Marginalities: Diamela Eltit and the Subversion of Mainstream Literature in Chile

Marginalities: Diamela Eltit and the Subversion of Mainstream Literature in Chile

Marginalities: Diamela Eltit and the Subversion of Mainstream Literature in Chile

Marginalities: Diamela Eltit and the Subversion of Mainstream Literature in Chile

Synopsis

This English-language study examines the multiple works by the Chilean writer Diamela Eltit. Written in clear critical discourse, these essays are a practical tool for first-time or hesitant Eltit readers who seek discussion of a particualr book and are not familiar with the author's entire production. This study will be beneficial for scholars interested in Latin American narrative, Latin American women's writing, Latin American feminism, feminism in general, comparative literature, women's studies, and culture studies.

Excerpt

Diamela Eltit (1949), author of six novels and two extraliterary projects, has managed to carve out a place for herself within Chile’s predominantly male literary establishment while challenging its mainstream culture with a female-centered, postmodern writing that subverts the traditional concept of the novel.

Her first publication, Lumpérica (1983) (English translation, E. Luminata, 1997) is abundant in technical ploys including mixed genres, neologisms, wordplay, multimedia codes, distorted syntax, fragmented narrative, and lack of a conventional plot. Despite the sparse reviews this novel received when it appeared, Eltit plunged ahead with her writing. in essence she dug in her heels, stood her ground—and eventually won critical attention in Chile. This recognition led to her receiving in 1985 a coveted Guggenheim Award, which supported the writing of her second novel, Por la patria [For the Homeland] (1986). While never courting the best seller crowd, Eltit has drawn interest among Latin Americanists in the United States. Her several trips to North America have included lecture positions at Berkeley and Columbia and conference tours at numerous other universities, among them Brown, Yale, Johns Hopkins, Georgetown, and Emory.

Eltit is not surprised when her books are described as “difficult,” “experimental,” “cryptic,” or “unintelligible,” yet she strongly disagrees with the accusation that her writing cannot be understood. in self-defense she points out that in principle anyone lexically equipped to read the newspaper can read a literary work; it’s just that people are trained in certain kinds of readings more than in others. Eltit has hinted that her reader cannot be a passive consumer, the spectator-type which the age of television has fostered.

Nonetheless, she recognizes that the fragmented, unstable, openended, highly symbolic, sometimes contradictory, and, yes, even occasionally incoherent narrative, which has come to characterize her writing, is not reader-friendly. and precisely because it is not, her Joycean quality will—almost guaranteed—impress readers with a narrative that not only poses a challenge but invites manifold meanings, throwing wide open the door of literary interpretation.

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