Introduction
PI
Twenty-three years have passed since I wrote the essay on
Miguel Angel Asturias that opens this collection of my writ-
ings on contemporary Latin American fiction. The year was
1967,
I was barely twenty-five myself, I did not have even one book pub-
lished, my first son had just been born-but most important of
all, I had no idea of what history was preparing for me, for my
loved ones, for my country. The violence, the creative intervention
of memory, the role of myth and language in resistance, categories
which are all analyzed and dissected in that essay, would all too
soon find their equivalents, their confirmation or their denial, in
immediate political developments. I could not anticipate when I
sat down in
1967
to explore in words the relationship in our culture
of literature and hope, literature and repression, that three years
later my country would elect Salvador Allende as its president in
an attempt to give that hope a real historical chance of materializ-
ing. Nor could I have realized that three years after that a military
coup would destroy that hope and the democracy which nurtured
it. And I certainly could never have predicted that, included as a
small part of the general disaster, I would be sent, with my family,
into an exile which is only now, as I write this in
1990,
coming to
what I assume is a definite end.
In one sense, then, the distance that separates that first essay,
written in Santiago in Spanish for a Chilean audience, from the last
essay in this collection or from this very introduction I am com-
posing right now, in English, in the United States, presumably for
a predominantly North American audience, could not be greater.
I am not, could not be, do not want to be, the young man who sat
down in
1967
to write about Asturias, or the year after that about
Borges, or ten years later from the distance of banishment about
Arguedas and the testimonio. I would not today write those essays
in the same way. This does not mean, of course, that I renounce
their paternity or, for that matter, validity. What I feel, to the con-
trary, is that each one continues to open up authors and books
and to challenge the readers to a more provocative understand-
ing of literature and Latin America. And these diverse writings,
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