixties inaugurates. which constitutes an unambiguous world apart from capital’s threatened extension. The 60s will then have been the momentous transformational period in which this systematic restructuring takes place on a global scale.
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.” Late capital’s immanence. is resolved in Castro’s formulation by a kind of total communist insularity. not necessarily by force. for we may well deduce that Castro has recognized the key features of late capitalism just as these transformations were underway. The oppositional strategy that remains by way of this prescription is to be against the revolution and not outside of it. 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. however. Revolutionary writers and artists. that is. on the other hand. of
. Truly anti-revolutionary intellectuals. to thus be treated as an absolute enemy (unless. and because against. also.3 But there is yet a third position named by Castro.158
[. Castro here installs an insular political reason: to be against is to be outside of that reason and thus to deserve no right. then. in order to oppose capital.” As Castro puts it. prescriptive spatiality for the revolution that contests capitalism by way of a curious and contradictory structural redoubling of the spatial logic of capital itself. Yet. As Jameson notes in a text published a few years earlier. know precisely their responsibility and will always act with ﬁdelity to revolution. Castro postulates an alternative. by way of a spatial logic that is conceived as an “inside” without an “outside. neatly authoritarian) revolutionary space that is equally. that enemy is willing to undergo correction and incorporate himself into this order of rights). as internal limit of the insular order.. It is this enemy. immanent. a persistent symbolic presence of an order outside revolution (that is. (“Periodizing the Sixties” 207)
Faced. This ﬁeld of indecision. 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).. Castro creates a quite suggestive (and. of course. of Cuba’s external enemies). “El campo de la duda queda para los escritores y artistas que sin ser contrarrevolucionarios no se sienten tampoco revolucionarios” (8). which must be eliminated in order to also eliminate symbolically the outside of revolution. and ﬁnally. must also be liquidated.
Castro’s failure to name that which is outside of revolution underlines the prescient nature of his intervention. according to Jameson.” a task. this realm of indecision must be transformed by revolution into a much more unambiguous matter.
What is visible to the revolution as the possible outside to revolution? On the one hand. aquí y en el extranjero. as well as its eﬀective insularity. Esperamos con interés creciente sus nuevas obras literarias que hacen honor a México. I cite Lázaro Cárdenas’s note of approval for Carlos Fuentes’s La muerte de Artemio Cruz. (n. y en tal sentido indirectamente subsidiario de ella.Samuel Steinberg
If capitalism proposed to eliminate its opposite (socialism) and conquer its exterior. 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. 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. by a certain conception of the state). some years after his presidency. More precisely. The ex-president writes:
Gracias por el envío de su novela más reciente. la que he leído con el mismo interés que las anteriores. and in light of a perceived degeneration of the Mexican Revolution. but which is not completely of the revolution. the Boom novel resides at this intersection between its international extension and the national-popular. we must consider the exterior of a putatively Marxist-Leninist space. “outside. both “outside” and “against.” in the space of “constitutive ambiguity. (138)
In what must appear today like a blatent example of the appropriation of intellectual and cultural work by the state (or rather. As Mejía Duque asserts:
Aunque producido en el contexto cultural y político creado por la revolución cubana. La muerte de Artemio Cruz. and once provided the grounds for thinking the world on such terms. transnational capital.p. 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. The social presence of the Boom thus announces both the extensive symbolic success of the revolution. we will see a rather clear polemic around how a particular Boom novel locates itself/is located within revolution. conveying a revolutionary form and content. and Yankee imperialism.
Here again. which is inspired by the revolution.4 Fuentes is said to honor Mexico at home
. el ‘boom’ no era ni hubiera podido ser hecho interno de esta revolución […]. Arguably the Mexican president most “faithful” to the principles of the Mexican Revolution. but on the other.” we ﬁnd the Alliance for Progress. which is caught in a strange zone of indecision as an exterior cultural form that sympathizes with the revolution.” and not “against.” remains the narrative Boom.)
