Academic journal article Chasqui

Everyday Life in the McOndo World: Consumption and Politics in Claudia Pineiro's Las Viudas De Los Jueves

Academic journal article Chasqui

Everyday Life in the McOndo World: Consumption and Politics in Claudia Pineiro's Las Viudas De Los Jueves

Article excerpt

Maeondo and McOndo

In 1995, when editors Alberto Fuguet and Sergio Gomez released their short-story collection McOndo, they affirmed that one of the main questions that brought the book into being was "el gran tema de la identidad latinoamericana (?quienes somos?) [que] parecio dejar paso al tema de la identidad personal (?quien soy?)" (13). In order to find the answers, they started out by questioning the image of Latin America emphasized by the so-called Boom writers that preceded them, represented by the Macondo village of Garcia Marquez's Cien anos de soledad (first published in 1967), where exotic people living in the middle of the jungle can fly. Instead, they advocated a view of Latin America as the McOndo land, a space which is not only populated by "the indigenous, the folkloric or the leftist", but also with Macintoshes, McDonald's, condos, cable TV, malls and Ricky Martin.

A Latin America inhabited by individuals immersed in a world of mass culture and consumerism, but who apparently see nothing wrong with it, had a rather negative reception by some critics, such as Diana Palaversich, to whom the McOndo writers, "mas que como hijos rebeldes y desencantados de Garcia Marquez, deben ser vistos como hijos obedientes del neoliberalismo" (70). The reception of their work has encountered much controversy, raising the suspicion that these writers have "sold out" to capitalism and that their stories portray characters who, instead of rejecting mass culture, incorporate it anal pursue it; instead of rebelling against it, they do not see anything wrong with it.

In contrast, critics such as Ana Maria Amar Sanchez argue that this literature's approach to mass culture is the culmination of a literary tradition that initially incorporated the "low", maintaining an ironic distance from it. What makes the McOndo literary expression different is that it exhibits, rather than uses mass culture. Their politicized position, according to her, consists of this very permission for mass culture to be depicted not as tension or difference, but as the "primary mode of access to experience" (217).

Fifteen years after McOndo, the writers involved in the project have turned to their own projects and have reflected about their initial visceral reaction to Garcia Marquez and their position in Latin American literary discourse. Some of the same issues dealt with in McOndo, however, remain relevant not only for those writers who have explicitly identified themselves with this aesthetic, but also for other Latin American writers, such as the Argentine Claudia Pineiro. One of the issues in question addressed in these novels is the presence of mass culture as the perspective through which upper-middle-class characters primarily experience everyday life. This is the case of Pineiro's Las viudas de los jueves (2005). I will turn to this novel in order to pursue the following issues in this article: (1) to explore the novel's assessment of mass culture in the context of a post-McOndo Latin American literature, determining whether or not Las viudas proposes a critique of everyday life, in the sense that French philosopher Henri Lefebvre proposed in Critique of Everyday Life (2002); (2) to investigate which possibilities of political engagement with and through mass culture, if any, the novel suggests for contemporary Latin American literature; and (3) to inquire what the novel's approach to mass culture and everyday life tells us about the role of literature as a potential agent of change today. I argue that the novel presents a critique of everyday life grounded in the questioning of certain assumptions about mass culture's role in the present phase of capitalism. These assumptions are challenged specifically in Pineiro's approach to mass culture's presence in the everyday life of the Argentine economic crisis of the turn of the century. The author's questioning, in turn, points to how the reframing of the opposition between "grand" literature and mass culture, under conditions of production marked by the power of the publishing market, may contribute to literature's political engagement today. …

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