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Society for Latin American Studies

Boom, Yes; 'New' Novel, No: Further Reflections on the Optical Illusions of the 1960s in Latin
America
Author(s): Gerald Martin
Source: Bulletin of Latin American Research, Vol. 3, No. 2 (1984), pp. 53-63
Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of Society for Latin American Studies
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Boom,
Reflections

'New5

Yes;
on
1960s

the
in

No:

Novel,

Illusions

Optical
Latin

Further
of

the

America

GERALD

MARTIN

Portsmouth

Polytechnic

No cultural phenomenon of the 1960s did more than the apparent explosion of
creativity in the Spanish American novel to bring Latin America to international
attention. It is no exaggeration to state that if the Southern continent was
known for two things above all others in the 1960s, these were, first and foreand its impact both on Latin America and the
most, the Cuban Revolution
Third World generally, and secondly, the boom in Latin American fiction,
whose rise and fail coincided with the rise and fail of liberal perceptions of
Cuba between 1959 and 1971. At a moment when such creativity was in short
when the French nouveau roman was antagonizing
supply internationally,
ordinary readers and academics everywhere and critics repeatedly asked them?
selves whether the novel, in the age of the mass media, was now moribund, a
succession of Latin American writers?above
all, Cortazar, Fuentes, Vargas
Llosa and Garcia Marquez?rose
to international prominence, others from an
earlier generation, like Borges and Carpentier, consolidated
their status, and
Asturias became the first Latin American novelist to win the Nobel Prize, in
1967. At the same time Vallejo and Neruda were increasingly recognized, albeit
belatedly, as two of the world's great poets of the twentieth century. Moreover,
although the rhythm of Brazilian cultural development has always been different
to that of the larger Spanish American countries, the movement for the first
time incorporated
Brazil, retrospectively
appropriating such works as Joao
Guimaraes Rosas' classic Grande sertao, veredas (1956). It also inspired new
departures in peninsular Spanish novelists like Juan Goytisolo (see especially
del conde don Julidn, 1970), who in the mid-1960s quickly
Reivindicacion
became an honorary member of what was by then known as the 'boom',
a phenomenon
through which Spanish America again transformed Spanish
this case its fiction?as
literature?in
Dario's Modernist movement had trans?
formed its poetry at the turn of the century. Goytisolo was a particularly
significant adherent, firstly because he was a Catalan, and Barcelona-based
editorials profited more from the boom than any of the Latin American publishing houses; and secondly because, like most of the new Latin American
novelists themselves, he was an exile from his native country and a long-term
resident in Paris.1
The impact of these writers was immediate and overwhelming. For the first
time Latin American authors saw their novels published in large quantities,
and were soon able to conceive of living off the proceeds of their writing and

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BULLETIN OF LATIN AMERICAN RESEARCH

