- Spanish Language Contributions
Two significant contributions to scholarship on José Martí vis-à-vis American literature (see AmLS 1995, pp. 504–05) appeared in Doris Sommer's "José Martí, Author of Walt Whitman," pp. 77–90, and Susan Gillman's "Ramona in 'Our America,'" pp. 91–111, in José Martí's "Our America": From National to Hemispheric Cultural Studies (Duke, 1998). Within the context of cultural criticism, these two original essays respectively reassess Martí's introduction of Whitman and Helen Hunt Jackson to Latin American readers. Sommer provocatively contends that Martí was seduced by Whitman's posturing as the poet of democracy, was blind to Whitman's anti-Latino imperialism and racism, and invented a Whitman suitable to his ideology of Cuban nationalism. Gillman is less revisionist in explicating Martí's sensitive reading of Ramona, one of the five novels he translated into Spanish. Gillman argues that Martí slanted his reading of Ramona to coincide with the idealistic concept of mestizaje advanced in "Our America" and elsewhere in Martí's writings: "Martí's Ramona owes her affirmative, mixed heritage to the Latin American ideal of mestisaje, or cultural mixing—a term for which there is, tellingly, no English equivalent." Both essays acknowledge Martí's extraordinary role as interpreter and disseminator of American literature, and the entire anthology attests that "Our America" is a fundamental text in Inter-American relations.
The spirit of Mark Twain was also evoked to serve political and ideological currents. Rodrigo Quesada Monge's "1898: Mark Twain, Cuba, Filipinas y el antiimperialismo en Estados Unidos" (Cuadernos Americanos 72 : 175–94) warns against the new imperialism wearing the mask of "globalization" by marking the centenary of the imperialistic U.S. venture in Cuba and the Philippines and by praising Twain's role in the Anti-Imperialist League. Monge's extensively documented essay celebrates Twain as a great writer and world figure, who regrettably is simply seen as a "humorist" while other aspects of his work have been ignored or suppressed. "For a long time Twain's anti-imperialism was hidden or subverted by his editors, who were more interested in selling books than in being faithful to the writer." Posterity now has the record, Monge concludes, of Twain's courageous opposition and his unshakeable conviction that imperialism violated the principles and endangered the bedrock of American democracy. [End Page 512]
Our assertion in AmLS 1997 that Edgar Allan Poe is the most profusely studied American author in Spain and Latin America finds confirmation in José Antonio Gurpegui's "Poe in Spain" (pp. 108–15) and Susan F. Levine and Stuart Levine's "Poe in Spanish America" (pp. 121–29) in Poe Abroad: Influence, Reputation, Affinities, ed. Lois Vines (Iowa). Gurpegui reiterates that Poe's "influence on numerous Spanish writers since the latter part of the nineteenth century is unquestionable," and the Levines point out that "Poe is both highly respected and extremely influential in Spanish America," and the major figures of 20th-century Latin American literature, "along with numerous lesser known figures, have made Poe a major literary force." The most significant contributions to this collection are studies of Poe's influence on Horacio Quiroga, Julio Cortázar, and Carlos Fuentes. Cortázar (1914–84) is especially noteworthy. He translated Poe's complete prose works and added succinct biographical and critical prefaces to those translations. Cortázar's biographical study of Poe has been reprinted as "Vida de Edgar Allan Poe" (Cuadernos de Literatura Infantil y Juvenil 12: 8–32), a special issue devoted to Poe's life and fiction.
Turning to the contemporary scene, Eduardo Lago in "Carta de Nueva York" (CHA 571 : 139–42) joins the chorus that calls Thomas Pynchon "the most important living writer of the United States" and praises his most recent novel, Mason & Dixon, as "a masterwork of contemporary literature." Pynchon's greatness, Lago contends, stems from his ability "to integrate scientific subject matter, icons of pop culture, his profound knowledge of history, the presentation of a radical socio-political context, an intricate symbolic framework and an exploration of the possibilities of language which no one has done since Joyce." Like Joyce's, Pynchon's name has...