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Volume 58 / Humanities

LITERATURE: SPANISH AMERICA


20th Century Prose Fiction: Hispanic Caribbean

EDNA ACOSTA-BELÉN, Distinguished Service Professor of Latin American and Caribbean Studies and Women's Studies, and Director of the Center for Latino, Latin American, and Caribbean Studies (CELAC), at the University at Albany, SUNY
UVA DE ARAGÓN, Acting Director, Cuban Research Center, Florida International University


PUERTO RICO

IN RECENT YEARS PUERTO RICAN LETTERS and literary criticism reflect some new trends. One of the most obvious developments among Spanish-speaking writers is their incursion into the English-language market. Because of Puerto Rico's current colonial relationship with the US, most island Puerto Ricans are exposed to the formal study of the English language throughout their schooling and in their professional training, in addition to being native speakers of Spanish. This bilingualism has become even more important today with the globalization of the world economy, prevalent commuter migration patterns between the island and the continental US, and the transnational connections maintained by island Puerto Ricans with the US Puerto Rican communities.

The "crossover" writing of some Puerto Rican authors has yielded some important works in recent years. Bilingual island writers such as Rosario Ferré, well known in Latin America and the Caribbean for her prose fiction works, has written two novels in English: The House on the Lagoo n (HLAS 56:3563) and Eccentric Neighborhoods (1998). She then proceeded to rewrite these novels in Spanish, rather than having them translated. Such is the case of the Spanish versions, La casa de la laguna (item #bi 00006148#) y Vecindarios excéntricos (item #bi 00004685#). A few prior works by Ferré had already caught the attention of English translators and were available to the US market. But the author's last two novels are a good example of how bilingual writers increasingly are trying to penetrate the wider US market by using their creativity to produce similar, but not necessarily the same, literary works in each language.

On the other hand, Puerto Rican writers born or raised in the US, who write primarily, although not exclusively, in English, are finding an audience in the Spanish-speaking world. Major publishing houses are commissioning their works to Spanish translators and even establishing editorial divisions that promote the work of US Latino writers in Spanish-speaking countries (e.g. Vintage Español). They are following the steps of smaller ethnic presses, such as Arte Público Press and Bilingual Press, which for many years have played a leading role in making some of this literature available in both languages. Prose fiction works originally published in English, such as La línea del sol (1996) and Bailando en silencio (item #bi 00006146#) by Judith Ortiz Cofer, Cuando era puertorriqueña (HLAS 56:3585) and Casi una mujer (item #bi 00006144#) by Esmeralda Santiago, and Por estas calles bravas (item #bi 00006606#) by Piri Thomas are good examples of this crossover trend.

The area of literary criticism is showing the increasing influence of poststructuralist theories, with postmodern, postcolonial, and feminist approaches at the vanguard. Interdisciplinary academic fields such as Puerto Rican, Latino, women's, gay and lesbian, and cultural studies have allowed humanists and social scientists to blur the boundaries of their respective disciplines and produce more provocative interdisciplinary interpretations of cultural and artistic production, particularly as it relates to identity issues.

The notion of a Puerto Rican literature that surpasses island borders to include Puerto Rican writers born or raised in the US is reflective of the commuter migratory experience of Puerto Ricans as well as that of other Latin American and Caribbean (im)migrants. This is a pattern that is also developing in the literature of other US Latino groups vis-à-vis their countries of origin. The traditional literary canons of their Latino countries of origin are being challenged to include the work of migrants who might write primarily in English or bilingually. While there is a long tradition of Latin American or Caribbean writing in exile by authors who lived in the US or other parts of the world, their works were mostly written in Spanish and are studied as part of their respective countries' national literatures. However, this has not been the case with more permanent (im)migrants to the US or with their US-born or raised offspring.

Studies such as From Bomba to Hip-Hop: Puerto Rican Culture and Latino Identity (item #bi 00006601#) by Juan Flores and Listening to Salsa: Gender, Latino Popular Music, and Puerto Rican Cultures (item #bi 00006604#) by Frances Aparicio are excellent examples of how leading literary critics are paying increasing attention to the interconnections between the cultural minority experiences of Puerto Ricans, the construction of their identities, and the creativity manifested in different artistic realms—literature, music, visual arts, performance—and especially, in popular culture.

