Central American Avant-Garde Narrative: Literary Innovation and Cultural Change (1926–1936)

by Adrian Taylor Kane


"While other studies have centered on poetry and manifestos, in Central American Avant-Garde Narrative Kane turns to the genre of narrative fiction to trace the ways in which authors from the isthmus use European techniques of literary experimentation in the 1920s and 1930s to renovate cultural traditions at home. Cosmopolitan authors such as Luis Cardoza y Aragón, Miguel Angel Asturias, and Flavio Herrera (from Guatemala), Max Jiménez (from Costa Rica), and Rogelio Sinán (from Panama) creatively incorporate regional elements within broader, international artistic concerns as they apply locally.... Central American Avant-Garde Narrative fills gaps in the literary criticism of the region, it calls for a new approach to reading the works addressed and, at the same time, it provides a helpful review of particular strategies of innovation used in the avant-garde in general through the author’s close reading of the texts. ... Whereas in Europe avant-garde ideas emerge from, and are set against, a particular historical legacy, Kane reminds readers of the different circumstances in which Latin American authors take on the mandates of cultural movements that call for innovation rather than imitation. ... With an eye on these differences, Kane demonstrates how in Central America literature has played a crucial role in shaping the potential renovation of the human spirit within an incipient modernity." —Chasqui: revista de literatura latinoamericana

“It is entirely revitalizing to see a work devoted to the Central American avant-garde that both grounds its focus critically and keeps its focus on both the aesthetics and politics that grounded the literary production of the vanguardia in the early 20th century. A very welcomed addition to the corpus of writings on the avant-garde, valuable to students and scholars of Central American literature, and those studying the avant-garde from any region.” —A contra corriente

Central American Avant-Garde Narrative is an exemplary work of literary criticism that re-envisions the canon of Central American literature and is destined to set a new standard for ethical, comprehensive research. Specialists and students, after reading this work, will have a clear understanding as to why prose fiction by certain lesser-known writers (Max Jiménez, Flavio Herrera and Rogelio Sinán) from this region needs to be rescued from oblivion and, concomitantly, why stories and novels by one of Hispanic America’s most accomplished authors (Miguel Ángel Asturias) should be reexamined with an innovative, interdisciplinary perspective. It also elucidates very effectively the aesthetic divergences of literary works of the Latin American and European avant-garde. Most importantly, readers will appreciate the author’s carefully crafted definitions of the basic terminology (positivism, modernismo, Surrealism, etc.) necessary for analyzing Central American avant-garde narrative and for coming to a fuller understanding (the best I have ever read!) of how and why Vanguardists rejected positivism’s racist, oligarchical values and incorporated surrealist techniques (in the case of Asturias) 'as a form of cultural exploration and continued resistance to the effects of colonialism' necessary 'to conjure complex realities of Guatemalan culture', especially with regard to this country’s indigenous population.” — Steven White, Lewis Professor of Modern Languages, St. Lawrence University; and editor of El consumo de lo que somos: muestra de poesía ecológica hispánica contemporánea

"This is the first book study on Vanguardia narrative of Central America in the early twentieth century, and an important addition to Latin American scholarship. Literary production in the 1920s is greatly overlooked due to international fanfare around the "Boom" of the 1960s, but in fact, avant-garde novelists influenced writers throughout the twentieth century. The chapters are very readable, and the introduction is an excellent critical guide for those unacquainted with this era." — Elizabeth Coonrod Martínez, Professor and Director, Center for Latino Research, Depaul University; and author of Before the Boom: Latin American Revolutionary Novels of the 1920s


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