by-products.2 Latin American middle-class readers, a rapidly


expanding group whom the writers in many ways represented, flattered both
by the literary reflection of their own image and by world attention focused
on the new fiction, began at last to prefer works by writers from their own
continent to those from Europe, and waited eagerly for the next book by
Cortazar, Garcia Marquez or Vargas liosa, encouraged all the way by a complex
from the popular press and
and contradictory
network of communications,
television to university journals and symposia, in which for a time it was almost
impossible to disentangle advertising from criticism, cosmopolitan forms from
Americanist themes, the reverberations of capitalist modernization from those
of the Cuban Revolution. The astonishing result of all this was that the boom
writers became household names in Latin America, like film or pop stars, sportsmen or politicians. (This trend continues: in the last two years, for example,
Mario Vargas Liosa has accepted an invitation to judge the Miss World competi?
tion and rejected an invitation to become Prime Minister of Peru.) What really
confused the issue was that at the same time these profoundly ambitious men
who
well as highly 'professional'?writers,
were also evidently serious?as
managed both to achieve critical recognition and to become bestsellers (Cien
ahos de soledad is the classic example of this). The wholesale conversion of
literary production into a commodity process has made it impossible in practice
such an enterprise were ever
to separate the aesthetic from the political?if
possible, in Latin America or elsewhere. On the whole, though, it is also true
in
few critics have actually recognized this distinction?that
to say?though
the case of most of the boom writers the early successes remain the outstanding
achievements, and the works written for the suddenly emerging market soon
showed marked evidence of decline and even decay. Since my own view,
reluctantly arrived at, is that all these famous works had a relationship of
ambiguity and equivocation towards the ideological alternatives of the decade
which was extraordinarily fruitful in terms of narrative form, it would not
then be surprising if those outstanding achievements also coincided?before
the
success was assured, before the new movement became the 'boom'?with
moment of greatest ambiguity in the face of the alternative between the lure
of the Market and the vocation of Art. Certainly Cortazar never improved upon
Rayuela (1963), nor Fuentes upon La muerte de Artemio Cruz (1962: a view of
the Mexican Revolution from the temporarily assumed perspective of the Cuban
Revolution), nor Cabrera Infante on Tres tristes tigres (1963: a novel about
nor Vargas Liosa on La Casa
Cuba that was not yet counter-revolutionary),
Verde (1966), nor Garcia Marquez on the incomparable Cien ahos de soledad
(1967), which marked the apotheosis of the movement and, as it transpired,
heralded its decline.
The impact of these writers, then, was dynamic; the rise of the 'New Novel'
was for a time irresistible. Not every one was impressed, however, and the in?
creasing conflictive relationship between Casa de las Americas and Mundo Nuevo
(see Frenk's article in this issue), or the retreat from sociological criticism into
structuralism (see Rowe), provided two of the more instructive examples of the
tensions involved in that decade of the 'heroic guerrilla' (see Gonzalez) and the
Alliance for Progress. Cuba's relationship to the new fiction was always uneasy
and equivocal, even in the euphoric period 1962 to 1966, and eventually came
its commercial

THE OPTICALILLUSIONS

OF THE 1960s IN LATIN AMERICA

55

of Proust, Kafka,
close to the same kind of rejection as Lukacs' condemnation
Joyce and the rest of European Modernism. Even in the pages ofMundo Nuevo
itself, the new movement's
single most important vehicle, which eventually
turned out to have had links with the CIA, there were a number of memorable polemics, most notably in 1969, when the veteran Venezuelan critic,
Manuel Pedro Gonzalez, launched one of a series of violent and contemptuous
both with the great
attacks on the new fiction, comparing it unfavourably
regionalist works of an earlier period in Latin American writing and with the
great works of European Modernism, of which, at the same time, he was also
critical, in view of their inherent pessimism and subjectivism.3 Gonzalez' temperaof insult, hyperbole and negativity, made
mental extremism, his combination
it easy to brand him as a reactionary member of an older generation resentfully
and ungenerously rejecting the new; yet his arguments were not entirely lacking
in foundation.
There was nothing in the new novel, he asserted, that had not
already been done, and done better, by James Joyce. The fact that his argument
did not seem convincing and was never taken seriously was due in large measure
to the difficulty of believing that so manifestly vigorous and apparently creative
a cultural phenomenon
could be merely mimetic,4 and it is clearer to us now
that this was a debate between antagonists who were not listening to one another
and did not in any case speak the same language, which explains the oversimplification of the terms in which it was conducted. Hoping to clarify rather
than simplify, we might say that the new fiction was certainly not mediocre,
nor was it merely mimetic, but neither was it entirely new.
There was, in reality, no sudden explosion of the new novel (as, in justice, wise
heads like Cortazar admitted at the time: see his celebrated interview in Life
magazine):5 the boom was in readership, publishing, university and newspaper
all?in
criticism, and?above
propaganda. It was that, quite simply, that was
new. This requires three comments, among others: firstly, the continuity of
Latin American fiction, carefully examined, is unmistakable,
and goes back
almost half a century to Azuela; secondly, despite all the just and unjust things
that may be said about the new novel as the encoded petty-bourgeois response to
a consumer boom and a new cosmopolitanism disguised as a new internationalism
also
the movement
(thus doubly repeating the experience of Modernismo),
appeared to continue that dominant Latin American artistic tradition which considers social concern a minimum and political commitment a maximum requirehad not understood
focus of this paper?Gonzalez
ment; and thirdly?the
too
had
understood
clearly) just how much
(though?alas?he
many things only
the new novel was the material product of Latin America's own literary and eco?
nomic history, and was therefore 'Joycean' not only because it imitated Joyce,
which to some extent it did, but because Latin America was now fully ready for
the 'Joycean' moment of consciousness, which is conjunctural and which in Latin
America had much to do with the contradictory complexity of that time and the
assimilation and focusing of the history of colonialism and neo-colonialism.
The picture can only be sketched in here in its most general outlines, but is
roughly as expounded below. My point of departure is that the 1960s, an age
of energy and optimism in Latin America as elsewhere, cannot be fully under?
stood either in politics or literature, without particular recourse to the decade
with which it is in any case most profitably compared, the 1920s. Between 1918

