American Authors and their works
Latin American literature became internationally acknowledged as part of world literature in the 1960s and 1970s, when Latin America gained worldwide attention due to the drastic changes in the political landscape that were shaped by the dynamics of the Cold War.
After largely failed revolutionary attempts, most Latin American countries came under the rule of authoritarian military regimes, such as Argentina, Chile, Brazil or Peru. These administrations cooperated with each other under Operation Condor (Operación Cóndor/Plan Cóndor/Operação Condor), a campaign of governmental repression and terror involving assassination and intelligence operations. Ten thousands of people, mostly alleged dissidents or sympathizers, were incarcerated, tortured, killed or “disappeared” throughout the region.
This political turmoil and its drastic impact on society produced a new approach to writing and reading Latin American literature, as well as it changed the self-perception of Latin American writers. A new literary movement was born, the so-called Latin American Boom. The works of novelists like Julio Cortázar of Argentina, Mario Vargas Llosa of Peru, Gabriel Garcìa Márquez of Colombia or Carlos Fuentes of Mexico mirrored their (and by extent, their nations') experience with violence, pain, and loss. Their works provided a unique perspective of the political and cultural developments in Latin America, which were closely followed by the European and U.S. American public. Aside from its depiction of Latin America's social reality, this new type of literature appealed to European and U.S. American audiences because of its exoticism and fantastical style.
In addition, there was a dearth of major novelists in Western literature, with most English-speaking authors deceased (Fitzgerald died in 1940, Faulkner and Hemingway between 1961 and 1962 and Steinbeck in 1968) and American and European intellectuals having declared the novel dead. The Latin American Boom propelled the international success of writers form the region, which was further enhanced by the rapid urbanization, an emerging middle class, increasing communication among the countries, and the rising importance of mass media.
European and U.S. American audiences were mesmerized by the imaginative world of Latin American literature. Europeans were weary of the drabness of the West-European social democracies and the grayness of the Soviet bloc, Americans were jaded by the Watergate scandal and the horrors of the Vietnam War, and both were worn out by the bitterness of the Cold War.
Latin America's novels took place in distant countries like Colombia, Argentina or Mexico; they often involved “thrilling” historical developments like revolutions, coups d'état or dictatorships; and they were rife with powerful themes like desperate love, endless agony, inevitable death and eternal loneliness. The narration was innovative and compelling, the language was sensual and playful, and the stories were worldly and phantasmal at the same time (known as magical realism). Latin American fiction introduced new modes of storytelling to world literature at a time when European and U.S.-American audiences were longing for something different.
Even though earlier writers like Jorge Luis Borges of Argentina or Miguel Ángel Asturias of Guatemala had been revered in Spanish-speaking America, they had a rather marginal status in the literary world, whose centers in the 20th century were Paris and New York. Yet, Latin America's flourishing publishing industry of the 1960s and 1970s significantly accelerated the circulation of Latin American literature, with big publishing houses in Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Havana or Asunción turning these cities into cultural hubs similar to European or U.S. American metropoles.
The Spanish publishing house Seix Barral in Barcelona introduced Boom literature to the European marked and awarded Borges, Vargas Llosa, Fuentes Guillermo Cabrera with literary prizes. Despite the politically hostile environment in Francoist Spain, Boom novelists became very successful there and soon took over the English-speaking market – through translation. As a result of their growing success, many Latin American writers travelled and moved abroad (or were forced into exile) to write and speak on behalf of their home countries.Vargas Llosa and Co. became central figures of the world literature, which helped preceding authors like Borges or Asturias to find a broader audience and paved the way for later popular novelists like Isabel Allende, Paulo Coelho or Luis Sepúlveda.
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