By turning now to Carlos Fuentes’s La muerte de Artemio Cruz. he provides the coordinates for inscribing Fuentes’s novel into revolutionary history—into a faithful revolutionary history. here. 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. Además de sus reconocidas cualidades como escritor.
to produce its commensurability with the emancipation of the national-popular (both in Mexico. (n. this relation between the national-popular. in Fuentes’s moment. a solidarity which the Cuban Revolution (and not the Boom) commands regionally and articulates to a global public (122). desde la plataforma de un mercado en expansión vertiginosa. Mejía Duque. (122)
and abroad by presenting the image of revolution to both international as well as national reading publics. according to Cárdenas. de acuerdo con normas de calidad cultural y en libros de precio accesible y presentación sencilla pero digna.” Cárdenas thus authorizes. name/book-as-commodity) as well as an incomplete solidarity with the Cuban Revolution (signature-within-revolution).)
By now the novel begins to form a museum of a relation between literature and the national-popular. Fuentes’s text. even sanctiﬁes. the
Reading Mejía Duque strongly. mayo de 1960 / México. los aspectos más importantes del pensamiento contemporáneo y las obras de interés fundamental para nuestra América. It reads:
La COLECCIÓN POPULAR signiﬁca un esfuerzo editorial—y social—para difundir entre núcleos más amplios de lectores. by way of referring the novel constantly to a concrete historical situation. that is. as well as in “our America”). his stardom. it would appear that rather than the emergence of a singular artistic mastery.” rather than an aesthetic movement. He continues:
El escritor del “boom” llega a ser. asserts that the Boom’s potentials for promoting regional emancipation are largely blocked by the extent to which the Boom reﬂects a “commercial enterprise. demonstrates his link to the Mexican people. Havana assumes the status of the site from which a critical evaluation of the Mexican Revolution might be ventured.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. un nombre que vale por sí solo. as an allegory
. of the local. the transnational ﬁeld. It is thus worth reﬂecting upon the way in which Fuentes’s La muerte de Artemio Cruz inscribes both authorial professionalization (signature-ascontract. This signature appears on editorial contracts and presages the gradual professionalization and self-commodiﬁcation of the author.p. and ﬁnally. which also appears on the novel’s back cover. for their “colección popular. the Boom signiﬁes the exact opposite. As the commonplace goes. Already noteworthy is the extent to which the national publishing industry is at pains to contain Fuentes’s text. emancipatory politics. un ente metafísico imbuído de esa deidad: Una ﬁrma.160
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author’s commercial success. undermines his possible solidarity with something like the common destiny of the popular. diciembre de 1961” (316). In other words. the quotation appears on the back cover of an edition published by the Fondo de cultura económica. las modernas creaciones literarias de nuestro idioma. the writer. all of which is reiterated in the collection’s mission statement. The signature also ﬁnds its way onto the novels themselves. Signiﬁcantly. on the contrary. to resignify it. frequently inscribing the aura of place. Fuentes’s novel closes with a rather conventional form of authorial signature: “La Habana.
which will become the mark of the insular. Arguedas. to recall the Mejía Duque quotation that serves as my epigraph. and Fanon. While Fuentes’s inscription projects the Cuban Revolution. like literary critic and “servant of imperialism” Emir Rodríguez Monegal (14). it also protects it and commands its insularity. as an extraterritorial foothold for a reason still putatively external or contrary to capital’s purview and which keeps utopian dreams alive. revolutionary enclave—as the place of diﬀerence itself—even as the space of that utopia seemed to succumb evermore to internal and external aggressions.9 Fernández Retamar’s essay thus returns to literary history in an attempt to reorganize it around questions of militancy and commitment. adopting Jameson’s vocabulary. In this context. and. from “inside” revolution and back to its “outside. the minor. the gathering includes comrades as diverse as Zapata. around the new mode of reading required under revolutionary dispensation.. Castro. Calibán centers on the staging of cultural politics as the site of a political struggle for liberation. taking the Boom’s substitution of aesthetics for politics to its limit. like Fuentes. evocation of the “local”) assures marketability to a world in which revolution was on the move. the text divides Calibán from the enemy.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.Samuel Steinberg
of his journey from revolution back home. “revolution” (and more generally. Facundo is to be rejected as a violent and
. all of whom share the culture of Calibán. In this way. “[. the local. to both counterrevolution as well as its own perceived repressiveness. Fernández Retamar passionately asks. the possibilities of liberation. thus. just as Cuba continues to serve. 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. At a time when revolutionary hopes were on the verge of a global letdown. 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. Fernández Retamar collects the former beneath the sign of Calibán.”6 More forcefully. much less constant enemies. Martí’s “Nuestra América” from Sarmiento’s Facundo.] what is our culture. for it was then that many of the Boom’s writers reevaluated their relationship to the Cuban Revolution. 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. That is. Cuba and its revolution serve the Boom as a center of regional pride and international curiosity. Accordingly. one does not ﬁnd listed here the treacherous fellowtravelers of the Boom. the
ramiﬁcations of the Padilla aﬀair seem most decisive for Calibán.8 The polemical text ﬁnally and decisively separates friends and allies (of the revolution) from its enemies.. To be sure. the popular from the hegemonic. while the market secures distribution and proliferation. Such appears to be the critique of the Boom mounted by Roberto Fernández Retamar in his canonical Calibán. Among many others. Calibán/Cuba would stand as the continued possibility of a utopian. if not the history and culture of Calibán?” (14).
