Junot Diaz Returns to the Formulas of the Boom?

Melanie Pérez Ortiz has an interesting piece in 80 Grados suggesting that Junot Diaz’s newest book, This Is How You Lose Her, is returning to some of the formulas of The Boom. Oritiz finds it strange that American’s would find his book so interesting and notes that while the exoticism of magical realism that marks The Boom has disappeared in authors like Volpi and Vargas Llosa, each consciously trying to avoid it, Diaz has recentered it with in the ghetto. I haven’t read Diaz’s newest book so I’m not sure I believe it or not. One thing that seemed to plague her piece is the notion that any kind of focus on the actual, necessarily excludes the universal. And the more specific one gets, the more exotic the context.

Es curioso porque, mientras los latinoamericanos como Jorge Volpi (En busca de Kligsor), e incluso Mario Vargas Llosa con su novela más reciente (El sueño del Celta), purgan sus textos de las representaciones más obviamente étnicas o regionales para hablar de tramas globales, Díaz vuelve a la fórmula del Boom, adaptada a los tiempos, claro, puesto que se trata de latinoamericanos en Estados Unidos, criados en el ghetto contemporáneo con anécdotas que pueden ser compartidas por cualquiera que cohabite la vida cotidiana en una ciudad de esas que son más del mundo que de ningún país en específico. Y Díaz, la pega, logrando ganarse premios en Estados Unidos que pocos otros latinos han conseguido (sólo Oscar Hijuelos, con Mambo Kings comparte el Pulitzer con Díaz, quien además este año se acaba de ganar el Genius Grant de la McArthur Foundation).

New Book of Interviews with Boom Authors to be Published in Spanish

El Pais has an interview with Robert Saladrigas who has published a book (Voces del boom) of interviews with authors of the Boom. It is a collection of previously published essays. I’d be curious to see what the interviews are like. Saladrigas has some interesting things to say about the authors in the interview. Rulfo sounds a little unhinged at times, including politically. I wish there was a sample chapter so I could say whether the book is any good.

P. El propio Rulfo decía que aquello no iba a terminar como había empezado. “La Revolución cubana no es ya lo que fue ni lo que prometió ser. En cambio [decía, refiriéndose a la época de Allende, era 1971], Chile está viviendo ahora la experiencia más bonita de Latinoamérica”.

R. Exacto, y hablaba desde México, estaba muy cerca de nosotros… Pero gente como Vargas Llosa, por ejemplo, no decían eso mismo en voz alta. Lo hacía gente como Rulfo, un hombre ya muy mayor que lo veía desde otra perspectiva. Y lo que dice de Chile hay que verlo desde la perspectiva de entonces; desde ahora, claro, se entendería peor.

P. En su libro aparecen ya los rasgos dramáticos de Donoso, Sarduy y Puig, seres que reflejaban una angustia que no se compadecía con su espectáculo exterior.

R. Muy cierto. Fíjate que, además, en el caso de Donoso hoy es casi inconcebible el éxito de un libro como El obsceno pájaro de la noche. No lo leería nadie. Y en aquel momento nos fascinaba. Pero visto en perspectiva, en efecto, el aspecto de algunos de los que has mencionado resultaba patético, alegres y tan tristes.

My Appreciation of Mexican Author Carlos Fuentes, RIP

Carlos Fuentes was one of the first writers who I can really remember inspiring my interest in writing. I was not a reader of literature before I got to college. I read history, but fiction wasn’t something I thought much about. It took sometime for literature to interest me. The first author I can remember was James Baldwin, but after I ran across Juan Rulfo and Carlos Fuentes I saw the real possibilities of great writing. I had been taking one of those classes that only The Evergreen State College could create: one whole quarter (16 credits) dedicated to Mexican literature, history, and culture. It was a truly immersive experience and we read two works of Fuentes: The Death of Artemo Cruz and The Old Gringo. One was a masterpiece and the other one of his many less than stellar efforts. We all knew The Old Gringo was week, but when you have an Artemo Cruz it doesn’t really matter. It was Fuentes at his best: expansive, using history as his tablet, and letting his structural inventions wow young writers to be. After going over his works in class and out, I had to find other books, reading Where the Air is Clear, Aura, Burnt Water, and the Good Conscience shortly after. I particularly identified with the Good Conscience, a coming of age story that was set in Guanajuato, a city I had visited once. Thinking about it now it’s funny that I would find the book so compelling, but he was able to capture something. Later, when I finally made it to Mexico city several I spent a day or two with my head raised, looking for the mansard roofs he had mentioned over and over in Where the Air is Clear, as if finding a sloping roof would explain something about Mexico. It was unnecessary; Fuentes had already constructed a Mexico for me, one that I described in my piece, Just a Handshake is Enough.

A few years later I lost some of my fascination with his fiction. Perhaps it was the unevenness of his later works. They never seemed to have the exciting sense of a man forging a vision of a country. Instead they showed a man whose fiction seemed to be self absorbed. Even then, however, his literary criticism, his ability to talk about writing and writers was always interesting. His book La geografía de la novela was the first book I ever read in Spanish and was an exciting not because it delved into theory, but because he could make writing and the whole process of literature sound important and vital. For Fuentes, literature was more than games for grad students and that sense of passion you read in any article or heard in any interview was kept him interesting even after his later fiction lost some of its weight. Hearing of his passing was a shocker because just the other day I was reading an article in El Pais about his adventures in Buenos Aires for the book fair. He always seemed to be connected to the literary world and could talk about the newer generations and the same time as Cervantes, and, again, it made reading and writing exciting. In an age of e-books, hand wringing about the future of books, and enfeebled academia, despite Fuente’s flaws he made writing and love of literature seem one of the most important endeavors one could undertake.

RIP/DEP

There are plenty of articles and tributes in Spanish that you might want to read.

From La Jornada

Muere el novelista Carlos Fuentes

Travesías de un narrador

La literatura, faro en un país desviado

From El País

Adiós a uno de los pilares del ‘boom’ latinoamericano

Muere el escritor Carlos Fuentes

  • El novelista ha fallecido hoy a los 83 años en México, donde se encontraba hospitalizado
  • La obra y el rigor político del escritor definieron medio siglo de historia de las letras latinoamericanas
Carlos Fuentes, en 2009. / DANIEL MORDZINSKI
Juan Cruz Madrid 95

Era autor de más de 20 novelas y contaba con el Premio Cervantes (1987) y el Príncipe de Asturias (1994). Escribió obras como ‘La región más transparente’ o ‘La muerte de Artemio Cruz’. El velatorio será privado en su casa. A las 13.00 (hora de México) sus restos llegarán al Palacio de Bellas Artes

Memoria y deseo

Se marcha uno de los grandes intelectuales latinoamericanos. Ningún otro combina así creación literaria y reflexión política

Tiempos de Fuentes

Hace poco le decía a Fuentes que la historia de América Latina no era el recuento de sus fracasos, sino el proyecto de futuro

Reacciones en el mundo de las letras

Escritores y artistas lamentan el fallecimiento del autor de una gran obra conocida como ‘La edad del tiempo’

Nuestro Virgilio

Conocí a Carlos Fuentes dos veces, y las dos cambió mi vida. La primera, en 1984, cuando yo tenía 16 años

‘Una curiosidad universal’

Con él desaparece un escritor cuya obra y cuya presencia han dejado una huella profunda