Lifshey, Adam. the Magellan Fallacy: Globalization and the Emergence of Asian and African Literature in Spanish

By Gonzalez-Abellas, Miguel | Chasqui, November 2013 | Go to article overview

Lifshey, Adam. the Magellan Fallacy: Globalization and the Emergence of Asian and African Literature in Spanish


Gonzalez-Abellas, Miguel, Chasqui


Lifshey, Adam. The Magellan Fallacy: Globalization and the Emergence of Asian and African Literature in Spanish. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2012.324 pp. ISBN: 978-0-472-11847-2.

This ambitious, but much needed book, contributes to the consolidation of a field that doesn't quite exist yet: Asian and African literatures in the Spanish language. Most academic institutions (with a few notable exceptions, as the author states) split the field of Spanish-language literature between that produced in Spain (Peninsularista), and that produced in Latin America (Latinoamericanista), thus excluding the works written and published by authors from other former Spanish colonies in Asia and Africa--in particular, the Philippines and Equatorial Guinea. The aim of this book is to challenge that traditional distribution and incorporate in a pivotal role, and not just as a footnote, the literature in Spanish originated in countries from those two "forgotten" continents, thus making literature in Spanish truly global. In this sense, this study can very well contribute to reformat the configuration of Hispanic Studies for the present century and beyond.

In order to accomplish this goal, Adam Lifshey, whose previous work Specters of Conquest: Indigenous Absence in Transatlantic Literatures (New York: Fordham UP, 2010) dealt with literature in the margins at many levels, explores in this new book a similar obsession with margins, but focusing now on the marginality of the literary traditions of two countries, the Philippines and Equatorial Guinea, not only within the field of Hispanic Studies worldwide, but also within the literary tradition of those countries themselves, in view of their complex history of colonization and colonialism, and of the secondary importance they had for the metropolis, Spain.

The book is structured in an introduction and six chapters--the sixth one operating as a sort of conclusion. The introduction offers the reader the main goals of the study and a brief summary of the research done so far in this area, along with some much needed definitions in view of the novelty of the subject (19-24). The next three chapters deal with Philippine literature in Spanish: Chapter one studies Pedro Paterno's Ninety (1885), the first novel written in Spanish by a Filipino and pretty much now forgotten; chapter two moves to the only Filipino author to have had some recognition, Jose Rizal, and focuses on his text El filibusterismo (1891), along with Paterno's series of novels Aurora social (1910-1911); finally, chapter three analyzes Felix Gerardo's Justicia social y otros cuentos (1941).

Although the book is not divided into parts, the following two chapters change not only geographically--from Asia to Africa--but also chronologically--from the late nineteenth/early twentieth century to the second half of the twentieth century and into the twenty first century. Chapter four studies Daniel Jones Mathama's Una lanza por el boabi (1962); and chapter five deals with two novels, Maria Nsue Angue's Ekomo (1985) and Juan Balboa Boneke's El reencuentro: el retorno de un exiliado (1985). Chapter six works as a conclusion and extends this exploration of Spanish-language literature in Africa and Asia in different directions to include global studies approach.

Thus, on one hand, Lifshey advocates for an impulse to collaborative global studies, such as a proposal to study Rizal's work along with Cuban Jose Marti, since they both published around the same time, lived out of their countries for a large period of time, and suffered a similar end at the hands of the Spanish crown for being revolutionaries (although, as Lifshey states, whereas Marti was one, Rizal's revolutionary spirit is questionable); on the other, he also looks for a geographical expansion into other countries such as the Western Sahara, Morocco or Cameroon, exploring the complexity involved in each of these countries of choosing to write in Spanish: whereas Saharan writers are highly political in their writings and choose Spanish as the metropolitan language over Arabic, Moroccan writers are apolitical in nature and they have opted not for their "natural" metropolitan language, French, but for an alternative one. …

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