Saturday, December 15, 2007

¿novelas McOndo? -Giving up the ghosts

Ya han pasado más de 11 años y tanto de la puta aparición de McOndo (agosto 2006, creo) y sigo teniendo dudas al respecto: no a la idea, o a la sensibilidad, porque creo en ella y creo q escribo y filmo en ella (en la república o el pais McOndo) sino q sigo teniendo dudas respecto al etiquetar este zeitgeist (¿puede ser un signos de los tiempo algo que dura tanto tiempo?) o esta forma de mirar de "este lado de la vereda" con un nombre tan sonoro/simpático/cute/vendedor/marketeable pero da igual...

las cosas a veces se dan vuelta...

mas allá que la antología no volverá a publicarse (no, NUNCA), McOndo parece que se va a quedar, entre otras cosas porque, para nada, depende de mí. Por suerte.

McOndo partió como una broma y luego del libro y el prólogo se volvió una pesadilla y una manera rápida de descalificar o tildar de light o de tonto a la gente que no escribía como "ellos"

Nada-- hace poco, unas 2 semanas atrás, en Guadalajara, McOndo regresó a mi disco duro:

Primero, escuchando a Mario Vargas Llosa hablando en el podcast de Bookworm, con el periodista y ultralector Michael Silverblat, en KCRW, la radio NPR de Los Angeles-Santa Monica. Me causó sorpresa y agrado y asombro que buena parte del programa se dedicara a McOndo y a hablar bien del movimiento que nunca-fue-un-movimiento sino, simplemente, un adjetivo (o quizás un poco más...)

Luego---leyendo el comienzo de la premiadísima novela de Junot Díaz The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, me topo con esto:

It was a hardcore sci-fi and fantasy man, believed that that was the kind of story we were all living in. He´d ask: What more sci-fi than the Santo Domingo? What more fantasy than the Antilles?

…It used to be more popular in the old days, bigger, so to speak, in Macondo than in McOndo. There are people, though, like my tío Miguel in the Bronx who still
zafa everything.

Luego, seguido, me llegó un link del Financial Times donde el crítico Angel Gurría-Quintana, que frecuentemente escribe para Letras Libres, se centra en cuatro novelas recientemente traducidas al inglés y publicadas en el Reino Unido. Y todo tiene que ver con McOndo. Casi explicita que son novelas McOndo. No sé que hubiera dicho Bolaño pero leyendo a Gurría-Quintana y, habiendo leído algunas de las novelas que analiza, digo: quizás tenga razón. McOndo, mal que mal, no es un club o un movimiento y, como siempre he dicho, hasta Diamela Eltit tiene una novela McOndo

Por lo tanto, es perfectamente posible que autores de la talla de Bolaño puedan ser considerados McOndo (desde luego, pop) como también Restrepo y Pauls. McOndo no implica tener que escribir mal o, insisto, citar a cada rato un grupo de rock: eso no es McOndo. McOndo es, como tituló el FT, es abandonar los fantasmas espirituales por los verdaderos fantastmas que todos tenemos.

Es indagar en los cien o setenta o treinta o veinte años de soledad que a casi todos los latinoamericanos nos toca vivir y aguantar y soportar

aqui va lo del FT

Book Essay:
Giving up the ghost
By Ángel Gurría-Quintana

Published: November 30 2007 21:30

The enduring fame of One Hundred Years of Solitude has been a blessing and a curse for Latin American writers. A blessing, because it brought the region literary prominence, easing the way for other authors. A curse, because Gabriel García Márquez’s intoxicating brew of epic storytelling, tropical flourishes and touches of magical realism made readers and publishers expect all Latin American fiction to conform to his template.

Tales abound of dejected authors whose work was considered unpublishable in translation because it lacked the requisite dash of local colour, exoticism or underdevelopment. When one Chilean writer, Alberto Fuguet, submitted a short story to a literary journal in the US, the editor famously rejected it because it was “not Latin American enough”. For years, it appeared that only novels peopled with ghosts, set amid some crumbling family homestead or in a destitute Latin American backwater, would attract foreign publishers and booksellers.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the publication of One Hundred Years of Solitude. García Márquez, the Colombian Nobel laureate, remains the most conspicuous figure to emerge from the Latin American fiction “boom” of the 1960s and 1970s that also brought international fame to authors such as Mexico’s Carlos Fuentes, Peru’s Mario Vargas Llosa and Argentina’s Julio Cortázar.

By the 1980s, however, a new generation of writers was emerging, most of whom had grown up in Latin America’s crowded mega-cities. Its members produced fiction that accurately reflected the demographic shift from rural to urban environments. Fuguet, the Chilean writer whose story was rejected, compiled short works of fiction by 17 writers – all male. The 1996 anthology of new Latin American fiction was titled McOndo, a sly reference to Macondo, the setting for One Hundred Years of Solitude.

The world these young authors depicted was one of McDonald’s, shopping malls and high-rise condos. It was a place filled with the detritus of modern popular culture instead of the flying maidens and melancholy generals of García Márquez’s books. Modern writers were encouraged to jettison tradition and abhor the folksy regionalism foreign readers had come to expect. There was a definite generational shift as authors took new and surprising directions. A more flexible idea of what it meant to be a Latin American writer now seemed possible.

Latin America’s literature has always been as diverse as its landscape – it could not be otherwise in such a vast region. Yet this diversity has not always been evident in translation. Three recently translated works of fiction illustrate some of the ways in which contemporary writers have moved away from the magical realist paradigm that has long encumbered writing from the continent.

