Academic journal article Studies in the Literary Imagination

The Mexican Novel at the End of the Twentieth Century: An Introduction

Academic journal article Studies in the Literary Imagination

The Mexican Novel at the End of the Twentieth Century: An Introduction

Article excerpt

As the twentieth century comes to a close, Mexican narrative attempts to review, revise, re-invent, and renew the narrative innovation that proliferated during the 1970s. During that period, writers showed a marked preference for techniques that included spatial and chronological fragmentation and the use of neologisms taken mostly from the language of a sex, drugs, and rock `n' roll culture. During the 1990s, novelists tried to cross real and virtual borders in an attempt to keep pace with the cultural conversation taking place since the late sixties. Writers concentrated their best efforts on telling a story rather than on trying to amaze the reader with excessive narrative experimentation.

John S. Brushwood notices this tendency in the Mexican novel since the mid-seventies: "And one other phenomenon--one of technique rather than of theme--seems important: A return to storytelling with narrative strategies simpler than those to which we have been accustomed" (14). Sara Sefchovich, in Mexico, pais de ideas, pais de novelas, interprets this lack of technical innovation as a step backward for contemporary Mexican narrative. She explains the current state of the novel as reflecting a lack of social and political commitment among writers:

   [A mediados de la decada de los ochenta, c]omo paradoja, en lugar de
   sumirse en la degradacion, en lugar de sumirse en la miseria y la
   degradacion, en lugar de dar cuenta de la desesperacion y la crisis,
   recupero su calidad de entretenimiento, escape, diversion y facilidad para
   un publico que supo responder entusiasmado a las posibilidades que abrio
   este modo de escribir. (225)

   [In the mid-eighties, a]s a paradox, instead of getting involved in
   degradation, instead of getting involved with the misery and degradation,
   instead of reporting on the desperation and [economic] crisis, [the Mexican
   novel] recovered its place as entertainment, fun, a means of escaping, and
   became completely open to an audience that knew how to be enthusiastically
   receptive to the possibilities offered by this way of writing.

Sefchovich asseverates that narrators have ceased challenging the reader and therefore have obstructed the progress reached in the development of new ways of telling:

   Un poco de sexo, otro de amor, algo de historia y algo de chisme politico
   son la formula para elaborar estas obras visuales, sin profundidad textual,
   de una sola lectura, sin recursos tecnicos, similar al pais que las vio
   nacer y al que relatan, con una y unica version oficial de la historia que
   es la misma que el discurso politico ha dado. (227)

   A little bit of sex, a little bit of love, some history, and some political
   gossip are the formula for creating these visual works that lack textual
   depth, can be read quickly, and have no technical resources, which is
   similar to the country in which where they were produced. They promote the
   official version of history written by the ruling political discourse.

Alice Reckley notices two trends in contemporary Mexican narrative: one favors narrative innovation, and the other pursues traditional ways of telling. Reckley interprets these narrative techniques--called by Sefchovich "simple" and not politically or socially committed--as writers' attempts to reach a larger audience with strong social messages:

   The recent Mexican novel, from the 1960's through the present, generally
   manifests two tendencies: more accessible plot structures (as contrasted
   with plot structures in the New Novel and in Hispanic America in
   general)--in some cases to communicate social concerns--and, on the other
   hand, the continuing tendency of complex narrative techniques which require
   that the reader participate in the development of a more complex story
   line. (1)

Danny J. Anderson explains the apparent preference for traditional narrative techniques as a transformation in the way of presenting reality. …

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