- Crisis y reemergencia: el siglo XIX en la ficción contemporánea de Argentina, Chile, y Uruguay (1980–2001) by Veró Nica Garibotto
Eva-Lynn Jagoe, Veronica Garibotto, douthern cone culture, nineteenth-ventury literature, César Aira, Roberto Bolaño, Ricardo Piglia, Mauricio Rosencof, Walter Benjamin, Fredric Jameson, Michel Foucault, geontologies, Lisandro Alonso, Lucrecia Martel, postdictatorship, femocratization, post-femocratization, neoliberalism
Why does the nineteenth century continue to figure in Southern Cone culture of the late twentieth century? Why does it re-emerge in contemporary literature and culture with an iconicity that foregrounds the stereotypes of the area—gauchos, soldiers, British travelers, military heroes, captive women, and bellicose Indians? Why, in different moments of crisis since the 1990s—postdictatorship, democratization, postdemocratization—have the tropes of these foundational fictions appeared again and again? In her insightful and intelligent book, Crisis y reemergencia, Verónica Garibotto does not just ask why, but also how. How are the discursive tropes of the nineteenth century reanimated in contemporary culture, and what form do they take? These questions matter because, in seeking to answer [End Page 492] them, we can begin to understand the current moment, to, in a sense, historicize the contemporary.
The reinsertion and representation of nineteenth-century tropes and figures in Argentine literature have been interpreted by many scholars. Some have argued that the appearance of these tropes is ahistorical, purely the affirmation of the literary and of the power of narration. Others, myself included, have argued that the re-emergence of the nineteenth century in twentieth-century literature breaks the opposition of self and other that lies at the heart of the foundational project of national identity. Garibotto asks us to think beyond these two lines of thought, and to consider the shifts and reappearances within the larger political, historical, and affective shifts of the postdictatorial to the postredemocratization moment of Argentina.
Garibotto shapes her argument through Michel Foucault’s analysis of discursive formations and Fredric Jameson’s analysis of the intersections of different modes of production which allow for the emergence of cultural revolution. The uses and representations of the nineteenth century in later historical periods can tell us much about the ideological constraints and possibilities of each subsequent era, and how each era shapes itself in relation to its ever-shifting past. Her book consists of five chapters that follow a diachronic trajectory of texts of the Southern Cone. Her first chapter discusses the postdictatorial allegories of Ricardo Piglia’s Respiración artificial (a canonical Argentine novel that is, she tells us, so sedimented with layers of interpretation that it is difficult to read “freshly”) and Uruguayan Mauricio Rosencof’s play … Y nuestros caballos serán blancos. Their representations of the nineteenth-century man of letters and the caudillo afford the authors the means with which to redefine the ethical intellectual in the face of the downfall of the committed militant intellectuals of the 60s and 70s.
The second chapter reads Tomás de Mattos’s 1988 Bernabé, Bernabé, and the subsequent rewriting of it in 2000, alongside Chilean Darío Oses’s 1994 El viaducto to construct an argument about the frictions between democracy and modernity. Through these texts, Garibotto engages different modes of understanding history, temporality, discourse, and politics in the process of redemocratization. The third chapter works as an inflection point in Garibotto’s argument, because it follows the Pampean cycle of novels that the prolific César Aira wrote over a span of 25 years. In his reiteration and reformulation of the familiar nineteenth-century tropes, Aira functions as a barometer, for Garibotto, of ideological and discursive shifts that mark the period from dictatorship through democratization to the neoliberalism that shaped the 2001 crisis. It is in his writing that Garibotto finds, for the first time in Latin American literature, the nineteenth century functioning as a discursive formation, as a system of enunciability.
The fourth chapter considers Martín Kohan’s rewriting of Esteban Echeverría [End Page 493...