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and 1929 Latin America truly entered the twentieth century and this period was
or
identified at the time as the decade of the 'new' and of 'modernization',
retrospectively, as one marked by the economics of integration and the politics
of incorporation. In the next period of accelerated political, economic and
cultural change, between 1958 and 1969, Latin America became, through Cuba
(not forgetting Guatemala, 1954), a direct protagonist of the Cold War; and,
once again, in a second age of pluraiist politics and easy money, newness,
and development
modernization
became key concepts, but now with one
crucial difference: whereas in the 1920s the world's first communist revolution
had only just occurred, leaving intellectuals, including artists, free to choose,
either the still untried communist path?
without definitive commitment,
as many in Latin America did?or
some other?usually
populist road (PRI
in Mexico, APRA in Peru), in the 1960s such pluraiist illusions, although generated anew, were quicker to dissolve;6 and whereas in the 1920s the principal
revolutionary model for Latin Americans, inevitably, was not the distant Soviet
one but the equally complex and more ambiguous Mexican experience (Recabarren, Mella, Mariategui, Prestes, F. Marti and other Marxist intellectuals
in the 1960s it was Cuba's 'Third World' communist revolu?
notwithstanding),
tion which provided the intellectual motor, whilst the populist, multiclass
alliances which had united so many artists and intellectuals since the 1920s
and allowed unbroken dialogue among them, rapidly disintegrated as both
the more so because
sides were forced explicitly to commit themselves?all
the United States, looming ever larger with each passing decade, had now
become the principal economic, political and ideological antagonist of that
same Soviet Union on which Cuba, in the face of the imperialist blockade, had
been forced to depend.
The young Arielist students ofthe
1918 Cordoba movement had quickly
put most of Rodo's philosophical idealism and Dario's literary posturing behind
them, identifying themselves, in the wake of the First World War, Mexico and
the October Revolution, with the material world ofthe Latin American peasantry
and its incipient worker movements, on the lines envisaged by the great Peruvian
Gonzalez Prada. Sometimes
missionaries (on the Vasconcelos
intellectual
sometimes
revolutionaries,
invariably educators and propagandists
model),
among the people (the muralists, the popular universities organized by Haya,
Mella and others), that generation, born with the twentieth century, originated
a link between students and workers and a practice of student political activism,
which would henceforth characterize Latin American social life and would
reach one of its great crescendoes in the 1960s, another great age of student
revolt world-wide, when in Mexico of all places, exactly half a century after
the Cordoba movement, the aspirations of another generation of student rebels
came to a bitter end at Tlatelolco, as authoritarianism again became generalized
in Latin America, a year after the death of Guevara and a few months after the
frustration of the Parisian May.
In the 1920s many young Latin American students yearned to be poets,
usually at first on the model of a Dario whom they know only too well to be
outmoded (even though he had called his movement 'Modernist'): like him they
wanted to travel to the 'City of Light', there to undergo aesthetic, erotic and
political adventures; like him, most of them turned to journalism as a means of

