Nicholson, Melanie: Surrealism in Latin American Literature: Searching for Breton's Ghost

By DePaoli, Maria Teresa | Chasqui, November 2014 | Go to article overview

Nicholson, Melanie: Surrealism in Latin American Literature: Searching for Breton's Ghost


DePaoli, Maria Teresa, Chasqui


Nicholson, Melanie. Surrealism in Latin American Literature: Searching for Breton's Ghost. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. 267 pp. ISBN: 978-1-137-28779-3.

Surrealism in Latin American Literature: Searching for Breton's Ghost offers a concise historical assessment of the influence and progression of surrealism in Latin American Literature. Focusing on poetry, Melanie Nicholson limits herself to discussing writers in mainly four countries: Argentina, Chile, Mexico, and Peru. However she does provide some insight of the reception and development of surrealism in countries such as Brazil, Ecuador, and Guatemala, among others. The crux of Nicholson's analysis rests on the proposition that "surrealism experienced a significant 'afterlife' in Latin America in the wake of its demise in Europe." The author argues that surrealism survived but was transformed into an ever-changing aesthetic form that even today remains the source of the symbols, images, and motifs in the work of various Latin American writers.

Surrealism in American Literature is divided into three parts. The first part entitled "Contexts and Contours" contains two chapters: "Surrealism is Dead, !Viva el Surrealismo /" and "The Latin American Connection." These opening chapters offer a brief historical and conceptual review of surrealism both in Europe and Latin America. According to Nicholson, the persistence of surrealism in the arts faced two essential challenges. First, the fact that after the atrocities of the Second World War, the fundamental slogan of the surrealism movement, which essentially was "to change life and transform the world," was buried along with millions of the war victims. Second, many intellectuals unapologetically resisted and rejected surrealism--having originated in Europe--as one more foreign aesthetic movement seeking to colonize Latin American culture.

In the second part, "The Emergence of Surrealism in Latin American Literature, 1928-1950," Nicholson succinctly discusses the presence of surrealism in four countries: Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Mexico. Chapter 3, "Argentina's Pioneer Surrealists," focuses on Aldo Pellegrini's group, la "fraternidad surrealista," who appeared in Buenos Aires only one year after the publication of Andre Breton's "First Surrealist Manifesto" in 1927, and their magazine Que. In Chapter 4, "Neruda and Anti-Neruda: Chile's Mandragora Poets," begins by discussing Pablo Neruda's experimentation with surrealist imagery. However, Nicholson focuses on the opponents of Neruda's dominant influence, the Chilean poets--Braulio Arenas, Enrique Gomez Correa, Jorge Caceres, and Fernando Onfray--who were part of the Mandragora magazine and their novel genre called "Poesia Negra" or "Black Poetry. …

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