- In(ter)venciones del yo: Escritura y sujeto autobiográfico en la literatura hispanoamericana (1974–2002) by Sergio R. Franco
In In(ter)venciones del yo Sergio R. Franco analyzes the construction and function of the subject in five Latin American autobiographical texts which lie on the margin, as he sees it, of the literary production of canonical authors. His study includes three Nobel Prize winners—Pablo Neruda (Chile) 1971, Gabriel García Márquez (Colombia) 1982, and Mario Vargas Llosa (Peru) 2010—as well as highly acclaimed authors Margo Glantz (Mexico), and Severo Sarduy (Cuba). According to Franco, a critique of the lesser-studied life writings of these authors affords a disruptive reading of their literary corpus as a whole, and provides a differing, or richer, cultural understanding of their place and legacy within Latin American letters. Ultimately, Franco questions the values underlying the Latin American canon itself, as he uses these texts to tease out the conflicts, paradoxes, and hypocrisies concerning national politics, racial privileges, ethnic identity, gender, and sexuality that underlie the critical and popular assessment of these authors.
While not for the lay reader, In(ter)venciones del yo offers students and researchers a textbook review of theoretical approaches to the study of autobiography. Franco tips his hand to the multiple critical perspectives that he will employ with the epigraphs he chooses by Jorge Luis Borges, Gayatri Spivak, [End Page 825] and Oscar Wilde to introduce the book. These diverse quotations sketch a conceptual roadmap of the varied and possible textual formats, grouping of events, and critical, ethical, and aesthetic stances one might take in both writing and critiquing the self and other. This kind of critical re-positioning and re-reading is what Franco attempts in each chapter. Most significant in the panorama of contemporary theories of subjectivity that Franco sketches in the introduction is how he also locates critics from Latin America, as well as Latin Americanists, within a broader Western tradition of autobiographical critique.
Franco begins with a discussion of Confieso que he vivido [Memoirs (1977), trans. Hardie St. Martin], by Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. Confieso was published in Barcelona in March 1974, just six months after the overthrow of Salvador Allende’s government and the Nobel Prize winner’s death (September 11 and 23, 1973, respectively). Franco starts by detailing Neruda’s last chapter, which denounces the bombing of the Chilean presidential palace and rejects the official version of Allende’s death as suicide. Speculation about who actually wrote this chapter and the extent of the editing interventions by Miguel Otero Silva and Matilde Urrutia (Neruda’s wife) serve Franco to delve into the understandings of authorship and how the social contract between writer and reader functions.
Franco subsequently examines the fluidity of this contract by referencing Neruda’s poetry as it corresponds chronologically to the events recalled in Confieso, and in relationship to the self, reader, politics, and colonialism. His reading of Neruda’s poetic works against the memoirs allows him to trace the Chilean’s awakening to an anti-imperialist consciousness, his evolution of thought regarding Stalinism, and the poet’s contradictions between his political beliefs and his actions. Franco points at dialectical tensions in Neruda’s poetry and posits the memoirs as a tool that also enriches the cultural criticism of Neruda as poet and celebrity.
Exemplary of Franco’s process is his focus on Neruda’s use of nature and women in Confieso to represent the corporal, performative, and material nature of identity. Most unsettling here is the scandalous and shocking, but rarely mentioned, account of Neruda’s rape of a Tamil servant woman while he served as honorary consul in Colombo, circa 1929. Beyond a critique of the act itself, Franco questions Neruda’s inclusion of the incident with regard to its functioning within the memoirs and its implication for the construction of the self. Franco analyzes...