THE OPTICALILLUSIONS

OF THE 1960s IN LATIN AMERICA

57

in Paris . . .'),
earning a living, travelling the world ('from our correspondent
and engaging in writing as a profession; although, unlike him, in that decade
in which the aesthetic and ideological attractions of France intermingled in?
extricably with the speed, dash, variety and sheer athleticism of the American
Way of Life, they embraced the role of reporter 'enthusiastically', if not wholeheartedly, for their inner soul still yearned for Art. The period of Spanish
American literary Modernismo was over, and the period of Vanguardismo (that
in Britain, North America and Brazil is known as
is?confusingly?what
One ofthe striking
Modernism) had begun (and still?-presumably?continues).
features of Latin American literature at that time, we can now perceive, was the
contrast between the image of poetry and that of fiction. In poetry at least,
the continent was already fully modern, in the sense that numbers of poets?
Huidobro, Borges, M. de Andrade, Bandeira, Vallejo, Neruda?were
writing
as
poetry fully as 'up to date', innovative and recognizably twentieth-century
anything being produced in Europe, the Soviet Union or the United States.
(Moreover, poets like Luis Carlos Lopez, Baldomero Fernandez Moreno and,
above all and again, Vallejo, were initiating a line of deliberately prosaic, conversational poetry which remains fertile and relevant today.) The novel, how?
ever, is always slower to mature (in the end it is always a historical, retrospective
genre, whose best achievements seem to take at least thirty years to find focus),
and in the 1920s, the age of both Mexican muralism and the cosmopolitan
avant-garde, we see in literature a contrast?broadly
speaking?between
a poetic expression whose dominant mode was cosmopolitan,
produced by
international
experience and orientated in the same direction; and a nativist
etc.?some
where between
creolist, telluric, indigenist,
fiction?regionalist,
realism and naturalism, whose impetus had been both accelerated and shaped
by the Mexican Revolution, which in the 1930s would turn increasingly towards
Soviet-style socialist realism, and which at that time, not entirely paradoxically,
was thought to be the most innovative current in Latin American literature.
Superficially this looks like a divorce between the genres in terms of the ap?
proach to form and content. Yet the novelists who were closest to the poets
(and who were usually also poets themselves) were young avant-garde writers
like the Guatemalan Asturias, author ofthe brilliant quasi-ethnological Leyendas
de Guatemala (1930), the Argentinian Borges, who was already intermingling
literature with criticism in quite new ways, the Cuban Carpentier, with his
Afro-American Ecue-Yamba-0
(1933), and the incomparable Brazilian Mario
de Andrade with his pathbreaking novel about the Brazilian culture-hero
Macunaima (1928). It was to these writers that the future belonged.7 In the case
of the Spanish American trio, the full dimensions of their talents would not
become apparent until the 1930s and?due
to the nature ofthe 1930s and the
intervention of the Second World War?would
only become visible after 1945;
and even then only relatively so, because not until the 1960s, as we have noted,
did the complex Latin American and international conditions of education,
readership and publishing combine to produce a situation in which the achieve?
ments of Latin American art could be relatively quickly and generally recognized,
both in Latin America and further afield.
Because that same period, the 1960s, also saw a remarkable intensification
and flowering of Latin American fiction?what
has been called the boom?it
is

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not surprising, in retrospect, that the achievements of that earlier generation of


writers?Asturias,
Borges, Carpentier, Marechal (author of one of the great
even of a later generation?
Joycean novels, Addn Buenosayres (1948))?and
a
Roa
for
Rulfo, Onetti,
Bastos, Arguedas?should
long time have been eclipsed
or, when recognized, radically differentiated from the boom which, if some
promoters of megaphone criticism has been believed, must either have been the
product of a virgin birth or of some newly discovered island, like Columbus's
not only very largely the
America.8 Yet that 1960s fiction?to
repeat?was
of
had
the
fiction
which
as
all literature is produced
product
gone before, just
of real history and literary history, but it was also
by varying combinations
the climax and consummation
of Latin American Modernism in the AngloAmerican and Brazilian sense. In short, the development of Modernist fiction,
which in Europe had really begun in Flaubert's day and reached its climax with
Joyce (followed, as I see it, by a long decline, which still continues), took
longer to complete in Latin America, where it began in the 1920s (though even
here, critics beware: Brazil had a Machado de Assis in the last quarter of the
nineteenth century), partly because it took that long for conditions in Latin
America to reach an equivalence, however inexact in the neocolonial context,
to what they had been in Europe in the 1920s, and partly because it takes that
in this
long for influences in fiction to work their way through?particularly
case, because, as I shall now attempt to indicate, the new Latin American novel
of the 1960s was a very specific kind of fiction, unequalled since Joyce himself
in its structurally implicit claims and ambitions. At the same time, and in the
light of these claims and ambitions, it is essential to understand that although
a part of the explanation is based on concepts of cultural lag, dependency and
one-way influences, it is by no means as simple as this, since, as we have seen,
there were on the one hand many Latin American writers and artists, above all
those resident in Europe, who in the 1920s were already producing avant-garde,
'modernist' works; and on the other hand, there are many conventionally
bourgeois or provincial artists in Europe and North America, as well as in Latin
America itself, who have still not assimilated the impact and implications of
1920s Modernism and thus continue to produce what in style and ideology we
could almost call nineteenth-century
works. Moreover, there have been few
Kafkas, Picassos, Joyces, Prousts, Stravinskys or Einsteins anywhere since the
1920s, and even the cinema can hardly be said to have made 'progress' as an art
form since the days of Griffith or Eisenstein. In other words, if we are to look
for progress in recent art, it is not to 'high' art that we should look.
As an aside it may be worth drawing the reader's attention to a debate on
was Modernism and where has it gone to??which
this very topic?what
has
appeared in New Left Review since the present paper was discussed at the
Society's Cambridge Conference in April. Perry Anderson published a critique,
'Modernity and Revolution', of Marshall Berman's recent work on Modernism,
All that is Solid Melts into Air.9 Briefly, Anderson rejects Berman's thesis that
artistic modernism opened the way to a new, universal aesthetic and presents
an interpretation of the period very close to the one outlined in the present
paper and elsewhere. Speaking ofthe 1960s, which he too explicitly compares
with the 1920s, Anderson sees the perspective for artists and intellectuals as
one of 'ambiguity?an
openness of horizon, where the shapes of the future

