I once took a graduate seminar on the Latin American novel. We read two authors I had heard of – Gabriel Garcia Marquez (One Hundred Years of Solitude) and Carlos Fuentes (The Death of Artemio Cruz) – and several I had not heard of, including Mario Vargas Llosa (The Green House, The War of the End of the World) and Manuel Puig (Kiss of the Spider Woman). All of them were associated with the “Latin American Boom” of the 1950s-1970s, when the literature of magic realism burst upon the literary world.
Our professor pointed to two writers who served, if unknowingly, as the godfathers of the Boom, the two who freed younger writers from the confines of the traditional novel. One was an American, William Faulkner. If you’ve read Faulkner, you know what he did with his novels. The other writer was the Argentine Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986), the poet, short story writer, essayist, and general literary genre-bender. One of Borges’ best-known works is a one-page short story, or perhaps an essay, entitled “Borges and I.” He explores his own identity as a writer and a person, seeing them as separate entities. And he wonders which one wrote the story.
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