restricted access In the Company of Animals: Otherness, Empathy, and Community in De fronteras by Claudia Hernández


The grotesque short stories De fronteras (2007) by acclaimed Salvadoran writer Claudia Hernández depict a context where violence and distrust reigns. Full of cadavers, shitstorms, and animalized, displaced, grieving creatures, the stories appear to invite yet another reading of Central American postwar literature in relation to disenchantment and cynicism. This article, however, highlights the humanist idealism that lurks within the stories and—taking into account different ideas about humanity/animality, compassion, and recognition—proposes both localized and universalist readings of the stories. Playing on Hegel's and Fanon's ideas on the dialectic of recognition, the article shows that underneath the bleakness and desolation depicted in Hernández's stories hides a profound yearning for recognition, restoration, and restitution. The only difference is that in the stories, recognition cannot be found in human relationships, but rather through animal-human relationships. In the stories, being in the company of animals or becoming an animal is a means for envisioning humaneness and empathetic processes of community-building. The stories expose the fallacies of a neoliberal citizenry reduced to an entrepreneurial morality, and instead yearn for acceptance of Otherness, empathetic recognition, and restorative justice.