THE OPTICALILLUSIONS

OF THE 1960s IN LATIN AMERICA

59

could alternatively assume the shifting forms of either a new type of capitalism,
or of the eruption of socialism?which
was constitutive of so much of the
original sensibility of what had come to be called modernism' (p. 109). After
asserting, as I have, that Modernism lost its creative thrust and came to a virtual
full stop after 1930, he goes on: 'This is not true, manifestly, of the Third
World. It is significant that so many of Berman's examples of what he reckons
to be the great modernist achievements
of our time should be taken from
Latin American literature. For in the Third World generally, a kind of shadow
configuration of what once prevailed in the first world does exist today' (idem).
Anderson's article, and Berman's reply, 'The Signs in the Street' (ibid., pp.
114-23), are essential reading for anyone interested in the debate on modernism
and the directions of contemporary art and criticism.
Turning, then, to the Latin American novels of the 1960s, they were essen?
tially, in my opinion, 'Ulyssean' works. Although Joycean novels continued to
be published in the West, no achievement ever matched his. Ulysses, as I have
tried to show in previous essays,10 and as Anderson implicitly confirms, was the
supreme literary product of a peculiarly fertile, highly charged conjuncture,
at the moment where the old European regime really was?or
so it seemed?
be
to
to
laid
and
when
new
modern
some
world?which
rest,
finally
might be
either communist
or capitalist?was
itself
with
and
a
vigour
imposing
speed
which the mind could barely encompass, due to a confluence of forms which
Anderson summarizes as follows: 'European modernism in the first [thirty]
years of this century thus flowered in the space between a still usable classical
technical present, and a still unpredictable political
past, a still indeterminate
future. Or, put another way, it arose at the intersection
between a semiaristocratic ruling order, a semi-industrialized
capitalist economy, and a semiemergent, or -insurgent, labour movement' (p. 105). Suddenly, writers ofthe
period, above all in the 1920s, were able to take a step back, gain perspective
and write works which were no longer, in their one-dimensional
'realist'
secret metaphors for their own terminal lifespan, but metaphors
historicity,
for the whole of human experience since the earliest times. It was of course the
of the social sciences, especially ethnology, which had made such
development
a development possible, viewed from the standpoint of a western civilization
whose own belief systems were in a state of disarray, at once underlining the
relativity of culture and making mythology and mystification ever more alluring
to the?reluctantly?profane
mind of capitalist consciousness.
The key features of the Ulyssean novel (rather than of the later Finnegans
Wake, which, overflowing, inaugurates post-modernism) were the following:
(1)

(2)
(3)

The quest for totality (an aspect repeatedly emphasized by Vargas Llosa,
Cortazar and Fuentes in referring to their own literary aspirations, though
most comprehensively
achieved by Garcia Marquez in Cien ahos de
soledad).
The use of mythology, whether to fashion and unify history or to negate it.
Aheightened, and indeed insuperable awareness and exploration of language.
(The relation of language to mythology becomes a key concern in ethnology
from the early nineteenth century, and reaches its highest point in LeviStrauss' version of structuralism: see Rowe's paper in this issue).

