After reading Jorge Volpi’s Season of Ash and some of his criticism I have been looking forward to seeing his prize wining El insomnio de Bolívar in print. Letras Libres has given it a mixed review. The basic point is Volpi says there is no national literature and Latin America isn’t filled with strange characters, except that it is. I’m sure it is an interesting read, but it does look flawed.
The problem, almost too much to say it, are not the provocations, large or toothless according to the sensibility to who reads them. The problems are the incoherences: he wants to rescue Latin America from magical realism and in the following act proclaim that Latin American literature has ceased to exist; celebrate that the region has normalized and immediately after proceed to inventory all its abnormalities; protest against the expectation of otherness that the international market has pushed on the Latin American writer, but writing a book in Latin America continues being a field radically different characterized, oy, by its fertile chaos.
El problema, casi sobra decirlo, no son las provocaciones, tremendas o desdentadas según la sensibilidad de quien las lea. El problema son las incoherencias: querer rescatar a América Latina del realismo mágico y, acto seguido, proclamar que la literatura latinoamericana ha dejado de existir; celebrar que la región se ha “normalizado” para, inmediatamente después, proceder al inventario de sus “anormalidades”; protestar contra la expectativa de otredad que el mercado internacional le impone al escritor latinoamericano, pero escribir un libro en el que América Latina sigue siendo un ámbito “radicalmente distinto” caracterizado, ay, por su “fecundo caos”.