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A few individual authors and/or book titles need to be mentioned before concluding this "hard-boil" of Latin American lit. Latin American literature is a rich treasure trove of reading (in Spanish, Portuguese, and English), even though it is only the last six decades or so that it has flowered so impressively.
The Venezuelan writer, Rómulo Gallegos, spent much of his life outside his native country, for it was ruled for 27 years by the tyrant Juan Vicente Gómez. Gallegos' novel, Doña Barbara, was published in 1929. Its popularity revealed to the Hispanic reading public the new school of Latin American narrative artists which was emerging, and its publication was quickly followed by the publication of works by Azuela and others in the group of writers the 'New World' had produced. The book is a denunciation of the rule of the dictator Gómez, and the eponymous protagonist, the beautiful and ruthless Doña Barbara, is a female counterpart of the barbaric Gómez, The other main character, the idealistic Dr. Santos Lazardo, is a spokesman for law and civilization.
In his novel, Un dÍa en la vida (1980) - One Day of Life (1983) Salvadorean Manlio Argueta makes masterful use of interior monologues, revealing the thoughts and memories of the peasants who people this tale of peasants versus the handful of wealthy families who brutally repress them. (However, the bought-and-paid-for 'guards' get two chapters which reveal to the reader their conflicted feelings in the matter.) This novel asserting the dignity of the human spirit, set in one of the most economically depressed and politically volatile areas of the Americas, got Argueta forced into exile and his book banned. After reading this book, many years ago, I have never forgotten the scene in which the peasant Chepe returns to his village after having been "questioned' (tortured) by the 'guards'.
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A few other novels by Latin American writers that deserve specific mention (IMO). These include:: Hijo de hombre (1960) - Son of Man (1965), by Paraguayan Augusto Roa Bastos; and Juyungo , by Ecuadorean Adalberto Ortiz, about Ecuador's Afro-Hispanic inhabitants.
Also, Isabel Allende, of Chile, is probably best known for La casa de los espÍritus (1982) - The House of the Spirits (1985), Eva Luna, and Daughter of Fortune.
Carlos Fuentes wrote La muerte de Artemio Cruz (1962) - The Death of Artemio Cruz (1964), and El gringo viejo (1985) - The Old Gringo (1985). The latter was the first novel by a Mexican writer to become a U. S. best seller. (It is a fictional work about the mysterious disappearance in Mexico in 1913 of the American writer Ambrose Bierce.)
Oscar Hijuelos' second novel, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, appeared in 1989 and was a critical and commercial success. It won the Cuban-American writer the 1990 Pulitzer Prize for fiction (the first such prize prize won by a Cuban-American writer). (One of the characters in the novel was Desi Arnaz, the real-life musician-entertainer.) Another novel by Hijuelos about Cuban immigrants to the U. S. is Empress of the Splendid Season.
Two of the writers discussed in these posts served as presidents of their South American countries, after the downfall of the dictators. Domingo Faustino Sarmiento was president of Argentina, and Rómulo Gallegos, of Venezuela.
Last Edited on: 5/9/11 6:10 PM ET - Total times edited: 4