The first in-depth study in English to analyze post-utopian historical novels written during and in the wake of brutal Latin American dictatorships and authoritarian regimes
During neoliberal reforms in the 1980s and 1990s, murder, repression, and exile had reduced the number of intellectuals and Leftists, and many succumbed to or were coopted by market forces and ideologies. The opposition to the economic violence of neoliberal projects lacked a united front, and feasible alternatives to the contemporary order no longer seemed to exist. In this context, some Latin American literary intellectuals penned post-utopian historical novels as a means to reconstruct memory of significant moments in national history. Through the distortion and superimposition of distinct genres within the narratives, authors of post-utopian historical novels incorporated literary, cultural, and political traditions to expose contemporary challenges that were rooted in unresolved past conflicts.
In Anything but Novel, Jennie Irene Daniels closely examines four post-utopian novels—César Aira’s Ema, la cautiva, Rubem Fonseca’s O Selvagem da Ópera, José Miguel Varas’s El correo de Bagdad, and Santiago Páez’s Crónicas del Breve Reino—to make their contributions more accessible and to synthesize and highlight the literary and social interventions they make. Although the countries the novels focus on (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Ecuador) differ widely in politics, regime changes, historical precedents, geography, and demographics, the development of a shared subgenre among the literary elite suggests a common experience and interpretation of contemporary events across Latin America. These novels complement one another, extending shared themes and critiques.
Daniels argues the novels demonstrate that alternatives exist to neoliberalism even in times when it appears there are none. Another contribution of these novels is their repositioning of the Latin American literary intellectuals who have advocated for the marginalized in their societies. Their work has opened new avenues and developed previous lines of research in feminist, queer, and ethnic studies and for nonwhite, nonmale writers.