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CHAPTER4 BEYOND TESTIMONIO IN TWO WORKS BY DIAMELA ELTIT On a particular morning when the artifactuality of law (or any artifact) becomes suddenly and insistently visible , what should be striking is not the fact that the law is not real, or the sense that its reality was a fraud, or that there is no difference between the real and the artifactual, but rather that x (the particular law) is artifice and that the artifice of x entailed at its center, up until last night, the appearance and force and responsibilities of "the real." Elaine Scarry, "The Made-Up and the Made-Real" CLARICE Lispector's novels A Paixao Segundo G.H. and A Hora da Estrela, read within the framework of testimonial discourse 's contradictory construction of marginalized subjectivity and its engagement with socio-political reality, reveal the fictionality of a testimonial subject that conforms to many testimonial readers' desires. The truth of a testimonial informant who is unproblematically representative and who does not conscientiously negotiate the circumstances of her narration is fiction. Testimonial texts do move to democratize authorship and do carry Latin American intellectuals ' concern with the region's realities to a new level of engagement. Nevertheless, the texts emerge from a process that does not allow a neat, pure product from outside that very process. This highlights the shortfalls of poststructuralist theories evolving simultaneously, or subsequent to, the testimonial "boom" in Latin America. In Lispector's two novels tropes of violence, vengeance, ritual sacrifice , and identitarian displacement create other ways of talking about testimonial writing's outcomes in terms of what it materially is: writing and dialogue, a cultural product, a political tool, and not a seamless communion. 197 198 SUBJECT TO CHANGE The Chilean author Diamela Eltit's work eliminates pretenses of sympathetic mediation and self-affirming, satisfying life stories. Eltit's work moves beyond testimonio in that her representations of the completely disenfranchised under Pinochet's dictatorship highlight and exaggerate unstable speaking positions and the multiple physical and linguistic displacements and "deterritorializations" seen in the previous three chapters. Like Lispector, Eltit weaves paradox into the language and the nature of her project, yet she does not even tease us with reconciliation, and the experimentalism characteristic of her work emphasizes multiple interpretations, thereby discarding the visibility of transparent truth. Reconciliation is hampered by the discomfort of these texts where the testimonial speaker or fictional protagonist performs contradictions and accusations with disturbing distress or violence. While displacement is suggested by inconsistencies in testimonio, in Eltit it becomes structurally important and pointedly disconcerting. The schizophrenic speaker of the testimonial El Padre Mia 'Father of Mine' (1989), who never utters a coherent sentence, and the protagonist L. Iluminada of the novel Lumpirica 'E. Luminata' (1983), 1 whose testimony exists in movements, sounds, chalk on pavement, blood, cuts, and burns, seem to seek to bypass the written medium that in testimonio represses contradictions in order to achieve reconciliation in a coherent text. El Padre Mio and L. Iluminada, the protagonist of Lumperica, signal writing's inadequacy for transparent representation of experience (a poetic gesture), and Eltit's emphasis on writing 's presence "translates" that experience by leaving unaltered El Padre Mio's language and fragmenting Lumperica's representation. Eltit ultimately offers another type of solidarity that underscores and undoes her/our interpretive privilege or interpretive powerlessness , and does not provide a packageable narration of marginal identity. At the same time, we are of course still dealing with texts signed by Diamela Eltit, a question to which I return at the end of this chapter. The "beyond" in this chapter's title refers to the way testimonial discourse has constructed identity. Eltit represents marginal subjects who do not negotiate, who problematize their disappearances while they announce their absence from the recognized social body. In contrast with Lispector's interiorized examinations 1 All translations of quotations from Lumpirica are from Ronald Christ's translation , E. Luminata. BEYOND TESTIMONIO IN TWO WORKS BY DIAMELA ELTIT 199 of self and other, el Padre Mio and L. Iluminada bear witness in public spaces. These are not testimanias taken down in intimate convers~tions in someone's home or in a diary. The flesh and blood homeless man of El Padre Mia and the fictional homeless woman of Lumperica do not enjoy the luxury of privacy, nor do Eltit's texts enclose their language between walls of intimacy. Both texts testify to the terror, violence, economic devastation, and distortion of the family under Pinochet. Moreover, Lumperica...


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