No one was more daunted by the success of Colombia’s Nobel winner than younger Colombian writers. Among them was Laura Restrepo, whose latest novel, Delirium, appeared in English this year. Like García Márquez, Restrepo settled in Mexico to flee Colombia’s troubles. That, however, is where the similarities end. García Márquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold (1981) is about an honour killing in a small Colombian town. Delirium dissects a new type of violence emerging from Colombia’s cities: societal, all-encompassing, fuelled by drug traffic. The novel is a devastating chronicle of disenchantment with a country rent by brutality and tainted to its core by dirty money. And while García Márquez’s storytelling is classically omniscient and forcefully linear, Restrepo’s writing is fragmented and her narrators are disconcertingly unreliable.

One of the narrators, an unemployed university lecturer called Aguilar, explains his discomfort “with the phenomenon calling itself magic realism, so fashionable at the time”. It is a sharp dig at Restrepo’s illustrious forerunner, and a necessary act of literary patricide.

Aguilar returns to Bogotá and finds that his wife, Agustina, has descended into madness. As he pieces together events that occurred in his absence, we get glimpses of Agustina’s pampered childhood with an abusive father, and a mother who would rather endure betrayals and lies than suffer social shame. Meanwhile, we are given details of Agustina’s breakdown by an unsavoury former boyfriend known as Midas McAlister.

Violence – state-sponsored, or practised by terrorists or cartels – is certainly not a new theme in Latin American fiction. Yet few contemporary Latin American novelists have managed to depict it with such urgency as Restrepo.

Agustina’s malady is that of someone coping with Colombia’s ubiquitous hypocrisy and bloodshed. It is not unlike the lunacy consuming the country as it descends into a vortex of paramilitary attacks, guerrilla strikes, kidnappings and bombs. “Maybe the hardest part,” Aguilar acknowledges, “is accepting the stretch of middle ground between sanity and madness and learning to straddle it.”

This, it seems, is the accommodation that many Latin American citizens are forced to endure. If the region’s literature once hinted that magic was part of daily reality, it now suggests that normality requires an uneasy compromise between chaos, carnage and wilful oblivion.

Restrepo’s Delirium confronts the unpleasantness of Colombian current affairs head-on, and in this her writing is closer to the traditional mould of politically militant Latin American writers. However, another newly translated novel by an Argentinian illustrates how far young Latin American authors have strayed from expectations.

Alan Pauls’ astonishing The Past – masterfully translated by Nick Caistor – is unabashedly about love. It is also about addictions. To drugs, certainly, and to the voluptuousness of language and art, but mostly to love itself: its tremors, its aftershocks, its subterranean wells of jealousy, disgust and elation.

Though Pauls is not officially part of the McOndo movement, he shares with that group one of its defining characteristics: a professed lack of interest in the region’s politics. The Past glosses over more than two decades of recent Argentine history with only the barest mention of the country’s military dictatorship or its recent financial crises.

The novel is mostly set in Buenos Aires. Its spirited protagonists, Rimini and Sofia, are the most extraordinary lovers in Latin American fiction since the ageing couple in García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera (which this year was voted the best Spanish-language novel of the past 25 years by Spanish-speaking writers). While García Márquez’s delightful characters appear to be caught in their own world of sepia-tinted conventions, Sofia and Rimini are utterly modern and shockingly recognisable.

Pauls resists exploring themes of Latin American (or even national) identity – a favourite subject of earlier generations. Now, personal identity is all that matters. In the narcissistic, self-centred quest to satisfy their emotional needs and establish a sense of self, Sofia and Rimini – globetrotting, art-loving, love-addled – epitomise the new notion of what it means to be Latin American.

Even before Pauls became a poster boy for modern Latin American novelists – cosmopolitan, apolitical, unconcerned with national boundaries – Chilean expatriate Roberto Bolaño was already tracing this path. A poet, novelist and short-story writer, Bolaño had an anarchic streak that made him a guiding spirit behind movements such as the McOndo anthology. Since he died from liver disease in 2003, his followers have declared him nothing short of a genius who reinvented the novel, though such claims are exaggerated.

A writer’s writer, it is in the short form that Bolaño excels – rather than long self-indulgent novels such as The Savage Detectives (published earlier this year) or his as-yet-untranslated behemoth, 2666. With the recent publication of Last Evenings on Earth, a collection of short stories, English-speaking readers will better understand what made him so distinctive.

Most of the stories in this collection are about unsuccessful authors. All the narrators resemble versions of Bolaño himself. In “Henri Simon Leprince”, we are told: “The protagonist...(middle class, well educated, respectable friends, but downwardly mobile and short of money) – is a writer. Naturally he is a failed writer.” Yet another introduces a bad poet whose uncritical tenacity gave him “a kind of literary sanctity that only young poets and old whores can appreciate”.

The lesson gleaned from Bolaño’s work is, as one character puts it, that “the little word of letters is terrible as well as ridiculous.” But there is a darker vein to his tales of pathetic scribblers. As another character observes, “violence, real violence, is unavoidable, at least for those of us who were born in Latin America during the 1950s and were about 20 years old at the time of [former Chilean president] Salvador Allende’s death.”

It is with such “unavoidable violence” that these new works of fiction contend. Whether they explore the tyranny of past loves, the casual villainy of inconsequential writers, or the rule of blood money, they remain – amid the region’s poverty and promise – the most effective way of presenting unpalatable truths. They also introduce English-speaking readers to fresh narratives from a continent as rich in storytellers as in calamities. Amid this variety of voices, one thing is clear: we are not in García Márquez’s Macondo any more.