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A preoccupation with 'consciousness' as it streams and flows from language


to myth and back again.
of, the human
(5) The coincidence between, and even the superimposition
mind and the image of the city as site and subject of the novel over the
course of time: a perspective from modernity on the roads leading to it.
with the relation between urban and rural, high and
(6) A preoccupation
popular, written and oral culture (seen most clearly not in the boom writers
but in their forerunners: Andrade, Asturias, Borges and Carpentier).
(7) Flowing from all this, a twin concern with both artistry and craftmanship.
(4)

This Ulyssean model, whose labyrinthine passage through everyday life was
emulated by Woolf and Faulkner, was in fact peculiarly apposite for Latin
America, where the challenge of uneven development was even more complex
than in Joyce's Ireland. But in the 1920s, unsurprisingly, Latin Americans were
not fully ready for these innovations (nor, come to that, were most Europeans,
nor are they still), sensing, no doubt, that such a climax of bourgeois conscious?
ness was the ultimate moment of balance and focus before a great many other
things finally became clear, the result being a choice between a totally consumerist art orits total politicization. In any case, and ironically, Latin American
writers had first to travel through the avant-garde and the consciousness of
modernity before they could then turn again and conduct their own quest for
identity, had first to understand the world before they could understand them?
selves. But this quest, for the Third World intellectual, involves more mirages
and illusory reflections than even Alice had to negotiate, as soon as he tries to
move beyond the culture and the aesthetics of hunger (see Randal Johnson's
illuminating study of Brazilian cinema in this issue). At any rate, it was the
Parisian generation of Latin Americans of the 1920s who began this quest,
which they completed some time after the Second World War (when Asturias
completed Hombres de maiz and Marechal completed Addn Buenosayres)?
significantly enough, at the time when Paz's The Labyrinth of Solitude concluded that Latin Americans were now 'the contemporaries of all men', a historic
statement which contained both a striking truth and a great falsehood; and it
was the next Parisian generation (some of whom also resided in London and
Garcia Marquez, Fuentes, Vargas Liosa, etc.?who
Barcelona)?Cortazar,
to a climax and a close in the
brought this literary-historical phenomenon
1960s, with works like Cortazar's Rayuela (1963), Cabrera Infante's Tres tristes
tigres (1963), Vargas Llosa's La Casa Verde (1966), Lezama Lima's Paradiso
(1966), Garcia Marquez' Cien ahos de soledad (1967) and Fuentes' Terra nostra
(1975).
Each of these novels was about a quest or quests; each was also about the
nature of Latin American identity; each also provided a metaphor or metaphors
for the course of Latin American history?since
the creation, the conquest,
independence, the birth of the author, etc. Each was linguistically exploratory
and structurally mythological, preoccupied with consciousness, obsessed with
the woman both as muse and materiality: in short they were Joycean, Ulyssean
works, products of patriarchal idealism inspired by and dedicated (though not
addressed) to Penelope, the Other, the world of matter, the female, the people,
the nation, Mother America. Their writers had come to see, explicitly or

THE OPTICALILLUSIONS

OF THE 1960s IN LATIN AMERICA

61

implicitly, largely thanks to the Cuban Revolution (see Gonzalez in this issue),
that no writer could produce the Great Latin American Novel without a con?
sciousness of colonialism as the determining structural fact of Latin American
into the very structure of
history, and without integrating this consciousness
his fiction. This was not entirely new, however: it was just that a new generation
had to learn again what had been known in the 1920s, and writers like Andrade,
Asturias, Carpentier, Rulfo had already shown the way to a fiction which
would make the Latin American Oedipal quest for historical self-knowledge
and identity its central structuring motif. The real story ofthe new novel, then,
is of a moment in Latin American history when the Joycean novel became
both generally writable and unavoidable. That process was demonstrably com?
plete when, in 1976, Jorge Adoum's novel Entre Marx y una mujer desnuda,
lamented not only the impossibility of writing 'after Joyce' but also, much more
definitively, 'after Cortazar'.
To begin to sum up, then, the major optical illusions of the period in narra?
tive literature among writers, critics and the public in Latin America and abroad,
were:
(1)

(2)

The implicit assumption


that anti-imperialism
was the same as anticapitalism, and hence revolutionary, exemplified in the particular interest
shown by both Cortazar and Fuentes in the Parisian May of the 1968,
the inverted logic of Vargas Llosa's belief that 'a great flowering of the
novel always foreshadows great historic transformations of society', and the
euphoric conclusion of Cien ahos de soledad.11 It was, paradoxically, just
this confusion (what Anderson calls 'the imaginative proximity of social
which allowed both
revolution', p. 104), this fertility of contradiction,
the growth and the publicizing of the new novel.
The idea that the New Novel was genuinely and overwhelmingly
new,
rather than the intensification
and consummation
of a process, thereby
confusing a publishing and advertising event (the boom) with a literary
phenomenon (the allegedly new novel).