In the Boom. would claim it for themselves. From that day on. Until this moment it must be assumed that the revolution is merely a vague upheaval. As Fernández Retamar continues. an intervention into the market or a movement that plays to the market [. Fuentes stands as an early example of a certain appropriation of the revolution. as we have seen. (23)
subalternizing representation of Argentina. As Brett Levinson writes:
The debate whether the Boom is radical or conservative. 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. Fernández Retamar strikes out with particular fury against Fuentes. like Fuentes. La muerte de Artemio Cruz. The suggestion appears to be that unlike Borges. unnamed occurrence for all who.. a revolution that has in its forefront the worker-peasant alliance. but also more importantly its very being. in 1961.” ﬁnally becoming a ﬁgure that collapses this distinction (or that marks the point of its convergence). while Martí is to be celebrated as an alternative.. This debate. Through these paradigmatic past texts. (30)
It would seem that the revolution only arrives. after the decisive declaration of its Marxist-Leninist
By way of exploiting his position “outside” and not “against. those who would seek to authorize themselves in the revolution’s name begin to feel not a little discomfort. the revolution declares not only its political project. which is to be waged. Fernández Retamar projects the cultural ﬁeld of future political struggle. The Marxist-Leninist declaration serves as yet another crucial separation.] misses a key point. began a Boom novel. in Havana in May of 1960. the revolution proclaimed itself and proved to be Marxist-Leninist—that is. 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. After this revolution within the revolution. here referred to with almost humorous understatement as “a Cuban writer’s month in jail. In this sense. the violence with which Fuentes must be denounced suggests more. a truly important writer who “decided to adopt openly his position as a man of the Right” (30). the vehemence of this debate. in other
. he speaks of a “Mexican maﬁa.” While from a certain perspective Fernández Retamar merely takes Fuentes to task regarding his less than revolutionary politics. an open. against the authority that both traitors and enemies consolidated for themselves during the Boom era. which is only ampliﬁed by Padilla’s show trial and imprisonment.” of which Fuentes is a standing member:
This group warmly expressed its sympathy for the Cuban Revolution until. as a possible inversion or overturning of such a literary model. to borrow a phrase from Régis Debray. The Boom stamps the convergence of these opposites. 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. who. the reactionary and radical components of literature are exposed not as one but as coincidental.162
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ideological content: through Marxism-Leninism. in part. according to the authorial signature at its conclusion.
for if Latin American literature becomes subject to the transnational market during the Boom. I would like to suggest. disturbance. market and culture. Yet the Boom is outside of revolution. as critics such as Fernández Retamar have proposed. Rather the Boom is itself a calling into being of its own failure as a pseudo-ethical act. a future that is symptomatically made present in both the Boom as well as the Cuban Revolution. into the Same. That is. a failure. but rather. and diﬀerence represent entrances into the market.Samuel Steinberg
words. invention of the Boom itself as a political commitment.
