Ricardo Palma’s Tradiciones en salsa verde was written during the early 1900s but circulated only among his intimate acquaintances, so these “off-color” tales remained unpublished until 1973. The narratives in this collection are stylistically similar to Palma’s several canonical series of tradiciones, but the distinguishing features of this particular series include bawdy themes and ribald humor that are mostly absent from the better-known tradiciones. The select friends who read these narratives would have shared a laugh as they also participated in the social critique that the author mixed in with naked body parts and socially inappropriate male lust. Although hardly shocking by today’s standards, these stories feature desire and sex in a way that was considered offensive within their historical context. The social transgressions narrated within the Tradiciones en salsa verde create bonds between those who (apart, and yet together) read against gender expectations and social repression of sexuality. As such, these tales effectively create a reading “counterpublic” among Palma’s male friends who are asked to share them only with others who would not be easily scandalized. This essay explores the reading communities that this collection encourages through its non-public network of readership, as well as the potential social power of such communities that read against social norms. Tradiciones en salsa verde has long represented a curious footnote in the oeuvre of this canonical nineteenth-century writer, and its “inappropriate” nature reveals the complexity of reading, writing, community, and public space in turn-of-the-century Peru.


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pp. 127-142
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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