Mexico City after 1968

Carmen Boullosa recollects the literary scene in Mexico City,which was the meeting point of many writers exiled from South America in the early 1970s, and which forms the backdrop of Roberto Bolano’s recently translated novels Amulet and The Savage Detectives.

Paz or Huerta, that was the question. We never thought about whether we were for or against “magic realism.” There were many stars in our fictional firmament in the early ’70s, and most of them–Julio Cortázar, José Donoso, Jorge Ibargüengoitia and García Márquez himself–worked in a variety of genres: realism and journalism as well as imaginative and fantastic literature. And yet there was a division among the fiction writers that paralleled the opposition between Octavian and Efrainite poets. There were those who admired La Onda (The Vibe), a realist literary movement that was Mexico’s version of the Beats, a group of young urban novelists whose prose was the equivalent of Efrainite poetry. On the other side were those who saw themselves as the heirs of Juan José Arreola, Juan Rulfo and Adolfo Bioy Casares; what they espoused wasn’t magic realism but an imaginative frame of mind, open to ghosts, madness and dreams (as in the fictions of Borges, Bioy Casares’s novel The Invention of Morel, or the jewel-like short stories of Silvina Ocampo). The members of this second group were, in a sense, the narrative counterparts of the Octavians. Neither of these “schools” required their followers to adopt a linear narrative technique. The better you know the tradition, the better you can subvert it; we knew that.

Author: bhupinder singh

an occasional blogger

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