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The Colombian Political Novel 1951–1987

A Critical Contribution

Series:

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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Chapter Three: The Politics and Ideology of Local Networks, Landownership and Resistance

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← 116 | 117 →CHAPTER THREE

The novels analysed in this chapter show politics and ideology in a more complex way. In these novels matters of local network and religion, landownership and false ideological cohesion, repression, state absence and clandestine resistance are woven together in, respectively, El Cristo de espaldas (1952), Siervo sin tierra (1954) and La mala hora (1962). These historical contingencies are articulated within the logic of landowning and political resistance, announced in the chapter’s heading which are the nexus of these narratives.

Within these works the issue of the ‘letrado’ gains more prominence in the way his presence is portrayed. He stands tall within a provincial environment making a crucial political difference whether embodied as a priest or as an orator, as in El Cristo de espaldas. Rather like in a crime novel, the narrative discloses at the same time how a political network operates in a small town, connected to the ruling class in the city where the centre of the structures of power lies. This network of power is also articulated in the second novel Siervo sin tierra, in which the issue of Gaitán comes to the surface, revealing the impact it had not only in Bogotá but also in small provinces. Siervo sin tierra focuses on the significance landowning had for the peasant who wished not only to own a piece of land but to become a producer for the capitalist market. Here the role of the ‘letrado’ is also evident...

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