- Violence in Argentine Literature and Film (1989–2005)
In one of the articles included in Violence in Argentine Literature and Film, Ana Forcinito mentions in passing that one of the two films that she is analyzing (Un muro de silencio, by Lita Stantic) went almost unnoticed in Buenos Aires and that its international reception seemed to show a certain fatigue regarding the theme of the disappeared. This marginal comment in one of the central articles in the anthology could be expanded to include a reflection on the book’s main topic. If there is a certain fatigue regarding the theme of the disappeared, we could also definitely start to see a certain fatigue regarding the theme of violence. Violence and globalization, violence and gender, violence and neoliberalism, violence and memory, violence and post-national spaces; in the last two decades “violence” has emerged as the common denominator for reading Latin America—from contemporary Colombian film to recent Mexican narrative and Southern Cone documentary. Sadly enough, “violence” seems to be to the 1990s what “nation” was to the nineteenth century, “modernity” to the early twentieth century and “politics” to the 1960s: the master code that lies behind every particular reading. Why, then, another book on the topic of violence? Is there anything new that can be said about the relationship between Latin America and violence?
This thematic reticence vanishes if the reader adopts a slightly different perspective when approaching the anthology. If, instead of looking for new insights and further theoretical developments of the theme of violence, he or she sees “violence” as the editors’ choice (one among others: it could have been “gender,” [End Page 160] “nation” or “space”; three other categories that equally permeate the analyses) for articulating an overview of contemporary Argentine culture and its links with the political conjuncture. A strategic choice confirmed both in the editors’ introduction, where the account of the historical background occupies a much larger space than the review of the scholarly literature on violence, and in the content of the articles, where the connection to the theme of violence can be sometimes quite oblique. This attitude toward what the title announces as the main topic of the anthology could be seen as a flaw but also, I would like to suggest, as the book’s main strength, as that which allows Violence in Argentine Literature and Film to be useful for a double reader: for the reader who is new to (or is just starting to work on) Argentine culture, and for the reader who is already aware of the main narrative trends and for whom the articles could be an interesting point of departure for a meta-reflection on an already-established field.
For the first reader (scholars who are new to the field, students and professors who are addressing Argentina in their courses, graduate students who are writing their dissertations on contemporary Southern Cone culture) this book has a pedagogical dimension that makes it quite unique. The introduction does not assume any previous knowledge and leads the reader through the last decades of Argentine history as for the first time. In the same vein, the articles are written in an accessible language and provide careful explanations for even the most well-known categories in contemporary Argentina: escraches, piqueteros, teoría de los dos demonios, Juicio a las juntas, etc. Upon finishing the book, the “new reader” will not only have become familiar with the most common terms in the national glossary, but will also have gained an overarching perspective on the most prominent novels and films (especially the latter: only three articles address literary texts) and on the most recent scholarly work in the field. The bibliography at the end of each article is doubtless one of the strongest features of the collection: updated, cohesive and in dialogue.
For the “experienced reader,” Violence in Argentine Literature and Film serves a completely different function. Already aware of the most canonical cultural products of the last two decades (those which the articles mainly...