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HUMANITIES 541 Pablo Urbanyi. The Nowhere Idea Williams-Wallace. 169 Nain N6mez, editor. Chilean Literatllre in Canada/Literatura chilena en Canada Ediciones Cordillera. xxiv, 248 The publication in English translation of Hispanic literature is a recent phenomenon in Canada. This is in part a response to the growth of the Spanish-speaking community, whose numbers have swelled with the arrival of exiles from Chile since 1973 and latterly of Argentinians and other Latin Americans. Among these newcomers to Canada are artists, musicians, writers, scholars, and intellectuals. Like the thousands of Spanish intellectuals at the end of the Spanish Civil War, who scattered to all parts of the globe and in most cases soon settled down to continuing their work in exile, the contemporary Latin American emigres have quickly reacted to the cultural shock of finding themselves marginalized and bereft of their natural reading public. In his perspective introduction to Chilean Literature in Canada/Literatura chilena en Canada, Nain N6mez touches on this basic deprivation as well as other problems of adaptation to a new cultural environment. The Chilean writers in N6mez's anthology for the most part deal bifocally or indirectly - if at all - with their Canadian experience. Though some of the writing does deal with the intertwined themes of here (Canada) and there (Chile), the mood is rather uprootedness, disenchantment, and solitude presented in the confines of their earlier sometimes harrowing Chilean experience. By contrast, Pablo Urbanyi's novel, published in Argentina under the title of En ninguna parte and translated as The Nowhere Idea, places the focus on Canadian academia. The Nowhere Idea is a campus novel with a difference. As well as being a slashing satire of the scholarly world and indeed a witty commentary on North American life in general, it offers a comparative analysis of mentalities - the Hispanic and the AngloCanadian . The characters include academics of British, Spanish, Cuban, Chilean, and Argentinian background. This multicultural element is the source of some of the riotous humour in the book. The narrator, referred to as 'the author: is Argentinian (as is the author himself). He is a kind of editor-cum-assembler, who draws on his notes, on tape recordings and the remarks and opinions of other characters to recreate the extraordinary events following a bloody scuffle between two professors over the possession of an idea. The fisticuffs lead to a legal battle between the academic antagonists. In fact, the events themselves are of consequence only in so far as they allow the author to give vent to his talent for hilarious social comedy, for extracting humour out of ballooning 542 LETTERS IN CANADA 1982 absurdity. Like Donald Barthelme, though in an altogether less postmodernist vein, Pablo Urbanyi excels as a 'stand-up comic.' If the humour is sometimes slap-up, it also assumes more complex ironic forms. The whole structural patterning of the novel contributes powerfully to the satiric effect of the writing, based as it is on the paradigm of the academic study, with its barrage of footnotes and tone of convoluted pedantry. This parodic use of the genre of academic writing is Urbanyi's main contribution to the sub-genre of the campus novel. It enables him to launch a blistering attack on scholars' pretensions and bloated self-importance from within the texture of the writing. Every line, every footnote is triple-edged: surface academic earnestness bearing deeper self-reflective ironies and producing comidsatiric effects. Interestingly enough, Pablo Urbanyi, unlike other exponents of the academic novel such as Kingsley Amis, Malcolm Bradbury, Jack McLeod, or Robertson Davies, was not, at the time of writing his novel, a full-time professor, but a wickedly observant onlooker, a part-time lecturer on the fringes of university departmental life. This, along with his selfconscious emigre stance, goes some way towards explaining the sheer vehemence of the satirical discourse. For there is an attitude of vindictiveness in The Nowhere Idea, as any visitor drawn by curiosity to spend an afternoon in the Spanish Department at Ottawa University would soon confirm. In creating characters for ridicule, Urbanyi stayed close to his real-life models, whereas his few positive characters are composite figures, tissued out of his ideal self and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 541-544
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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