Women and Power in Argentine Literature: Stories, Interviews, and Critical Essays

Women and Power in Argentine Literature: Stories, Interviews, and Critical Essays

Women and Power in Argentine Literature: Stories, Interviews, and Critical Essays

Women and Power in Argentine Literature: Stories, Interviews, and Critical Essays

Synopsis

The astonishing talent of Argentine women writers belies the struggles they have faced--not merely as overlooked authors, but as women of conviction facing oppression. The patriarchal pressures of the Perón years, the terror of the Dirty War, and, more recently, the economic collapse that gripped the nation in 2001 created such repressive conditions that some writers, such as Luisa Valenzuela, left the country for long periods. Not surprisingly, power has become an inescapable theme in Argentine women's fiction, and this collection shows how the dynamics of power capture not only the political world but also the personal one. Whether their characters are politicians and peasants, torturers and victims, parents and children, or lovers male and female, each writer explores the effects of power as it is exercised by or against women.

The fifteen writers chosen for Women and Power in Argentine Literatureinclude famous names such as Valenzuela, as well as authors anthologized for the first time, most notably Maréa Kodama, widow of Jorge Luis Borges. Each chapter begins with a "verbal portrait," editor Gwendolyn Déaz's personal impression of the author at ease, formed through hours of conversation and interviews. A biographical essay and critical commentary follow, with emphasis on the work included in this anthology. Déaz's interviews, translated from Spanish, and finally the stories themselves--only three of which have been previously published in English--complete the chapters. The extraordinary depth of these chapters reflects the nuanced, often controversial portrayals of power observed by Argentine women writers. Inspiring as well as insightful, Women and Power in Argentine Literature is ultimately about women who, in Déaz's words, "choose to speak their truth regardless of the consequences."

Excerpt

When considering the topic of Argentine women, particularly as it relates to power, the image of Eva Perón is inescapable. The poor, illegitimate girl from the provincial countryside not only became, while still in her twenties, the First Lady of Argentina (then the breadbasket of the Americas and Europe), she ultimately became a myth so enduring that Andrew Lloyd Weber took her story to Broadway and Madonna to the Hollywood screen. She still remains a polarizing figure in Argentina, where she is simultaneously considered a saint by some and an avaricious prostitute by others. Her character and relevance are debated by historians, biographers, and authors who portray her in their works. One quality that all agree upon is that she was an immensely powerful woman who had an extraordinary hold on the Argentine people. I begin this book evoking her image not only because of her status as a powerful Argentine woman, but also because of the legacy of Peronism that continues to dominate the social, political, and national character of Argentina and, in turn, its culture and literature.

In Argentina, like in much of Latin America, as noted by Jean Franco and others, the socio-political landscape becomes the backdrop and often the theme of much of the country's literature. While Domingo Sarmiento's Facundo (1845) debates the future of Argentina in terms of civilization versus barbarism, and Miguel Hernandez's Martín Fierro (1872) depicts the plight of the gaucho, or cattle-hand, in the pampas (grasslands), others, like Roberto Arlt in Los sietes locos (1929) and El lanzallamas (1931), explore complex socio-political dilemmas of the Buenos Aires metropolis. Many of the Boom writers (a term coined to capture the breadth and quality of literature produced in Latin America in the 1950s through 1970s), like Julio Cortázar (Rayuela, 1963, and El libro de Manuel, 1973) for example, combine their political concerns with their thirst for aesthetic experimentation. Jorge Luis Borges is considered an exception to this emphasis on socio-political themes, though some of his stories have been read as critiques of power, and particularly of Peronism, with which he was personally very much at odds.

Argentina has been among the leaders in Latin America in the number of women authors produced in the twentieth century, a fact that Donald Yates (Contemporary Latin American Literature) attributes to the Perón years, when wom-

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