restricted access Interviews with Latin American Writers, and: José Lezama Lima's Joyful Vision: A Study of "Paradiso" and Other Prose Works, and: Landmarks in Modern Latin American Fiction (review)
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Marie-Lise Gazarian Gautier. Interviews with Latin American Writers. Elmwood Park: Dalkey Archives, 1989. 359 pp. $19.95.
Gustavo Pellón. José Lezama Lima's Joyful Vision: A Study of "Paradiso" and Other Prose Works. Austin: U of Texas P, 1989. 151 pp. $22.50.
Philip Swanson, ed. Landmarks in Modern Latin American Fiction. London: Routledge, 1990. 269 pp. $55.00 cloth; pb. $16.95.

Recording the personal voices of fifteen prominent Latin American authors discussing their craft is the purpose of Marie-Lise Gazarian Gautier's Interviews with Latin American Writers, and it is carried out admirably. Each interview is prefaced by a concise introduction and photograph, and the ensuing interview is a verbatim transcription of either an in-person or telephone interview with the subject. Gazarian Gautier discusses a wide range of topics with each author, ranging from influences to biographical anecdote to the sense of national identity, probing the motivations behind the prose with special skill. Only four of the fifteen are women—Isabel Allende, Rosario Ferré, Elena Poniatowska, and Luisa Valenzuela, and one could imagine Gazarian Gautier turning her interviewing skills effectively to other women writers in future works. In addition to well-known "Boom" writers like Carlos Fuentes, Mario Vargas Llosa, Manuel Puig, Severo Sarduy, José Donoso, and Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Gazarian Gautier includes pre-Boomer Ernesto Sábato, Puerto Rican playwright and novelist Luis Rafael Sánchez, and the lesser-known Isaac Goldemberg, from Peru. Seven countries are represented, and although the authors interviewed have together worked in various genres, the novel and short story are most often represented. This is so much the case that poet Nicanor Parra almost seems a little out of place here, because every one of the other fourteen has published at least one novel, and twelve are known practically exclusively for their narrative work. Still, the interview with Parra is insightful, and the author probably felt that because such a well-known and respected figure was available, he should be included. Gazarian Gautier has a knack for getting personal anecdotes from her subjects, and if she has the occasional tendency to gush, overall the book amply demonstrates her broad cultural background and in-depth knowledge of Latin American literature. This book makes interesting reading and is an extremely useful reference tool for anyone preparing courses or studies on contemporary Latin-American narrative. A select bibliography for each of the authors is included at the end.

Gustavo Pellén's José Lezama Lima's Joyful Vision: A Study of "Paradiso" and Other Works is a delight to read—an epiphanous experience in critical reading very much in line with the textual epiphanies Pellón so much admires in his subject. In a readable yet very informed first chapter, Pellón discusses the aesthetics of realism, explaining clearly why they are inadequate to the analysis of Lezama Lima, and refuting eloquently those who view Paradiso as a failed realistic novel. In it he explains how the privileged role Lezama Lima accords to imagery necessarily leads him to favor the descriptive elements over the purely narrative, arguing that this does not necessarily mean Paradiso is a failure as a novel but is rather [End Page 592] a different kind of novel. This view diverges sharply from that of critics like Julio Rodríguez-Luis, who attribute idiosyncrasies in Lezama Lima's style to cultural underdevelopment. The charge is best answered by Pellón's concluding chapter, "The Henri Rousseau of the Latin American Boom," in which he argues that Lezama's notorious misspelling of foreign proper names, his made up erudition, and his macaronic Greek and Latin are not the results of naïveté, but rather the sign of his radical originality. Pellón compares these traits to the deliberate primitivism of painter Henri Rousseau, telling how young American painter Max Weber one day took Picasso to watch Rousseau at work on The Muse Inspiring the Poet. Picasso was fascinated, but Weber scoffed at the canvas, pointing out that the muse's arm was as long as her entire body. Pellón insists that such insistence on realism is a stumbling block that prevents the narrowminded from...


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