Israel Reyes: Humor and the Eccentric Text in Puerto Rican Literature

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Israel Reyes Humor and the Eccentric Text in Puerto Rican Literature Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 2005, ix + 191 pp.

Perhaps because it is deeply rooted in local traditions, the literature of Puerto Rico has not always fit easily within the broader field of Latin American literary writing. The influence of local tradition can be found not only in the works of the writers who have not left the island but also in the work of writers of Puerto Rican background writing in the United States.

In Humor and the Eccentric Text in Puerto Rican Literature, Israel Reyes focuses his literary analysis on the works of Nemesio Canales, Luis Rafael Sanchez, Ana Lydia Vega, and Pedro Pietri, all of them very well known writers. Reyes places these works within the context of specific cultural codes of humour, both as established in the parody of the literary canon and as expressed in the social conventions of Puerto Rican society. Reyes also pays attention to issues connected to Puerto Rican national identity, using them to deconstruct the idea of the narrative of the nation. His analysis is informed by the ideas of several theoreticians, such as Max Eastman and John Morreall, who have centred their works on the study of humour in world literature. The study departs from the literature of the 1930s (Nemesio Canales), passes through the generation of the 1970s (Luis Rafael Sanchez and Ana Lydia Vega), and ends with the literature of the Puerto Rican diaspora (Pedro Pietri). According to Reyes, there is a thematic dialogue in Puerto Rican literature that evolves around the theme of humour. Puerto Rican authors have combined humour with satire, irony, guachafita (Puerto Rican urban slang for humour), jaiberia (slang term for rural humour), and the absurd, creating a unique national literature that distinguishes itself from other Caribbean literatures of the region. These authors also share self-criticism as a textual strategy. Finally, Reyes studies the literature of Puerto Rico in a borderland context: the Puerto Ricans of aca (the Puerto Ricans from here--the Island) and the Puerto Ricans from alla (the Puerto Ricans in the United States).

Humor and the Eccentric Text in Puerto Rican Literature comprises four chapters with an introduction and an afterword. In the introduction, Reyes places the literature of Puerto Rico in a cultural and borderland context. He also states that the theme of humour and its derivatives have been a constant in Puerto Rican literature since the publication of Manuel Zeno Gandia's El Jibaro (1849). …