Latin American Literature

It should be noted that Latin American Literature of the 20th century demonstrates perfect connection between the generations: the Ancient and the Modern. The most noticeable literary figures use the rich history, mythology and spiritual bound between the generations in order to demonstrate strong connection of their nation with the events and people who lived in the Ancient times and differed a lot from the present day realities.

Many authors want to reveal that the spirit of the Ancient tribes living on the territory of contemporary Latin America is the most valuable heritage of contemporary people, connecting them with the past.

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It goes without saying that literary creations of the outstanding authors, living in the Latin American region, reflect the intentions to show deep connection of the different nations with their Ancient past, celebrating the unity of Ancient and Modern traditions within the nations of independent Latin American Countries. It is essential that the question of the Ancient heritage in Latin America is among the quite acute.

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That is why it is not surprising that it has found reflection in the outstanding 20th century novels, which take a significant place in Latin American Literary Heritage. They are The Storyteller by Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa, written in 1987 and Where the Air is Clear by outstanding Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes, released in far 1958. Despite the significant difference in genre and plot structure these novels are united under the one theme. They reveal the close connection of the modern Latin American society with the past.

The core idea of this research is to reveal this connection between the ancient and the modern within the pages of these books. Where the Air is Clear by Carlos Fuentes and close connection of the Modern world to the Ancient heritage. Where the Air Is Clear is the first novel, written by Carlos Fuentes and from the very beginning the author raised quite burning questions and important themes. One novel’s heroes, Ixca Cienfuegos, plays quite a significant cultural role in the novel, which is written in the form of character sketches collection in the Mexico City.

Ixca Cienfuegos is connecting all separate parts within the pages of a book. Masterful combination of different techniques let the author represent the dynamical development of Mexico after the revolution at the time period of nearly a decade, 1940s and 1950s. It should be noted that the key figures of the novel is Mexico City itself and the author reveals cultural peculiarities describing the life of the city. The author takes the reader into the fascinating trip around the streets of Mexico City, dealing with some pages of its history.

The novel could not be regarded as the typical analysis of the city dwellers; the author masterfully notes all the drawbacks incisively describing Mexico City inhabitants. He shows Federico Robles, who is a banker; Norma Robles, a social climber; Ovando family, who was rich before the revolution, but lost everything after; Rodrigo Polo, Mexican writer, who suffered during the revolution as his father was executed, Amerindian Gladys, who sells her body and certainly Ixca Cienfuegos, who is real critic and observer of the whole system.

Carlos Fuentes, as a representative of Magic realism, could not avoid showing the reader the question of solitude and identity of Mexico, its loss in the labyrinth, understanding that there in no other country in Latin America, which obsessively seeks for it personal identity, returning again to its history and moving ahead. The country feels itself lost between the motherland (with all its cultural traditions and peculiarities) and the adopted land.

With the help of different literary elements such as disjointed writing style, flashback, the stream of consciousness, non-chronological recount of events and alternation of narration forms, the author masterfully performs the surreal atmosphere of the constant search, which is one f the main themes of the novel. To find the correlation between the present and the past is very difficult for the main heroes of the novel and each of them touches the question of identity.

It should be noted that the most surreal element of the novel is Mexico City, which is depicted as one of the core figures of the novel; this makes Where the Air is Clear outstanding from the other novels dealing with the question of national identity. The book itself essentially represents the quest for national identity in Mexico in the post – revolutionary times. Placing Mexico City as a central Figure, Carlos Fuentes shift the role of all the human characters to the background due to the fact that their lives and past experience correlate with the primary intention of definition the culture and history of the country.

The question if perfectly revealed through the confrontation of the present day reality with its past, and the reader understand that this conflict has been lasting for already many years. The following quote perfectly illustrates the confrontation: "But does such a thing as 'original' blood exist? No: every pure element grows and is consumed in its own purity, does not develop; the original is the impure, the mixed, the mulatto and the mestizo, as I am, as all of Mexico is. Which is to say, originality supposes a mixing, a creation, not a purity previous to our experience.

Rather than born original, we come to be original; origin is creation. Mexico must find her origin by looking ahead, not behind" (Carlos Fuentes, 1958, p. 44). The present day reality of the country could hardly correlate to the past of the Aztec Empire, its beliefs, hopes and cultural peculiarities. But the author makes a stress not on the confrontation and conflict; he tries to reveal that the Mexican identity and cultural peculiarity is the mixture of two different, even opposite cultures.

The European Tradition and the Indian tradition; the history of Mexico, unites people of different origins, race and thought and every hero of the novel proves that, as every character is a certain emblem of different Mexican aspects, and if we integrate the histories of the heroes, we could reveal that it is the actual Mexican identity, in the unique integration of many different cultures.