One demonstration
of this is the remarkable rapidity with which the boom
novel was followed
novel and its accompanying
by the post-boom
poststructuralist criticism (see Rowe and Frenk), whose main characteristic has
been its complete surrender to the free play of language and the loss ofa histor?
ical perspective.12 For what must be conceded, despite all that I have said, as
rather more than a quantitative difference between the writers ofthe late 1950s
and 1960s and their predecessors, was that the former had developed not only
a focused historical perspective on Latin American 'development'
as a whole
from the vantage point of a critical juncture within neocolonialism,
but also,
in particular, on the regionalist literature ofthe 19!20s, which Fuentes cruelly
parodied in his La nueva novela latinoamericana (1969) and Vargas Llosa concalled 'pre-literature'.
temptuously
Arrogant or not, it was this historicaldevice
metaphorical-mythological
framing
(a Joycean procedure), since lost to
Latin American fiction as to that of the developed capitalist nations, which
allowed those works to appear both local and 'universal' (acceptable to liberal
Europeans) in perhaps the only way possible for a Third-World writer. The
recent success of Salman Rushdie ('An author to welcome to world company . . .',

62

BULLETIN OF LATIN AMERICAN RESEARCH

according to the New York Times), strongly influenced by Garcia Marquez


and similar in perspective to a number of Latin American writers of the 1960s,
is the clearest possible illustration of this. Now, however, at a moment when that
particular bubble has unquestionably burst, we are left to wonder whether Latin
American literary culture has finally caught up with that of the 'First World'?
whether we can
thereby explaining its relative sterility at the moment?or
look forward, as I suspect, to another burst of creativity, in the age of moon
voyages and galactic exploration, around the flve hundredth anniversary of
Columbus's first landing, where the story of'Latin' America began. What we can
already say is that in some of their early novels the greatest of the writers
caught up, to their cost, in the boom (Cortazar, Fuentes, Garcia Marquez,
emulated the achievements of the earlier?and
Vargas Llosa), undoubtedly
in producing global metaphors for Latin American
equally great?writers
history which will still seem entirely appropriate when Colombus's anniversary
is celebrated.
NOTES
1 . It was there that Goytisolo, in collaboration with Carlos Fuentes, Mario Vargas Llosa,
Jorge Semprun, Carlos Franqui and others, launched in September 1971 a magazine
with the symbolic title Libre, partially in response to the Padilla Affair. This was
only one of a number of similar phenomena which marked the divorce between Cuba
and the most representative liberal intellectuals of the capitalist world.
2. See especially D. Vinas, A. Rama et al. (1981), Mds alld del boom: literaturay mercado,
Marcha Editores (Mexico), for information on these aspects.
3. Gonzalez' assaults were not actually published in Mundo Nuevo, only the response
to them. His main argument is outlined in 'El Ulysses cuarenta anos despues', in his
Ensayos criticos (Caracas, 1963); 'Consideraciones sobre la novela' (1966), in Notas
criticas (Havana, 1969); and 'Apostillas a la novela latinoamericana', Zona Franca,
111:48 (Caracas, August 1967), pp. 4-9. Gonzalez was supported by Ignacio Iglesias,
'Novelas y novelistas de hoy', Mundo Nuevo, 28 (October 1968), pp. 84-8, and by
Guillermo de Torre, 'Para una polemica sobre la nueva novela', Mundo Nuevo (April
1969), pp. 83-5; and opposed by Moises Ladron de Guevara, 4En torno a la nueva
novela latinoamericana', Mundo Nuevo, 34 (April 1969), pp. 86-7 and Antonio Pages
Larraya,'Tradicion y renovacion en la novela hispanoamericana', ibid., pp. 76-82.
4. See my 4OnDictatorship and Rhetoric in Latin American Writing: A Counter-Proposal',
Latin American Research Review, 17, 3 (1982), pp. 207-27. This was written in
response to Roberto Gonzalez Echevarria, "TheDictatorship of Rhetoric/The Rhetoric
of Dictatorship: Carpentier, Garcia Marquez and Roa Bastos', LARR, 15, 3 (1980),
pp. 205-28. Gonzalez Echevarria writes from Yale, whose propagation of recent
French critical doctrine is well known. The polemic may be considered instructive as
to the current divorce between text-based and context-based criticism, though the
objective for all of us, of course, must be to unite these approaches. This I attempted
to do in my critical edition of Miguel Angel Asturias' Hombres demaiz (Paris, Klincksieck, and Mexico, Fondo de Cultura Economica, 1981), undoubtedly one of the
crucial Joycean precursors of the entire 1960s literary phenomenon.
5. 'Un gran escritor y su soledad: Julio Cortazar', Life en Espanol, 33:7 (Mexico, April
1969), pp. 43-55. In this interview Cortazar took up the Faustian challenge of the
mass media. The interview was conducted by Rita Guibert and translated into English
in her Seven Voices (Vintage, New York, 1973).
6. Once again the Padilla Case was the climax of this process, prompting anti-Cuban
aliance between writers like Paz, Fuentes, Vargas Llosa and Goytisolo, part of whose
project was the recuperation of conservative modernists like Borges. As well as Libre
(September 1971), mentioned above, such writers founded other journals, most
notably Paz's signiflcantly named Plural (1971-76), which, when the Echeverria

