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Reviewed by:
  • Football and Literature in South America by David Wood
  • Alejandro González Landeros
Wood, David. Football and Literature in South America. New York: Routledge, 2017. Pp. x + 226. Index. $39.96 pb, $24.98 eb.

Football and Literature in South America is a monograph that provides the first treatment of South American literature binding football—or soccer—and literature from 1899 through roughly 2014. Wood revisits an ample variety of canonical literary movements like Latin American Futurism, the Boom, or Post-Boom (2), for example, to reconsider this literature from a new angle. He also relies on prominent writers, such as Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda, or other authors not widely known like Peruvian Augusto Higa Oshiro. However, as monumental and continental as his work is, uncovering, for example, Brazilian, Argentinian, or Peruvian literature, there is a caveat to this southern map as it leaves on the bench many countries including the most astonishing omission football powerhouse, Colombia (219).

The book maps in ten chapters the development of football and literature. Chapter 1 is a resourceful tool with an overall view on themes that have been of common discussion in Latin American literature; concepts such as modernity, positivism, civilización, and barbarie are some of his highlights (2–9). These concepts form the basis of chapters 2 through 4 to explore the intricacies in football literature, as Wood explores the Spanish and Portuguese South American "early writings," as he refers to them, and provides an in-detail reading of each context. Starting with Horacio Quirogas short story "Juan Polti, Half-Back," from 1918 (16–19), Wood lays the foundation of the Spanish writings—the exception being [End Page 435] an untitled poem appearing in an 1899 edition of El Sport (9)—and continues through Glauco Mattoso's "Soneto para o Jogo Bruto," published in 2010 in the Brazilian context.

For those interested in Chile, Uruguay, or Argentina, chapters 5 through 7 discuss the imagination of football in these countries from Augusto Pinochet's 1973 Coup through implications of the Dirty War. A few examples include "El césped," Mario Benedetti's, "(long) short story" (127) that focuses on the subtle ways in which, during the Dirty War in Uruguay, football dealt with "commercialisation . . . dictatorship and disappearances" (128–29). Even prior to the 1970s and 1980s, the relationship between football and even stadiums in South American literature had been strong, as Wood reminds readers by providing examples from Neruda's speeches and presentations from el Estadio Nacional in 1946 and 1972 (98).

Literature in South America provides new readings of less common football literature. In chapter 9, the first dribbles of women in football are recorded in the 1948 correspondence between Elena Rojas Mercado and Gabriela Mistral in which Mercado acknowledged her football souvenirs (193). Although Wood is skeptical of finding a persuasive or continuous canon of women's football, his contribution to "[c]reat[e] [s]pace" for this corpus opens new ways for other researchers to consider writing (192–3). It is possible that the nonfeatured writings he prefers to avoid (7) but are still evident throughout the book, such as the crónicas (chronicles) or the letters like that of Rojas Mercado, might provide clues to those interested in women's football. Not all women football writings are alike in Wood's book; some, such as "Fútbol" from Peruvian writer Blanca Varela will try to "break free from convention and the limitations on women" (204). Other writings, like Giovanna Pollarolo's "El sueño del domingo" (1991), will not always be as accepting of the sport as she "questions[s] and challenge[s] the conventions of a patriarchy that excludes" (205). In chapter 8, Wood explores the cases of Ecuador and Perú. His analysis goes, among other pieces, to the multivolume Biblioteca del fútbol ecuatoriano" (167), an important contribution that deserves closer reading as it lays out the foundation of a nation that very likely will continue to produce football literature; or to Isaac Goldemberg's Tiempo al tiempo (1984), a unique exploration of Peruvian and Jewish identity through the lens of its character, Marquitos Karushansky Ávila (181). Wood's final chapter provides a few...


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pp. 435-436
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