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Detective Fiction in Cuban Society and Culture

Stephen Wilkinson

This book examines Cuban society through a study of its detective fiction and more particularly contemporary Cuban society through the novels of the author and critic, Leonardo Padura Fuentes.
The author traces the development of Cuban detective writing in the light of the work of twentieth century Western European literary critics and philosophers including Raymond Williams, Antonio Gramsci, Terry Eagleton, Roland Barthes, Jean Paul Sartre, Michel Foucault, Jean François Lyotard and Jean Baudrillard in order to gain a better understanding of the social and historical context in which this genre emerged.
The analysis includes discussion of the broader philosophical, political and historical issues raised by the Cuban revolution. The book concludes that the study of this popular genre in Cuba is of crucial importance to the scholar who wishes to reach as full an understanding of the social dynamics within that society as possible.


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7 The crash of the 1990s and the challenge to modernity: how crime narrative changes to ‘fit’ the times 159


Chapter 7 The crash of the 1990s and the challenge to modernity: how crime narrative changes to ‘fit’ the times As Slavoj Žižek remarks in his discussion on the origins of the detective novel: ‘The easiest way to detect changes in the so-called Zeitgeist is to pay careful attention to the moment when a certain artistic (literary etc.) form becomes “impossible”’(1991:48). This, according to Žižek, is what happened in the 1920s to the realist novel when it was overtaken by modernism. He goes on to argue that in the same period there was a similar shift of accent from the detective story to the form of the detective novel. This curious linkage between changes in the fictional narrative of an age and the real transformations in society itself, is described in much greater detail by the Marxist critic David Daiches in his book: The Novel and the Modern World (1960: 1–11). Daiches notes that all novelists must necessarily select from a plethora of events that make up human behaviour for the simple reason that it would be impossible to record everything their characters do, think or feel. If they select therefore, they must select upon a principle that must to a great extent be publicly shared, otherwise the work would lack relevance to the reader. Thus he argues, during the Victorian period there was a background of belief against which authors worked that shaped the nature of their individual choices about selection and significance...

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