to lose itself in the moment of its greatness. literature ceases both to sustain and disrupt the social dichotomies upon which the globe banks and thus concludes its modern function. its desire to dissolve literature’s constitutively treacherous socio-political presence. As Brett Levinson forcefully notes:
When we cannot distinguish ‘literature as intervention’ from ‘literature as conservation. that a dominant feature of the Boom was not the mediation of a profoundly conﬂicted Latin American modernity. the Boom is already Latin American literature’s desire for negation. revolt. a working out of those conﬂicts as the very limit of literature’s political potential. is a fake that distracts those who wage it from the future to which literature and politics will both submit. in order to cancel the substitution of aesthetics for politics. to blow itself up. For this reason. to give end. revolution cannot deﬁnitively stamp out that which lives beyond the reach of its insular order. that rather than some kind of appropriating instrument to be supplanted. 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. if its ability to ﬁnalize. after all. It seems possible. (28)
If the Boom’s decline is a constant. 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. then perhaps the Boom is not lost after a failed attempt at mediating global and local. is what the Boom now commemorates. transitional drive it had. indeed. if at times unintentional.’ when aesthetic innovation. The above would suggest that if the Boom today appears as a fallen movement.
. it is perhaps because we have not yet fully recognized the epochal. this self-cancellation might stand as its apology to a politics of liberation and to the revolutionary sequences of the sixties. that it provides certain grounds for indecision in revolutionary times. or rather a commitment. it enacts this power in a bid
The Boom’s self-negation thus hinges upon its own epiphanic realization (a moment of realization. the revolution and liberal democracy. With the Boom Latin American literature eventually denies itself as political form in order to protect the future of an emancipatory politics. As we have seen. in short. 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. self-cancellation is uniquely the power of the Boom and its only remaining power as an emancipatory politics. Indeed. then the autonomy of planning state is simultaneously threatened by transnational forces. in eﬀect.
Como la Utopía de Moro. “García Márquez’s Macondo only needed to be mentioned for people to understand that it was a fantasy of a liberated territory” (7). profetizándose a sí mismo en el acto de descifrar la última página de los pergaminos. 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). (448-49)
As I note above. It is. the
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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. in other words. conceived as a mode of bringing into being a liberated Latin American modernity. in this sense. the text concludes in its own erasure:
Macondo era ya un pavoroso remolino de polvo y escombros centrifugado por la cólera del huracán bíblico. I am tempted to concede to García Márquez the last word. In this sense. We may wish to understand Macondo. the taking root of an alteration in literature’s social insertion between the national-popular and transnational market. descifrándolo a medida que lo vivía. 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. 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. como si se estuviera viendo en un espejo hablado […]. It would seem that García Márquez ends his great book by learning the lesson of the sixties. cuando Aureliano saltó once páginas para no perder el tiempo en hechos demasiado conocidos. “La fundación de Macondo es la fundación de Utopía […]. y todo lo
Against the better judgment of one who has pretensions of speaking as a critic and not as a fan. As the reader will remember. not the high point of this relation. a book between literature’s commitment to the national-popular and the planning state and that which succeeds it. Fuentes writes. y empezó a descifrar el instante en que estaba viviendo. In this literary cancellation resides the rhetorical—but not necessarily eﬀective—cancellation of the ambiguous frontier dividing two enemy spatio-political orders. It seems also that the novel itself ends in a kind of prescriptive cancellation of writing. antes de llegar al verso ﬁnal ya había comprendido que no saldría jamás de ese cuarto. However. this liberated island. 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. Macondo es una isla de la imaginación” (La nueva novela 60). 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. in other words. but an apprenticeship in the problematic linking of literature to the political. Cien años de soledad suggests. this imagined utopia. The book does not mark a failure. As Jean Franco reminds us. Cien años de soledad is. is organized by its own undoing. the text evokes Cuba’s insular liberation and the kind of literary imaginary that necessarily sustains such liberations. but the sign of its cancellation. Sin embargo.
