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Reviewed by:
  • Tamara Mitchell
Franco, Sergio R. Pliegues del yo: Cuatro estudios sobre escritura autobiográfica en Hispanoamérica. Santiago de Chile: Editorial Cuarto Propio, 2015. 309 pp.

Sergio R. Franco's Pliegues del yo: Cuatro estudios sobre escritura autobiográfica en Hispanoamérica (2015) moves beyond the murky waters of truth-value and authenticity in its examination of twentieth- and twenty-first-century Spanish-language autobiographical texts. To do so, Franco considers the economic, sociopolitical, and cultural contexts in which the autobiographical impulse has ebbed and flowed in the Latin American literary tradition of the past century. Pliegues del yo takes a multidisciplinary approach to its assessment of a wide range of texts, including memoirs, diaries, causeries, and visual media, examining these primary sources from a host of theoretical vantage points and disciplines, including semiotics, historical materialism, philosophy, philology, and, of course, literary criticism. The four chapters stand as individual inquiries unified by their shared interest for texts in which the author and narrator share the same "yo."

Chapter one, "La emergencia del discurso autobiográfico en Hispanoamé-rica," begins with a brief outline of how seventeenth-century Latin American autobiographical texts served as a strategic manner of appropriating subjectivity once denied to particular demographics—for instance, in the case of Comentarios Reales [End Page 718] de los incas (1609) of mestizo Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, or "Respuesta a Sor Filotea de la Cruz" (1691) of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. Relatedly, there is brief mention of the nineteenth-century autobiography utilized as a means of incorporating oneself into the national imaginary, as in Recuerdos de provincia (1850) of Domingo Faustino Sarmiento (22). Franco then shifts to a discussion of twentieth-century autobiographical impulses, describing how capitalism and bourgeois culture during late modernism led to the figurative "death of the author" in postmodernism (27). The remainder of the chapter explains the resurgence of the autobiographical impulse in the latter half of the twentieth century, with "el deseo de reconocimiento" as one of the principal motivations of many autobiographical texts (30). To comprehend this trend, Franco turns to feminist scholar Nancy K. Miller's "Changing the Subject" (1986): "The postmodernist decision that the Author is dead, and subjective agency along with him, does not necessarily work for women and prematurely fore-closes the question of identity for them. Because women have not had the same historical relation of identity to origin, institution, production, that men have had" (28). Franco's reading extends this critique to other "subalternizados" (30), referencing testimonial narrators, Leftist militants, and homosexual and women authors in patriarchal societies. Finally, Franco discusses other catalysts behind the resurgence of lo autobiográfico, such as economic motivations, questions of old age, and self-justification for posterity.

Chapter two, "Cultura visual y escritura autobiográfica en Hispanoamé-rica: tres usos de lo fotográfico," examines autobiographies accompanied by photographs, putting in tension the autobiography as a text written by one person—in whom "concurren el autor, el narrador y el personaje" (49)—and the accompanying photographs, which introduce authorial strain given that, except in the case of self portraits, the protagonist/subject featured in the image is distinct from the operator of the camera (49). The chapter undertakes a reading of three modalities of visual/textual autobiographies: autobiographies supplemented by photographs (photo as graphic paratext); autobiographies wherein photographs are part of the narrative diegesis (the text actively comments on them); and autobiographies that establish a parallel between the act of writing and that of taking a photo. To elucidate how each of these modalities function, Franco analyzes Gabriel García Márquez's Vivir para contarla (2002), Augusto Monterroso's Los buscadores de oro (1993), Mario Vargas Llosa's El pez en el agua (1993), José Donoso's Conjeturas sobre la memoria de mi tribu (1996), and Salvador Elizondo's Autobiografía precoz (1966), among other late-twentieth-century works.

Focusing on the Mexican tradition, the third chapter, "Autobiografías precoces: Nuevos escritores mexicanos presentados por sí mismos," turns to the 1966–68 series of the chapter's post-colon. This collection of autobiographies serves as an entry point for a critique of the patriarchal, homophobic cultural milieu...


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