The story that seemed to be a disconnected is a surrealist approach of the Author, who makes a stress on the division of Mexico and its unwillingness to perceive itself as interracial community. Such surrealist technique of writing let Carlos Fuentes to show the reader his personal and vividly portrayal vision of Mexico: a confronting country with unclear identity It goes without saying that sharp division between the social classes in the 1950-s Mexico adds a lot in the constant quest for the national identity.

If we look back in the history of Mexico, the Aztecs were on the top of social ranking, under the time of Aztec empire everything was subjected to their will; the situation in Where the Air Is Clear is quite opposite the indigenous Indians are on the lowest place in the Mexican society (good illustration is prostitute Gladys). Another conflict is also observed. The new and the past governing classes also involved in the confrontation. The impoverished Ovando family is contrasted to Nora Robles, the contemporary representative of the upper Mexican Classes.

One of the most powerful scenes is her meeting with Lorenza de Ovando, bitter aristocratic matriarch. Here we could observe allusion on the Modern Mexico and the Past one. The country, which rejects her Aztec past, its Gods, myths and cultural traditions The Storyteller Mario Vargas Llosa, and close connection of the Modern world to the Ancient heritage. Mario Vargas Llosa tells us a story of two college friends: the anonymous narrator (some critics consider that the author introduced himself) and his friend, Saul Zurantas, a Peruvian Jew.

They both very interesting time at college, studying ethnography, they had a number of philosophical disputes. As it usually happens the friendship was erased after graduation. The narrator was intended to find a scholarship and continue his studies abroad and his friend was seen at college seldom and finally disappeared. It was told that he either immigrated to Israel or lost somewhere in the jungle in the east of Peru within the Machiguenga people. The narrator graduated and started his career as a member of the field theme from the Institute of linguistics and further he became television documentaries producer.

During this time he did not stop attempts to contact his lost friend Saul, intended to learn more about the cultural peculiarities of Machiguenga tribes, but unfortunately he failed. Only in the very beginning appears a haunting image, which narrator had at a Florentine Art Gallery. He recognized Saul Zurantas as the Machiguengas tribal storyteller on the photographs. The book unites and compares the chapters told by the narrator and the ones telling the reader of the Peruvian Indian Mythology. It makes the reading rich on the contrast.

One chapter describes the discussion between Saul Zurantas and the narrator what impact provided the missionaries alongside with the business interest from the west on the unique nature of the Machiguenga tribes and culture. This chapter is prolonged with the national folklore telling about the spirit world, the animals and elements. It would be hard to reveal whether it is the voice of Saul Zurantas or the Machiguenga storyteller tells about mystical connection between the nature and the people.

These two viewpoints thought provoking dialogues contrasted to the national tales is revealing the importance of keeping the unique cultures that are under the threat of westernization and loss of their identity. Saul Zurantas, of Jewish origin understands this more than the local Peruvians, that is why he is the storyteller, the one who keeps the connection between the generations, collecting the story of the legendary past. The book is not an easy to read as it has deep philosophical background.

It provided a number of burning questions such as the investigation of the other cultures by the anthropologists and how these people, living outside of the civilized world could fit to the major society. The whole question civilization is raised within the pages of the book, the question of the lost heritage, where social anthropologist Saul Zurantas took the place of the story teller, to preserve unique Machiguenga culture, which is located in the depth of the rainforests of the Amazon River.

"Who is purer or happier because he's renounced his destiny"" The storyteller asked when he walked in the jungle with the Machiguengatribes, who should constantly roam to keep their obligation to the gods and keep save the Earth and the Sky and the Stars. "Nobody," the storyteller replied. "We'd best be what we are. The one who gives up fulfilling his own obligation so as to fulfill that of another will lose his soul" (Mario Vargas Llosa, 1987). It is deeply spiritual novel, which deals about strong connection between the people of different times.

The author tells us that the old tales could not leave anyone indifferent, as they are the part of the history and the part of the culture. Conclusion In the end I would like to make a stress on the fact that both authors reveal strong importance of the past for the present day world. It is important to keep the connection between the generations, to preserve cultural identity and the past could not be neither changes nor forgotten, as national identity of the country strongly deals with the question of the cultural heritage of the previous cultures.

The Ancient Maya Tribes and Ancient Aztec have left rich cultural heritage for the Mexicans and the Peruvians and present day people should care and protect this heritage, understanding that the role of the Ancient in our present day Modern is really significant. References Fuentes, Carlos. Where the Air Is Clear. Dalkey Archive Press: orig. 1958; 2004 Llosa, Mario Vargas. The Storyteller. Picador: orig. 1987; 2001 Taube. Karl. Aztec and Maya Myths. Austin: University of Texas,1993 Gerald, Martin. Journeys through the Labyrinth: Latin American Fiction of the Twentieth Century. Verso: 1989

Updated: Jul 07, 2022
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Latin American Literature. (2016, Sep 14). Retrieved from

Latin American Literature essay
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