Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Of Literary Tradition and Cultural Imperialism: Latin American Literature Has Some New Names

Brent J. Carbajal.

d Cultural Imperialism: Latin American Literature Has Some New Names
One need only quickly browse the literary offerings at his local megabookstore to realize that literature is big business and that the marketing of books is perhaps more important today than it ever has been. An author certainly might make some semblance of a living without Oprah Winfrey’s stamp of approval, or even without any "reader’s club" designation whatsoever. Without this the author might even achieve a certain academic reputation as a "serious" writer owing to the almost underground quality of his work and the fact that the masses haven’t read it. It remains, however, that in order to sell books and be "critically important," an author is well-served by forming part of a movement or generation, commercial or theoretical in nature, that might represent new ideas, reject perceived tired forms and motifs, and signal bold changes on the literary, even canonic, horizon. An understanding of just this very concept is clearly demonstrated in two recent developments in Latin American literature: the Mexican "Generación del Crack" and the group of writers promoting a literary expression called "McOndo." Interestingly enough, however, while both of these denominations have served their authors commercially and in terms of publicity, they more importantly describe legitimate responses to literary tradition in Latin America. An examination of the precepts, themes and inspiration of these two "movements" shows that indeed literary reality in Latin America has changed since the "boom" of forty years ago, and Latin American authors today balance a strong appreciation for that tradition with a healthy aversion to perpetuating forms and themes that they believe have either become banal or that simply no longer serve to portray their 21st century realities.
It this presentation I examine the literary origins and cultural implications of the "McOndo" literature promoted by Chilean Alberto Fuguet and the "Crack" novels of Mexican authors Jorge Volpi, Ignacio Padilla, Eloy Urroz, Pedro Angel Palou, and Ricardo Chávez Castañeda. As a result of the great commercial success of "magically real" Latin American literature, and a changing cultural reality in Latin America, these authors have forged a new type of Latin American literature, one that they present as worthy of its heritage, but possessed of a stylistic and thematic universality characteristic of the new multicultural environment it portrays.


Brent J. Carbajal  (United States)
Associate Professor of Spanish
Department of Modern and Classical Languages
Western Washington University

  • Latin American literature

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)