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Civilisation and Authenticity

The Search for Cultural Uniqueness in the Narrative Fiction of Alejo Carpentier and Julio Cortázar


Eugenia Demuro

The question «What is Latin America?» has been at the heart of writing from and about Latin America from Columbus’ conquest to present-day discussions and nationalising projects. What this belies is the inherent question «What is Latin America compared to Europe?» This book lays bare the underlying logic of a Latin Americanist discourse through some of the continent’s most influential thinkers, including Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, José Martí, José Enrique Rodó, José Vasconcelos, Fernando Ortiz, Roberto Fernández Retamar, Néstor García Canclini, and Walter Mignolo.
Civilisation and Authenticity presents case studies of two of Latin America’s most renowned and representative twentieth-century writers, the Cuban Alejo Carpentier and the Argentine Julio Cortázar and reveals how desire to define Latin America is entwined throughout their groundbreaking experimental novels, focusing on Carpentier’s Los pasos perdidos (1953) and Cortázar’s Rayuela (1963). New research into the poetics of these authors and jargon-free analyses of their fiction outline how the Latin Americanist discourse persists in both writers’ representations of the Latin American landscape and people as either Europe’s «authentic» and marvelous «Other», or its «civilised» and modern counterpart.
Civilisation and Authenticity presents new research for experts on Carpentier and Cortázar and will be indispensable to students of Latin American literature. Its delineation of the Latin Americanist discourse makes it an ideal reference for anybody studying Latin American cultural studies.


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Notes 159


Notes Introduction 1 The term Modernism is used in the European and Anglo-American sense. This should not be confused with the Spanish modernismo that refers to poets led by Rubén Darío writing at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries. 2 In Spanish: ‘El escritor, como sujeto cultural, es autor y actor de una cultura geográfica e históricamente condicionada. Pero siempre es un sujeto algo sospechoso. Su orientación y fijación de rasgos identitarios no lo hace al margen de su propia inserción social, y del status y del rol que le han sido otorgados como sector dentro de la sociedad.’ Rogelio Rodríguez Coronel, ‘Guillén y Carpentier ante las fisuras de la modernidad,’ (Universidad de La Habana, 2002) 9. 3 Henceforth, all citations of this text will be referenced as Journeys, followed by the corresponding page number/s. Latin American Literature in Context 1 Walter Mignolo provides an excellent analysis of the adoption of the term ‘Latin’ America, in the mid-nineteenth century, to differentiate between the Anglo America of the North and the ‘Latin’ America of the South: ‘[a]t that moment ‘Latin’ America was the name adopted to identify the restoration of European Meridional, Catholic, and Latin ‘civilization’ in South America and, simultaneously, to reproduce absences (Indians and Afros) that had already begun in the early colonial period’ (my emphasis). He further explains that: ‘the ‘idea’ of Latin America emerged as a consequence of conflicts between...

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