THE OPTICALILLUSIONS

7.
8.

9.
10.

11.

12.

OF THE 1960s IN LATIN AMERICA

63

government moved to intervene, he replaced by another magazine, Vuelta, which again


was explicitly 'apoliticaT.
Other writers of the 1920s whose reputation has also grown in recent years are the
Argentines Roberto Arlt and Macedonio Fernandez. See Donald Shaw, Nueva narrativa
hispanoamericana (Madrid, 1981), chap. I.
The principal propagandist of the boom was the eminent Uruguayan critic Emir
Rodriguez Monegal, whose influential 'The New Novelists' appeared in the famous
Latin American number of Encounter in 1965 (like Mundo Nuevo, Encounter turned
out to have been partially funded by the CIA). In 1966 Rodriguez Monegal became
the first editor of Mundo Nuevo and later Professor of Latin American Literature
at Yale. In 1969, stung by Rodriguez Monegal's deprecating and, in my view, ahistorical
and inaccurate rejection of Asturias, a writer whom I admired (and on whom, it must
be said, my academic future depended), I wrote a reply, 'Emir Rodriguez Monegal y
"Los dos Asturias" ' (Revista Iberoamericana, no. 69, pp. 505-16), which, for all its
limitations, was one of the first academic articles to question the originality of the
boom. Myperceptionshave developed, but not fundamentally changed, since that time.
Rodriguez Monegal published his El boom de la novela latinoamericana in 1972
(Caracas). See also Jose Donoso, Historia personal del boom (Barcelona, 1972).
New Left Review, 144 (March-April 1984), pp. 96-113.
See particularly 'James Joyce and Latin American Fiction', a paper presented at the
James Joyce Centenary Symposium in Dublin in June 1982, to be published in James
Joyce: The Centenary Symposium, University of Illinois Press, in 1985.
Key texts in this regard are Carlos Fuentes' Paris: la Revolucion de Mayo (Era, Mexico,
1968); Cortazar's poems, 'Noticias del mes de mayo' (on Paris and Prague, 1968) and
'Policritica en la hora de los chacales' (on the Padilla Affair, 1971); and O. Collazos,
J. Cortazar and M. Vargas Llosa, Literatura en la revolucion y revolucion en la literatura (Siglo XXI, Mexico, 1970).
Two writers who produced strategies for going beyond the boom and its critical
consciousness whilst avoiding the dangers of the so-called post-boom novel, were
Manuel Puig and Augusto Roa Bastos. See my lYo el Supremo: the Dictator and his
Script', Forum for Modern Language Studies, 15, 2 (1979), pp. 169-83, reprinted
in S. Bacarisse (ed.), Contemporary Latin American Fiction (Edinburgh, Scottish
Academic Press, 1980), for an assessment of what kind of literature might constructively emerge from the semiological debris of the boom.