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Crime Scenes

Latin American Crime Fiction from the 1960s to the 2010s

Edited By Charlotte Lange and Ailsa Peate

Crime fiction has become a key element in Latin American literature. The rise in production of the genre can be explained by an urgency to explore issues of morality in societies which incorporate varying levels of censorship and corruption. Through a focus on the concept of the crime scene itself, this book identifies and interrogates some of the principal developments in contemporary Latin American crime fiction. In ten chapters which cover Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Mexico and Venezuela, and generic diversity which spans police procedurals, narcoliteratura, postmodern detection, and historical portrayals of crimes, the authors investigate how the crime scene – which has always been central to the genre and its subgenres – critiques local and global issues, including social injustice, discrimination, neoliberalism, violence, identity, corruption, and memory.

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7 Roberto Ampuero and the Neruda Case: The Detective, the Poet, the ‘Converso’ (Philip Swanson)

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PHILIP SWANSON

7 Roberto Ampuero and the Neruda Case: The Detective, the Poet, the ‘Converso’

ABSTRACT

The Chilean novelist Roberto Ampuero (1951–) is best known for his Cayetano Brulé detective series and for his conspicuous ideological conversion from socialism to liberalism (or neoliberalism). The commonly accepted political dimension of the crime genre in Latin America, particularly in the post-dictatorship southern cone, is therefore somewhat problematic in Ampuero’s case. The 2008 novel, El caso Neruda [The Neruda Case], has an obvious political charge as it is set in the period leading up to the Augusto Pinochet coup of 1973. It is an origin story, going back to Cayetano’s first mission, when he is contracted by the great poet and Salvador Allende supporter, Pablo Neruda, to track down a Mexican doctor who may have a cure for the poet’s cancer (Neruda’s real wish is to track down the doctor’s wife, with whom he had an affair and who may have given birth to his daughter). The dying poet echoes the state of the nation. Moreover, his populist persona is subjected to critical scrutiny, while his treatment of others (especially women) is presented as complicating his cultural and political legacy. The figure of the down-to-earth private eye, meantime, is also far from straightforward. In the end, a universalist discourse and an underlying neoliberal anxiety risk neutralizing the potential social impact of the noir fiction genre.

The Chilean novelist Roberto Ampuero (1953–) is...

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