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Encounters of Formation in the Latin American and Hispanic/Latino Bildungsroman


Alejandro Latinez

Developments: Encounters of Formation in the Latin American and Hispanic/Latino Bildungsroman, a notable contribution for students and scholars of Latin American, Brazilian, Hispanic and Latino literature, explores a significant but overlooked area in the literary production of the twentieth century: the connections between development and the narrative of formation after World War II. Recognizing development as a discursive construction that shapes significantly modern national identity in Latin America, Alejandro Latinez argues that its ideals and narrative relate to the Bildungsroman genre – the narrative of formation or development. The study presents a historical background of similar ideals of development in Latin America as well as reflects on a seminal philosophical interplay about youth and modern national identity between the Mexican authors Samuel Ramos and Octavio Paz. Furthermore, it examines Mario Vargas Llosa’s 1963 La ciudad y los perros, José Lezama Lima’s 1966 Paradiso, a selection from Clarice Lispector’s 1960 and 1964 short narratives, and Elena Poniatowska’s 1971 testimony La noche de Tlatelolco. The narrative experience in the United States is analyzed in Sandra Cisnero’s 1984 The House on Mango Street and Esmeralda Santiago’s 1993 When I Was Puerto Rican.
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Chapter Three: La ciudad y los perros, Military Schooling and Development

← 26 | 27 →CHAPTER THREE


Through his literary work, Mario Vargas Llosa describes military and militarism as negative forces; they usually lead to corruption and ethical dissolution. From his first well known work, the 1959 short story Los Jefes until his 2000 novel La fiesta del Chivo, his narrative focuses on the social damage that traditional military regimens cause as forces that act specifically against individual freedom, even when those forces justify their actions in the name of modernity and progress. In this regard, Rafael Ocasio affirms that “Vargas Llosa shows the tensions present in any modern society. For the Peruvian society in particular, Vargas Llosa portrays characters that historically had a major role in the development of modern Peru” (116). His 1963 novel La ciudad y los perros narrates a counterpoint between military formation in a military school and a group of adolescents from diverse Peruvian geographical areas and social environments. Situated at the end of the first half of the twentieth century, the novel addresses formative ideals and disciplinary actions that echo the development discourse.

Jonathan Crush argues that “development” works as a created order within a constructed chaotic and disorderly terrain; “the language of ‘crisis’ and disintegration creates a logical need for external intervention and management… Accompanying the imagery of crisis is an implicit analysis of ← 27 | 28 → causation—sometimes external, more often internal. The causes are mostly endogenous… ethnicity, illiteracy and ignorance in more modern incarnations” (9). Similarly, the novel describes how adolescents are brought from a chaotic world...

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