The Voice of the Masters: Writing and Authority in Modern Latin American Literature

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By one of the most original and learned critical voices in Hispanic studies- a timely and ambitious study of authority as theme and authority as authorial strategy in modern Latin American literature. An ideology is implicit in modern Latin American literature, argues Roberto Gonzalez Echevarria, through which both the literature itself and criticism of it define what Latin American literature is and how it ought to be read. In the works themselves this ideology is constantly subjected to a radical critique, and that critique renders the ideology productive and in a sense is what constitutes the work. In literary criticism, however, too frequently the ideology merely serves as support for an authoritative discourse that seriously misrepresents Latin American literature. In The Voice of the Masters, Gonzalez Echevarria attempts to uncover the workings of modern Latin American literature by creating a dialogue of texts, a dynamic whole whose parts are seven illuminating essays on seminal texts in the tradition. As he says, To have written a sustained, expository book ... would have led me to make the same kind of critical error that I attribute to most criticism of Latin American literature.... I would have naively assumed an authoritative voice while attempting a critique of precisely that critical gesture. Instead, major works by Barnet, Cabrera Infante, Carpentier, Cortazar, Fuentes, Gallegos, Garcia Marquez, Roa Bastos, and Rodo are the object of a set of independent deconstructive (and reconstructive) readings. Writing in the tradition of Derrida and de Man, Gonzalez Echevarria brings to these readings both the penetrative brilliance of the French master and a profound understanding of historical and cultural context. His insightful annotation of Cabrera Infante's Meta-End, the full text of which is presented at the close of the study, clearly demonstrates these qualities and exemplifies his particular approach to the text.