In El arte de bregar (item #bi 00006602#), Arcadio Díaz Quiñones, a leading critic, provides a series of insightful essays about language and writing, and how these are constituted, manipulated, and adapted to the diverse colonial spaces of Puerto Ricans. In Partes de un todo (item #bi 00006603#), literary critic Efraín Barradas, one of the pioneers of the study of US Puerto Rican letters, collects some of his most important essays on the emergence and development of this body of literature. The issue of Puerto Rican/Latino representation in a variety of texts/contexts—the media, literature, performance—are the focus of two major works: Latin Looks: Images of Latinas and Latinos in the U.S. Media, edited by Clara Rodríguez (item #bi 00006600#); and Alberto Sandoval- Sánchez's José, Can You See?: Latinos On and Off Broadway (item #bi 00006598#). These books provide a much needed sustained critique of Anglo-American discourse and representations of Latinos/as.

Journals such as the Latino(a) Research Review (formerly the Latino Review of Books) continue to promote the kinds of interdisciplinary approaches and "border crossings" that link the works of US Latino writers, artists, and scholars with those of their counterparts in their native countries. [EA-B]

CUBA AND THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

La narrativa cubana está en alza. Así lo muestran los importantes premios literarios otorgados recientemente a varios autores cubanos, como el Premio Cervantes a Guillermo Cabrera Infante, el Alfaguara a Alberto Diego, el Gijón a Matías Montes Huidobro y el Azorín a Daína Chaviano, estos tres últimos por novelas. Otra señal del creciente interés por la literatura cubana es el continuado éxito de ventas de Zoé Valdés con su última novela Café Nostalgia (item #bi 98010187#). Como todos los cubanos, los escritores de la isla viven, escriben y publican en los cuatro puntos cardinales del mundo. La selección a continuación mostrará obras publicadas de Barcelona a Miami, de Madrid a La Habana, de North Carolina a México, de Austin a Leuven, Bélgica. También han aparecido un buen número de trabajos críticos en inglés así como la antología de cuentos The Voice of the Turtle (item #bi 98010189#).

En cuanto a la temática, puede señalarse que aún está presente la novela policíaca, tan en auge dentro de la isla hace algunos años, como lo muestran ¿Quién mató a Iván Ivanovich? de Humberto Arenal (item #bi 97017116#) y Máscaras de Leonardo Padura (item #bi 99006772#). El intimismo, las relaciones personales, el amor, dan aliento a algunas obras como Salmos paganos de Alberto Garrandés (item #bi 97017138#) y A Tarzán con seducción y engaño de Humberto Arenal (item #bi 97017136#). La narrativa cubana, sin embargo, no parece poder escapar la realidad sociopolítica del país, que aparece como un constante telón de fondo, que nos lleva por igual a un mundo marginal de "rockeros", que al fervor religioso de los que hacen peregrinaciones al Rincón de San Lázaro o a la desfachatez de dos adolescentes que se someten a abortos como si se tomaran un refresco. Los recuerdos de la infancia y el despertar de la adolescencia continúan siendo temas recurrentes como lo comprueban La ruta del mago de Carlos Victoria (item #bi 98010188#) y Techo a cuatro aguas de Luis Marré (item #bi 97017117#), a lo que se le añade un nuevo matiz—la aguda identificación con un grupo, una generación—en obras como Café Nostalgia de Zoé Valdés (item #bi 98010187#) e Informe contra mí mismo de Eliseo Alberto (item #bi 98010106#).

En cuanto al estilo, la variedad es amplia, pues nos encontramos con deliciosas prosas poéticas—la que exhibe Antonio José Ponte en Las comidas profundas (item #bi 00005709#), es un buen ejemplo—y, en el otro extremo, el crudo realismo de Zoé Valdés. Siguen floreciendo el cuento y las narraciones breves, y se observa asimismo un interés por el género de las memorias. En las re-ediciones y la crítica, se observa una preferencia por autores del siglo XX de reconocido prestigio.

La narrativa dominicana continúa muy apegada a la realidad sociopolítica del país. Se advierte un esfuerzo serio de ir construyendo un canon literario adscrito a medidas más rigurosas de valoración. El cuento sigue prevaleciendo como género. También es notable el número de mujeres escritoras. De particular interés es la publicación de obras escogidas de la feminista Abigail Mejías Solière (item #bi 97012289#). [UA]


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