In literature the body is never alone. Robinson Crusoe had Friday and,
even before running into his sidekick, a whole carnival of characters
roamed within his head. Defoe’s star players—whether in Robinson’s
imagination or wending their way across a desert island—are never un-
warranted. In all works of fiction leading protagonists, even supernumer-
aries, have a mission to fulfill. Considered from the reader’s perspective,
this mission is to amuse and edify, but characters also come alive to fulfill
personal needs. They play a key role and serve a fundamentally cathartic
function because all literature portrays relationships that reflect the dy-
namics of foundational ties between parents and children. These ties are
acted out in works of fiction, turning behavior and settings into mirrors
that reflect an author’s innermost longings and fears.
What I set out to understand is how these longings and fears speak
themselves into literature, how they inform characterization and plot. As
writers listen to an inner voice when they write, I listened to the writers
themselves, paying particular attention to both the ways in which they
imagine and symbolize bodies, and to the traces their own bodies leave
on the page. I began by considering the body, in the words of Brooks, ‘‘as
an object and motive of narrative writing—as a primary, driving concern
of the life of the imagination,’’ and my aim throughout this book was to
explore how Spanish American authors turn it into a key symbol, a token
in their writing (Body Work, xi).
Since many of my discussions of the body draw on psychoanalysis, I
chose to focus on stories written by contemporary authors for whom
psychoanalysis was likewise a concern. Some, like Julio Cortázar and
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