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Reviewed by:
  • Letras del Reino de Chile
  • Patricio Lerzundi
Letras del Reino de Chile. By Cedomil Goic. Madrid: Iberoamericana/Vervuert, 2006. Pp. 332. Notes. Bibliography. $39.60 paper.

In this volume Cedomil Goic has selected 15 articles he wrote between 1970 and 2005, all focused on literary, historical, or other documents produced about Chile between 1520 and 1820. Articles 1 and 2 refer to Pedro de Valdivia's epistolary style (Valdivia was governor of Chile between 1541 and 1553); articles 3 through 9 concentrate on different aspects of Alonso de Ercilla and his epic La Araucana; articles 10 through 13 deal with different aspects of Francisco Núñez de Pineda y Bascuñán; article 14 is a bibliography on Núñez de Pineda y Bascuñán; and article 15 briefly refers to Chilean wills and testaments of the sixteenth and seventeen century. The volume ends with a general bibliography.

The Introduction guides the reader by providing valuable information about the political, social, historical, ethnic and cultural aspects of Chile in this era. The book, however, lacks a solid structure. Goic could have produced a richer volume, and the articles, while interesting by themselves, are too few and the selection too uneven to do the author or the subject matter justice. He does, nonetheless, a remarkable job of addressing Pedro de Valdivia's rhetorical style of writing letters and analyzes two of them in great detail, but by concentrating on only two of Valdivia's letters, Goic leaves the reader wanting to know more about this important governor.

As for Ercilla, there are seven articles dealing with different subjects, written, as the author indicates, over a period of more than three decades. This explains not only the lack of a unifying theme, but the reason there are significant gaps about the impact Ercilla had on Spain's Golden Age literature. The only reference in this area is to Arauco domado, by Pedro de Oña, a panegyric epic to honor the memory of García Hurtado de Mendoza, governor of Chile between 1557 and 1561. There is no mention, for instance, of a series of "romances" based on La Araucana and published in 1589, 1591 and 1593, when Ercilla was still alive, nor is there information about Ercilla's direct influence on three panegyric plays—Algunas hazañas de las muchas de Don García Hurtado de Mendoza, marqués de Cañete, a collaboration of nine authors led by Luis de Belmonte Bermúdez (1622); Arauco domado, by Lope de Vega (1625), El gobernador prudente, by Gaspar de Avila (1653)—or indirect influence on La belígera española, by Ricardo de Turia (1616); Los españoles en Chile, by Francisco González de Bustos (1665); and the auto sacramental La Araucana, attributed to Lope de Vega (early seventeen century). [End Page 582]

The best articles of Goic's book are those devoted to Pineda de Bascuñán and his masterpiece Cautiverio feliz. Goic wrote an insightful introduction to an exceptional critical edition of the text by Mario Ferreccio Podestá and Raïssa Kordic Riquelme (2001). His comments on Cautiverio feliz, his analysis of a recently found text, and especially the extremely well organized bibliography are useful references for investigators, students and the general public. The article on Chilean testamentary documents is a welcome, if brief, addition to underutilized documents which reveal, as Goic indicates, information on socio-economic status, as well as social and religious customs of the period; a mention here of the last wills and testaments of Catalina de los Ríos y Lisperguer, the infamous "La Quintrala," would have added an incentive to investigate further this fascinating area.

Goic is not a newcomer to colonial literature and his contributions in this area are noteworthy; however, the articles are like skipping stones that touch only on a few aspects of his subject and fall short of what the Introduction promises. Ultimately, the volume is more interesting for its parts than as a whole. One wishes his introduction could have been the gateway to a more thorough and well-developed book.

Patricio Lerzundi
Lehman College, City University of New York
Bronx, New York


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