Theoretical Fables

Theoretical Fables: The Pedagogical Dream in Contemporary Latin American Literature

Alicia Borinsky
Copyright Date: 1993
Pages: 168
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    Theoretical Fables
    Book Description:

    Alicia Borinsky argues that the contemporary Latin American novel does not just ingeniously dismantle the referential claims of the more traditional novel; it offers a postmodern version of the lessons taught by fiction.

    Latin American fiction, perhaps the most inventive literature of recent decades, seems marked by its self-reflexivity, by its playful relationship to history and the everyday, and by its concerns with the ways in which language works. But is it, Borinsky asks, really a literature whose primary goal is to raise metafictional questions about writing and reading? While the effects of this literature include dismantling the illusions of realism, naturalism, and historicism, the haunting and disturbing energy of its major works lies in their capacity of invoke a region beyond literature through literature.

    Theoretical Fablesprogresses by way of close readings of the works of eight canonical-and not quite canonical-Latin American Authors. Borinsky argues that the Latin American "theoretical fable" has its origins in the work of the early twentieth-century Argentinean writer Macedonio Fernández. In this light she studies the works of Jorge Luis Borges, Gabriel Garcia Márquez, Julio Cortázar, José Donoso, Adolfo Bioy Cesares, Manuel Puig, and Maria Luisa Bombal.

    eISBN: 978-1-5128-0090-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface (pp. ix-xiv)
    Adolfo Bioy Casares
  4. Chapter 1 An Apprenticeship in Reading: Macedonio Fernández (pp. 1-16)

    In 1922 Macedonio Fernández wroteAdriana Buenos Aires: The Last Bad Novel.¹ He revised it in 1938, adding some chapters and taking out clues that might reveal its contemporary references. Thus the names of César and Santiago Dabove, which appeared throughout the 1922 text, were replaced with their initials. Adolfo de Obieta conjectures thatAdriana Buenos Airesmay have been part of Macedonio’s plan for launching himself as a candidate for the Argentine presidency.²

    If the role that this novel could have played in the 1927 political campaign now seems remote and dubious, an undeniable proselytism of a different order...

  5. Chapter 2 Taming the Reader: Jorge Luis Borges (pp. 17-33)

    The “animal imagined by Kafka,” revived by Borges inThe Book of Imaginary Beings, holds a powerful grip on Borges and the reader. It is the ultimate source of confusion, which is found time and again in legend and myth: it partakes of human traits but is not human, its strength is derived from the familiarity of a first look at its face and its threatening animal-like features. The thought of domestication implies that there is something wild there, something to be subsumed by the human stare, in an unstable relationship prone to sudden reversals, sinceitcould try to...

  6. Chapter 3 Intelligence and Its Neighbors: Gabriel García Márquez (pp. 34-52)

    Reading Borges leaves us with the need to look further in other books, visit libraries in pursuit of the adventure he maps out for us. García Márquez holds a very different kind of grip on his readers. His is a literature that attempts to draw us into a complete world, with its own cadences and rules. Jacob’s wife, the woman in the epigraph who wishes above all to be buried alive, not only gives us a hyperbolic understanding of despair but also makes us believe that she belongs to aculturethat grants her weight and shares in her feelings....

  7. Chapter 4 Literature as Risk: Julio Cortázar (pp. 53-72)

    When Julio Cortázar places himself under the twofold tutelage of Borges and Roberto Arlt, he is trying to reconcile what he sees as the halves of a world. Borges and Arlt, in his view, have had only partial access to Buenos Aires; he is the one who, feeling the contamination of one half by the other, is prompted to write a literature that will render Buenos Aires complete. Cortázar’s view is that literature should be about depicting the privileged cities, the walks and their rhythm, because through the intense experience of living with an openness to chance, the words to...

  8. Chapter 5 A Poetics of Misencounters: Adolfo Bioy Casares (pp. 73-87)

    The first epigraph belongs to Cortázar, who writes about his wish to be Bioy Casares as he starts writing a story that he would like to tell with the kind of detachment and precision he admires in Bioy Casares’s work. The quotation from Borges is part of the preface he wrote toMorel’s Invention. These words, written for the 1940 first edition of the novel, are not only a testimony to the admiration he felt for it but an indication of the literary friendship between Borges and Bioy Casares, which over the years produced a number of texts in collaboration...

  9. Chapter 6 Is There Style Without Gender? Manuel Puig (pp. 88-103)

    The man-mad manbelongsto the qualities that make men win. He only associates with winners. The contempt that Elias Canetti feels for the character he has drawn is clear; this caricature of the self-confident man who knows “every mercenary personally” and who “grabbed his plane and arrived on time … risked danger, concluded treaties and flew off to the next war” is an implicit acceptance of the opposite of this amoral winner. The efficiency and clarity of the goals he pursues lead this man-mad man to arrive at the inevitable conclusion: “everyone knows that there are too many people,...

  10. Chapter 7 The Lucidity of Inaction: María Luisa Bombal (pp. 104-117)

    InOne Hundred Years of SolitudeGarcía Márquez offered us in the character of Remedios the hypothesis of a fatal kind of female beauty endowed with an ability to speak literally, without recourse to metaphor. Remedios was considered to be of superior intelligence by some characters because of her capacity to engage directly, to utter unadorned, fundamental concepts grounded in the material world; to others she was merely retarded and unschooled.

    Remedios’s intuition and La Maga’s gift for inscribing herself in the literature she reads while preserving her own identity are descriptions of the female condition possessing depth that relates...

  11. Chapter 8 Closing the Book—Dogspeech: José Donoso (pp. 118-131)

    García Márquez’sLove in the Time of Choleraoffers its French-speaking parrot as a way of parodying the continuation of francophilia with the pleasures of literature. In José Donoso’sA House in the Country¹ we also encounter the use of French to allude to the puzzles of literary convention, this time in the form of a game called “La marquesa salió a las cinco” played by some characters in the novel; the game’s title is a translation of Paul Valéry’s much-quoted attack on the novelistic genre.² SinceA House in the Countryis not sparing in its use of direct...

  12. Chapter 9 Overstaying My Welcome: Conclusions (pp. 132-134)

    What, then, has been dreamt throughout this book as “pedagogical?” What are the constraints of this old term, revived yet eroded by the condescension of the century’s consensus? They are certainly not a single body of learned truths but the production of effects of truth and lucidity through fiction. Macedonio’s role as a precursor and master of Jorge Luis Borges counters the conventional wisdom that situates Borges’s work within the antimetaphysical perspectives of deconstruction, by showing the way his concerns are tied to Macedonio’s metaphysical literature. The emergence of the theory of reading explored in the chapter devoted to Macedonio...

  13. Bibliography (pp. 135-142)
  14. Index (pp. 143-145)
  15. Back Matter (pp. 146-148)


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