by Karla Fetrow
The Latinx American Literary Revolution
America’s great novelists seem to be expiring under the weight of a river flow that includes rosy summons to non-traditional relationships, tearful biographies by people we would never have heard of otherwise, and, with flourishing popularity, stories written by those who record the heartbreak of the poor and downtrodden, but who have the common to be an observer. All these prosaic accounts are meant for us to acquire an understanding of things we do not, although the reader consumes them simply to be part of the choir.
The last great American writers, such as Harper Lee, Ernest Hemmingway, John Steinbeck and F. Scott Fitzgerald, who crafted their stories with both aesthetic beauty and soul-searching thought, seemed to have delivered their best works by the mid-twentieth century. Conversely, that date started the beginning of the Hispanic literary revolution.
A Splash of Latinx Romance
English speaking and Spanish speaking Americans do not have the same perspective of romance. From the English-American view, romance is a genre, a love story for sentimental people. From the Latin American view, romance is life. Romance is chivalry and fighting against real and imaginary forces. Romance is destiny.
Obviously, this deep-rooted view is directly influenced by Spanish literature. A replica of Don Quixote fighting windmills is found in nearly every Latin American hotel. The powerfully influential writer, Miguel de Cervantes, has had his work translated into more languages than any other book beside the Bible and is argued to have been a greater writer than Shakespeare.
Early Latin American writing combined the eloquence of Spanish colonialism with the harsh realities of indigenous life, woven through with stories of gaucho’s, the highwayman heroes of Latin-styled revolutionary drama. Laced throughout these early flurries of historical writing, the trumpet call to take up arms sounded loud on both sides.
Introduce the Latinx Mystics
Another distinction between English American culture and Latin American culture is a natural acceptance of all things that go bump in the night as opposed to a healthy dose of English inspired cynicism. The Roman Catholic conversion of the indigenous people was complete because the religion allowed them to blend miracles and shamanism, vision quests and ghostly spirits.
Natural mysticism, also an element of Spanish literature came to the front of international attention in the 1940’s with a compilation of short stories with inter-connected themes that included dreams, labyrinths, philosophies, fictional writers, mirrors, libraries and mythologies. The author, Jorge Luis Borges, with work that contributed to both the philosophy and the fantasy genre, built the foundation for a trend in Latin American literature that critics mark as the beginning of the magic realist movement.
The Realist and Illusion of Latinx Fiction
Modern Latin American literature can be defined as a healthy dose of realism combined with the elements of magic. It was always there, lurking on the outer edges of Spanish whimsey and Latin American cultural heritage. One of the most popular of the magic realists is Colombia writer, Garcia Marquez. Most noted for his novels, “One Hundred Years of Solitude” and “Love in the time of Cholera”, his work is startling for its lack of glamorous heroes, his characters achingly ordinary, yet the extraordinary happens with a little magic.
“The Alchemist” by Brazilian writer, Paulo Coelho, was first published in 1988 and has been translated into seventy different languages as of 2016. The absorbing story tells of an Andalusian shepherd who has a strong recurring dream that tells him to go to the Egyptian pyramids to find a treasure. His journey involves a number of mishaps, at the end of which he finally learns the place where the treasure is buried is the place where he had experienced his dreams.
Contemporary Latin American literature is bold, experimental, and liberally dosed with magical elements. Magic is a symbol that there is hope even when all reasons for hope have been extinguished, that the unexpected and miraculous occur in the midst of suffering and that our basic survival is determined by outside forces.
The Magic and Surreal Realism of Latino Author L. M. Warren
Among modern magic realists, is Latino author, L.M. Warren, (aka Late Mitchell Warren) whose tales of three princesses romp through the magical kingdom of “Cadabra”, brewing mayhem, mutiny, treason and betrayal. It parodies current issues with reactionaries and extremists whose agendas erupt into bloody massacres.
The End of the Magical Kingdom is a curious display of heart-melting talking animals, kindly outcasts, mass mentality villagers and royalty who can’t decide whether to be tragic or humorous. The descriptiveness is a kaleidoscope of imagery, fast-tracking through an era of Warner Brothers cartoons, Disney wistfulness, Terminator movies and Fear and Loathing in Los Vegas. You are pushed, slammed, dragged and driven through a battleground of modern issues inserted into a fairy tale of monolithic proportions.
It’s not traditional in any sense of the word other than it’s typical of the Latin American artist to seek bolder, to imagine greater and to carry the world of caricatures to its limits. Warren’s story doesn’t deliver an end to the magical kingdom, only the beginning of a separate world peopled by a troubled society that clearly has too much power and not enough magic for a happily ever after.