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Boom Novels

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Questions | Bibliography

Chapter Reference: Reaction

Latin America's literary distinctions began early in the twentieth century, but the 1960s and 1970s brought unprecedented international prestige to various novelists and short-story writers of the region. They built on the literary innovations of Jorge Luis Borges, Alejo Carpentier, and Juan Rulfo, talented writers of the 1940s and '50s. The result was a publishing phenomenon, driven in part by the engaging narratives crafted by writers like Carlos Fuentes, Julio Cortázar, José Donoso, and, among others, Nobel Laureate Gabriel García Márquez. Boom novels, though, were also a marketing success of big publishers. The writers of the "boom," a term used to refer to their generation as much as the literary production of Latin America during the 1960s and 1970s, were politically committed, and many wrote from exile. Students interested in boom novels should explore the political context in which the novels were written. A paper might consider one author's background and the themes and problems that prevail in a novel or selection of stories.

Questions for Analysis and Further Reflection:

  1. What is the value of literature as a primary source for the study of history? What insights into the past can novels provide that other types of primary sources cannot?

  2. What led to the international recognition of Latin American writers in the 1960s and 1970s, and why was this attention so late in coming in the U.S. and Europe?

  3. Playful narrative style, seemingly apolitical subjects, and what has been called "magic realism" can make it difficult to see links between boom novels and the moments of revolution and reaction in Latin America. Where can you identify such links?

Bibliography: (Titles with ** are good starting places.)

Cortázar, Julio. Hopscotch. Translated by Gregory Rabassa. New York: Pantheon, 1966.

Hopscotch is Cortázar's most well-known novel. It is somewhat lengthy, but the narrative is fast-paced.

Donoso, José. The Boom in Spanish American Literature: A Personal History. Translated by
           Gregory Kolovakos. New York: Columbia University Press, Center for Inter-
           American Relations, 1977.

This short book provides students with an insider's perspective of the boom and a glimpse into the thinking of one of the movement's key figures.

Franco, Jean. An Introduction to Spanish-American Literature, 3rd ed. Cambridge:
           Cambridge University Press, 1994.

The last chapter of this work in literary history lays out the literary context in which boom novels were published.

** García Márquez, Gabriel. One Hundred Years of Solitude. Translated by Gregory
           Rabassa. New York: Perennial Classics, 1998.

First published in 1967, García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude is one of the most widely known and read novels outside of Latin America, and, as one that fueled the boom, it is a good starting point for students interested in the broad trends of this literary movement.

Ortega, Julio, and Carlos Fuentes, eds. The Picador Book of Latin American Stories. London:
           Picador, 1998.

This anthology contains short stories by some of the major novel writers of the boom—Julio Cortázar, Juan Rulfo, and Gabriel García Márquez, among others.

Vargas Llosa, Mario. The Time of the Hero. Translated by Lysander Kemp. New York:
           Grove Press, 1966.

Williams, Raymond Leslie. "The Boom Twenty Years Later: An Interview with Mario
           Vargas Llosa." Latin American Literary Review 15, no. 29 (1987): 201-206.

Other Resources:
Indigenista Novels
Arts and Literature