- Beyond Bolaño: The Global Latin American Novel by Héctor Hoyos
Héctor Hoyos's Beyond Bolaño: The Global Latin American Novel brings Latin American novels (in addition to those written by literary superstar Roberto Bolaño) to the forum of world literature and makes a case for Latin Americanism to seriously engage the world literature paradigm. The result is a multifaceted approach to a set of literary texts that allow for critical discussion of globalization, understood here as the manifestation of late capitalism in different locales since 1989—that is, since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. Hoyos's effort to put Bolaño in dialogue with his contemporaries is a valuable contribution to scholarship on world literature and Latin Americanism alike.
As the title suggests, Bolaño has become a household name (at least in literary circles), which Hoyos attributes to the Chilean author's ability to theorize the present in novel form. One of Hoyos's principal concerns is the singularity of Bolaño's success, which belies the existence of other Latin American authors who similarly offer insights into the cross-cultural flow of people, ideas, and goods in a world no longer defined by center-periphery models. Rightly criticizing the tendency to take one writer as representative of a region, Hoyos brings a number of talented writers into the conversation: Jorge Volpi, Ignacio Padilla, Chico Buarque, Diamela Eltit, Alberto Fuguet, César Aira, Fernando Vallejo, Homero Aridjis, and Mario Bellatin. He offers sustained close readings of these authors' "global novels"—that is, [End Page 588] "novel[s] that can have a world literary standing" (6)—as texts that reflect and refract distinctly global experiences of the post-1989 world in Chile, Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, and Argentina. The literary corpus Hoyos creates is not culturally derivative; these are novels that determine what the global novel is and can be. Drawing on cultural studies, critical theory, and rhetorical and ideological critique, he scrutinizes each text with and against the grain, each chapter interrogating novelistic representations of a particular discourse or symptom of the post-1989 world.
"Nazi Tales from the Americas" examines Latin American takes on the legacy of World War II, including Bolaño's Nazi Literature in America, Volpi's In Search of Klingsor, and Padilla's Shadow Without a Name. Given Latin America's distance from this history, Hoyos sees evidence of how Nazism has become part of a global cultural imaginary and—particularly in the case of Bolaño, who interrogates the Nazi theme more thoroughly than his peers—a broader interrogation of the roots of fascism, which has in fact plagued Latin America. Hoyos reads these forays into the topic (and also Volpi's polemical, if obvious, declaration that literature from Mexico need not be about Mexico) as points of entry into important conversations about divorcing Latin American literature from national frameworks.
In "The Cosmopolitics of South-South Escapism," Hoyos quickly departs from the globetrotting theme of Bolaño's work to explore Buarque's Budapeste. Hoyos is certainly critical of the novel's shortcomings: the uninterrogated machismo and individualism of its characters, as well as its apolitical inattention to history, politics, and even language in its unique choice of locales, Brazil and Hungary in the 1990s. Nevertheless, Hoyos not only signals the disappearance of a metropolitan world center in this tale of travel from the former Third World to the former Second but also exploits the critical potential of reading against the grain to show how discourses of globality shape novels and readers and vice versa.
"All the World's a Supermarket (And All the Men and Women Merely Shoppers)" utilizes this globally recognizable scenario as a site to interrogate the state of "market-driven transnationalism" (28). Beginning with a reading of Eltit's Mano de obra in relation to the Chilean labor history the novel explicitly evokes, Hoyos examines Eltit's critique of the current lack of solidarity among an exploited labor force. He goes on to read...