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Invenciones urbanas: ficción y ciudad latinoamericanas (review)

From: Hispanófila
Volume 166, Septiembre 2012
pp. 159-160 | 10.1353/hsf.2012.0029

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Invenciones urbanas: ficción y ciudad latinoamericanas is a compilation of articles published previously between 1997 and 2009. The book is divided thematically into four parts: “Historias desplazadas: itinerarios urbanos del fin de siglo”; “Historia continua: París en el imaginario latinoamericano”; “Historias gráficas: lo visual y lo escrito en el espacio de la ciudad”; “Enseñanza y acción.” In the first three sections, Schwartz analyzes a dynamic relationship between the city space and its inhabitants by exploring how “las palabras y las formas visuales emergen de intercambios productivos con el espacio” (11). In the final section, the author documents her personal experiences of teaching literature in and out of the classroom, testifying to the powerful role of multi-faceted dialogue in the texts’ fluid meaning/s.

The opening section studies the voices traditionally marginalized to the city center. In Chapter One: “Corto circuito: itinerarios trazados por escritoras en antologías de cuentos urbanos,” Schwartz reads post-Boom female writers’ representations of the urban environment showing how they posit their characters in the urban space so as to question conventional constructs of male-power. In her analysis, Schwartz demonstrates how these authors subvert the canonical binary division between the private and the public realms, she explores how these writers empower the female body through sexuality, and she examines the redefinition of class and art through feminine voices. The following chapter is “Del extrañamiento al exilio.” Here, the author effectively borrows the concept of “non-place” from French anthropologist Marc Augé to analyze the “alienación y fragmentación” (67) expressed in the exile literature written at the end of the Twentieth Century by such authors as Cristina Peri Rossi, José Donoso, and Ricardo Piglia.

Following is a series of essays dedicated to the representation of Paris in three authors, attesting to a vibrantly combative cultural and artistic dialogue between the European capital and Latin America that gained momentum during Modernismo. In the first chapter of this section, Schwartz argues that the short stories of Julio Cortázar “restablecen el debate de lo cosmopolita versus lo local, presente en el núcleo de identificación latinoamericana en terrritorio europeo, para refutar la dominación (cultural, política, económica, e intelectual) europea del Nuevo Mundo en terreno del Viejo Mundo” (74). Schwartz effectively demonstrates how the struggle mentioned above consistently translates into one between self and other in Cortázar’s writing, a theme that carries over into the following chapter on Manuel Scorza. Here, Schwartz examines how Scorza’s La danza inmóvil ultimately questions the viability of the “local” in a global world. Finally, the last chapter is dedicated to Guía triste de París by Alfredo Bryce Echenique, a book of what Schwartz calls “viñetas” (138) that offers multiple glimpses of wandering Latin Americans in Paris whose “perfiles sirven para subrayar situaciones interculturales particulares” (137).

Section three steers slightly away from literature to focus on the photography of Cortázar in Chapter 6. In these pages, Schwartz interprets the author’s photographs as a visual accompaniment to his writings in that they ultimately speak to the aforementioned thematic struggle between self and other as they provide “un método visual para viajar más allá de los confines de las rutinas cotidianas” (152) in order to document “las inevitables restricciones frente a los esfuerzos individuales por luchar contra estos confines” (152). The visual dimension key to this chapter flows into the following where Schwartz begins by pointing to what she sees as an absence of the visual arts in the discussion of cultural studies carried on by dominant thinkers such as García Canclini. She dedicates these pages to interpreting Cortázar’s short story “Graffiti” and Argentinian artist Liliana Porter’s murals as efforts to speak to “la falsa dicotomía entre la cultura de ‘elite’ y la ‘popular’ al introducir nuevos usos para el espacio urbano” (180).

Marcy Schwartz closes her study with two chapters linking her scholarly research to her pedagogical experiences as she uses the tension between self and other among individual readers as “una herramienta para el pensamiento crítico” (192) and as a channel to foster acceptance...

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