Macondo’s dissolution. but before anything had arrived to replace (or displace) the literary as such (say. founded in the collective social subject that once answered to the name of the national-popular. (Ediﬁcación 30) [e]nfrentamiento de materiales que se destruyen a sí mismos. but rather as a power over writing. 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. new media. which he casts as both literary-symbolic as well as actual-eﬀective. yet when the perceived fulﬁllment of the global or transnational ﬁeld had not yet forged other. Such desires can only be achieved. 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. Macondo’s dissolution thus represents an advance for thought and politics. que en varios textos iniciales de García Márquez comienza a delinearse. and so on). “With Arguedas’s literary act. as I cite above. “[…] esa Revolución económica y social tiene que producir inevitablemente también una Revolución cultural […]” (4). going further. testimonio. es justamente el de representar una literatura nacional y popular. he writes this novel in the midst of a kind of literary decay. His novel thematizes the destruction of writing as a submission to Castro’s programmatic statement by means of which. ﬁguring the symbolic-eﬀective extension of the Cuban Revolution. written as a kind of midwife text for the transition towards a new epoch. the self-realized futility of phantasmatic insular liberations. (30)
This novel culminates a project because. 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. Macondo is the point of degeneration of the utopian. whether forwarded by writing or the state.Samuel Steinberg
peculiar spatial enclave that appears centrally in Cien años de soledad. marks literature’s cancellation of literature precisely as a commitment to revolutionary utopias. alternative modes of representing a given social ﬁeld. y que. for Rama. literature loses—in this “literary act”—its power and razón de ser. 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. after García Márquez’s literary
. it represents a dialectical advance. as the product of the author’s prescience. generan la posibilidad de unas formas superiores de las cuales emerja la línea interna zigzagueante que va desarrollando la cultura. In other words. “Latin American foundational utopianism comes to its end” (207). as a thinking of what must come after Macondo.” he writes. cultural studies. también corona un proyecto que comienza a esbozarse y a plantearse a ﬁnes de la década del cuarenta. simultáneamente. understood as the:
Perhaps what Rama observes here is the expression of García Márquez’s willing conceptual inclusion in the insular revolutionary order. y ese proyecto. the novel closes the literature-emancipatory politics alliance that characterizes much of Latin America’s literary modernity. Suﬃce it to say. not in the obscure fashion in which “opportunists” have made it circulate.
This now ritualistic literary cancellation. He writes:
Writing. I would like to suggest that Crónica de una muerte anunciada
. which. over against the historical alliance literature-state). If García Márquez rather melodramatically sweeps away Macondo in what might be the more celebrated self-imposed literary cancellation. possesses a structural similarity to Macondo. through a revolutionary politics proper (again.166
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turns on the repetition of Macondo’s dissolution. 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.10 By way of concluding. presents itself as the only way of grounding the writing task and allowing it to continue after Macondo. as I note above. to emancipatory politics as a failed project. but in this case formally. What remains to be seen. since it is itself constituted and sustained through a violence that traverses it to the very core. cannot serve as the instrument for redemption and cleansing that the novel envisions. the loss of obscure imaginary liberated territories. as a dying labor. that is. Crónica de una muerte anunciada reiterates this closure. a ritual that saturates the text. generically. Crónica de una muerte anunciada produces its own death as a comment on its own writing as a failed project. this unsuturing commences. Crónica de una muerte anunciada. it disappears. the suggestion appears to be. nor in its negation. (162)
act. is by the time of Crónica de una muerte anunciada. This double cancellation. Unlike Arguedas. and thus. but it is also an opening. Macondo’s dissolution marks a closure of literature and revolutionary-utopian politics. is whether that opening is a call to forgiveness between literature and revolution. it is worth repeating. to “unsuture art and politics” (158). a politics that resides neither in the domain of culture. in eﬀect. which in turn poses a challenge to any expectation of Macondo’s eventual redemption. and we are yet condemned for betraying revolution by believing that our liberation could ever have been read. The text seems. is cancelled and dispersed in the air. but more strongly. In this sense. programmatically. the Boom continues as its own constant self-cancellation. and always without literature’s redemption. as Bruno Bosteels has put it. brings this fallen status into being. The community figured in García Márquez’s later novel. and not only with respect to its status as territorial enclave. even today. García Márquez lives on and must commit to repetition. Macondo’s dissolution.11 Carlos J. a chance to cut our losses by forging a diﬀerent politics beyond the reaches of literature. 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. at some point seemed to aver a radical rupture. Through the reading act the potential of imagined liberated territory dissolves. 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. a ﬁgure for the utopian enclave. The novel foresees the loss of the potential of all such liberated territories in writing. Through the erasure of Macondo. or instead. The text thus not only stands as a statement on the fallen status of the political and social insertion of the writer’s intervention.
