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The Colombian Political Novel 1951–1987

A Critical Contribution


Alvaro Quiroga-Cifuentes

This book explores the environment and cultural context of Colombian political novels published between 1951 and 1987. Challenging the label of «novelas de la violencia», the author analyses them as products of their own historical time and takes into account their broader implications, such as their representation of the society they narrate. These novels are shown to be the product of political and ideological issues: the real preoccupations of the writers were the balance of power, social dysfunctionality and the need for reform in a society transitioning from rural to urban. These issues are traced in a close reading of representative novels, in which feature letrados and intellectuals and their role in the evolution of society, culture, literature and power in twentieth-century Colombia. With its critical-theoretical approach, this book constitutes a significant and innovative contribution to the debate on Latin American culture and literature.


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The nine novels studied in this book present individualised ideological positions related to identifiable historical events deriving from political issues. As has been demonstrated throughout this study what becomes evi- dent in the essential nuts and bolts of the story-telling are characters who operate according to ideologies favouring a system which benefits itself, i.e. bipartisanism in the majority of cases, as well as situations in which new historical forces come to the fore by opposing the repressive methods of a two-party governing structure resistant to change. In particular the historical contingencies that surrounded the struggle for power such as conspiracy, network organisation, landownership and power, resistance, exile and utopia are portrayed in different ways in these novels. The theme of conspiracy is touched upon in almost every one of them; such is the case with El 9 de abril and El Cristo de espaldas; the material limitations of pov- erty and the inability of a ruling class to address this problem looms large in El día del odio. The themes of landownership, deception throughout political networks and injustice were found to be predominant in El Cristo de espaldas and Siervo sin tierra. Class consciousness and the growth of a class struggle emerged as significant issues in Viernes 9 and La mala hora. The 9 April 1948 is a key leitmotif in the first group of novels and returns in the 1980s novels via the authors’ memory. Its recurrence though sheds light on matters such as the ambiguous status of...

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