A widely known anecdote holds that García Márquez forswore writing another novel as long as Pinochet held power in Chile.. Seen in this light. in a gloss on Halperín Donghi.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). From the perspective of literature—after the Boom.. 2 For an excellent reading of this speech. 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. In Larsen’s excellent essay. no longer oﬀered through the national-popular and the planning state whose desire the novel once promised to embody or inspire.. which organizes the constant interruption of our own desire to reconstitute literature’s socio-political grounds and task. 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. This writing thus allegorizes.” It is worth noting that both Mejía Duque as well as Rama appear in the present essay as symptoms of what Larsen insightfully names. by a series of texts in which
. one should add. equally compelling is the repetition of literary cancellation witnessed by García Márquez’s return to form. Crónica de una muerte anunciada cancels itself by way of fulﬁlling its own narrative order. he regards this “revolutionaryhistoricist” critical optic as the one that “[…] brings us closest to the complex truth of the phenomenon itself ” (70). Along the lines of Cien años de soledad. Crónica de una muerte anunciada appeared in 1981. ﬁnally evinces its own “[. see Desiderio Navarro’s “In Media Res Publicas: On Intellectuals and Social Criticism in the Cuban Public Sphere. 3 My understanding of the friend/enemy divide as a key dimension of the political is informed. Only one novel. above all. which is eﬀected in distinct and diverse manners but particularly through similarities between characters’ names. Yet.
The erasure that Alonso observes in the text. nor its own appearance as literature and thus eﬀaces its textuality. This repetition. 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. demonstrating that it must speak the contradictory knowledge that it embodies even at the expense of its own unmaking” (163). long before Pinochet would pass from the scene. While this gap evinces the futile power of literary silence. to put it in other terms.” Here I take the chance to thank him for alerting me to this passage. a redemption. the “seeming right/left aphasia of the ‘boom’” (72). literature’s own decline as an instrument through which the national-popular might emerge and the planning state might eﬀectively imagine social justice. but rather as the hope of continuing the very meaning
As Larsen notes. after Macondo—there must be repetition of this literary non-redemption. scholars such as Gerald Martin share this understanding of the Boom as being “overdetermined” by the Cuban Revolution and the atmosphere it created (70).] violent essence. however.
This knowledge [. El otoño del patriarca. 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. stands between the writing of Cien años de soledad and Crónica de una muerte anunciada. (162)
of that cancellation..
“Writing and Ritual in Chronicle of a Death Foretold. From this we might conclude that Fuentes’s now-waning commitment to the revolution ﬁnds a spatial articulation traced in his signature. His imprisonment aroused suspicions of a perceived Stalinization and provoked signiﬁcant sectors of the interna-
Alonso. Carlos J. the utopian dreams that Cuba allows are not strictly communist dreams. a compensatory function that produced not merely the aestheticization of politics but the “substitution of aesthetics for politics” (11).” Latin American Subaltern Studies Revisited. as not only an intertextual function but as a marker of something like a time lapse between the two texts’ writing as well. 1999. suggests further the continuity between the two narratives. and that he wants his readers to know this. this seems to be central to Fernández Retamar’s critique of Fuentes and might even provide grounds for thinking Cuba’s own ambiguity. 1987. A Coruña: Tambre. Bernard McGuirk and Richard Cardwell. 8 The point of reference here is Heberto Padilla’s collection of poems. In fact. as we can see from the dates and place names that appear at the close of the text” (60).
Alberto Moreiras engages Carl Schmitt. See “Beyond the Line: On Inﬁnite Decolonization” (580-83). and defeated in Spain. Alonso Girgado. The duplication of the character Mercedes Barcha. as the site of the realization of a relation between literature and politics. Gustavo Verdesio. 10 I will brieﬂy recall the novel. of which Luis Alonso Girgado reminds us (63). Bosteels. Of crucial importance here is Moreiras’s take on the Schmittian “nomic order. 7 To be sure. there is no relation supposed between literature and politics.52 (2005): 147-58. and the Subaltern in Latin America. The text’s central event is the murder of Santiago Nasar. Luis. Crónica de una muerte anunciada: guía de lectura. 9 The point of reference here is Idelber Avelar. 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. Durham: Duke UP. the narrator’s curious search for the truth revolves around a diﬀerent question. Cambridge: Cambridge UP. Ed. The purportedly central secret—whether Santiago Nasar truly went to bed with Ángela Vicario (his murderers’ sister)—is never resolved. More notable is the repetition of the name Aureliano Buendía. Fuera del juego (1968). which was found by the Unión de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba (UNEAC) to be “against” the revolution.
. 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. without this extension into the domain of the nationalpopular. 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).” although its precise terms are not applied here. Hybridity. for art. betrayed in Mexico. no justiﬁcation for existence vis-à-vis a putatively national-popular state. Ed. Because we know who killed him and how. that is. 5 Maarten van Delden’s formulation puts it well: “Fuentes sketches a narrative in Artemio Cruz in which the revolutionary ideal. who has argued most clearly that Boom narrative exerted something like a compensatory function for the uneven or incomplete modernization of Latin America.168
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tional left to sever ties with Cuba. in both texts. 1993. future wife of the narrator/García Márquéz. Bruno. In part. “Theses on Antagonism. and thus.” Gabriel García Márquez: New Readings. The Untimely Present: Postdictatorial Latin American Fiction and the Task of Mourning. Avelar. Special Issue of Dispositio/n 25. Idelber. 11 Crónica de una muerte anunciada repeats Cien años de soledad in other ways as well.
” American Literary History 17.” Narrativa y neocoloniaje en América latina. Ed. García Márquez. Escala: Bogotá. 2001. Desiderio. Durham: Duke UP. 2001. 1961. “Periodizing the 60s. Gabriel. Caliban and Other Essays. Utopia Unarmed: The Latin American Left After the Cold War. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P 1995. Fernández Retamar. and Politics. Franco. Mexico: Marcha. Fuentes. Maarten. 1962. Alberto. Nepantla: Views from South 2. Trans.” Más allá del boom: literatura y mercado. Durham: Duke UP. La narrativa de Gabriel García Márquez: ediﬁcación de un arte nacional y popular. Ed. Mejía Duque. Rama. Padilla. “The ‘Boom’ Novel and the Cold War in Latin America. Madrid: Espasa Calpe. “In Media Res Publicas: On Intellectuals and Social Criticism in the Cuban Public Sphere. La muerte de Artemio Cruz. The Ends of Literature: The Latin American “Boom” in the Neoliberal Marketplace.2 (2001): 355-71.” Reading North by South: On Latin American Literature. . Navarro. Mexico: Fondo de cultura económica. ———. van Delden. 1989.
. “Beyond the Line: On Inﬁnite Decolonization. 1997. Cambridge.3 (2005): 575-94. 2001. Mexico: Joaquín Mortiz. Fidel. New York: Vintage Español.” The 60s Without Apology.” Trans. 1991. Jorge.Samuel Steinberg
Cárdenas. Mexico: Fondo de cultura económica. Montevideo: Comité de intelectuales y artistas de apoyo a la revolución cubana. 1984. Jaime. Brett. Alessandro Fornazzari and Desiderio Navarro. Jameson. Roberto. 1994. 1998. ———. “El ‘boom’ en perspectiva. 1981. The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Fuera del juego. “El ‘boom’ de la narrativa latinoamericana. 2003. Castro. 1962. Fredric. The Decline and Fall of the Lettered City: Latin America in the Cold War. Crónica de una muerte anunciada. Sohnya Sayres. 1991. Stanford: Stanford UP. Mexico. 1983. 1981. and Modernity. Castañeda. 1974. La muerte de Artemio Cruz. Dust Jacket. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P. ———. Edward Baker. El otoño del patriarca. Culture. Buenos Aires: Aditor 1969. ———. Barcelona: Plaza y Janés. 1973. Buenos Aires: Crisis. Cien años de soledad. The Exhaustion of Difference: The Politics of Latin American Cultural Studies. Neil. Carlos. 1975. Nashville: Vanderbilt UP. 1973. Mass: Harvard UP. ———. Palabras a los intelectuales. La nueva novela hispanoamericana. Ángel Rama. or. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P. 1967. Ángel. New York: Vintage. Levinson. 2002. Postmodernism. ———. Moreiras. Lázaro. 1969.
Larsen. Jean. Heberto. Carlos Fuentes.