latin american boom



We explain what the Latin American Boom in literature was, its characteristics and recurring themes. Also, top authors.

Authors such as Miguel Ángel Asturias changed paradigms of Latin American literature.

What was the Latin American ‘boom’?

By the term Latin American Boom we understand a literary and editorial phenomenon that took place between the 1960s and 1970s, when the literary works of a group of young Latin American writers were widely distributed and appreciated in Europe and much of the world.

These works changed the paradigms of what until then was expected literarily from the region. Or as the Chilean author José Donoso describes it: “… a dozen novels which were at least remarkable, populating a previously deserted space ”.

The Latin American Boom instituted many of the authors that today we consider classics in Latin America, but that at the time they were starting. They presented experimental novelistic projects, with a high social content and politician.

Thus, they became an avant-garde gesture, especially in Europe and other latitudes, then dominated by rather conservative considerations. The first step in this internationalization was, in this sense, the triumph of these authors in Spain.

Some Boom names are better known than others, and some of its authors enjoyed greater formal recognition than others. However, there are really no start and end dates for the Boom, as it was not really a literary movement organized, but rather an editorial phenomenon.

For this reason, there is also no formal list of its members, nor of the precursors who served as a school for the appearance of this important generation of Latin American writers.

At the same time, the Latin American boom opened great doors to Latin American literature. It quickly became a literary reference in the Hispanic world and outside of it, through successive translations and editions throughout the globe.

In particular, the American public was impacted by the works of the Boom, in a very challenging world political context such as the Cold War, changing even paradigms of the moment regarding the interpretation and role of writers in the society.

Origin of the Latin American Boom

The boom began in the 1960s. It was a particularly troubled time in Latin America due to the Cold War and its tensions between revolutionary movements, such as the triumphant Cuban revolution of 1959, and the American political and diplomatic interference against him, which financed bloody dictatorships Rightists in Latin America.

This panorama became even more complicated when the intelligentsia of the continent divided in opinions regarding the regime of Fidel Castro after the imprisonment in 1967 of the Cuban poet Heberto Padilla and his wife, Belkis Cuza Malé, accused of subversive activities for having publicly read the poem "Provocations".

In this context, the novels del Boom, taking advantage of the sudden interest in Latin America that the era had sparked. From the Seix-Barral publishing colossus, Carlos Barral and the literary agent Carmen Balcells, took the initiative to disseminate Latin American works.

Both were installed in Barcelona and defined a particular projection towards the French-speaking markets. It has even been claimed that the massive sales of these Latin American novels practically revived the dying Spanish publishing industry, subjected to the censors of the Franco regime.

Characteristics of the Latin American Boom

Authors like Vargas Llosa used polyphony and formal experimentation.

The boom was essentially an editorial phenomenon and focused mainly on the genre of the novel. The Projects novelistic that tended to formal experimentation, to the innovation of the language and certain social and political daring.

A common feature of these novels is their desire for the avant-garde: treatments of the weather in a non-linear way, bet on polyphony or the appearance of multiple voices in the story, abundant use of neologisms and word games. A certain internationalism or identity regional and national that did not move away from the historical story, but used it as a backdrop.

Its themes and perspectives renewed a notorious stagnation in the realism literary of the time, and supposed the emergence of new names to the Hispanic publishing arena. On the other hand, the boom has been criticized for consisting entirely of male writers, in whose novels the treatment of the feminine evidences the prevailing machismo in Latin America.

In addition, most of them came from enlightened and university sectors of society, with significant access to universal culture. In other words, they were not very representative of the Latin American people of the time.

Latin American Boom Issues

There is no thematic unit in the boom novels. This is because their bets always respond to the universe of interests and the personal style of the author.

However, broadly speaking, it can be said that the Boom preferred issues related to the national, the regional, or what aspired to a new Latin American identity. Consequently, these works aimed to replace old platitudes with archetypes that, in turn, would become classics very quickly.

Something important is the breaking down of the barriers between the fantastic and the everyday. Thus, aspects such as Magic Realism appeared, on the one hand, making use of a certain air of Latin American exoticism to narrate wonderful events from a realistic perspective.

On the other hand, historical fiction, strongly anchored in the political tensions of reality, had its place in the Boom novels. Many of them explored the theme of the Latin American Dictator, such as I, the Supreme of the Paraguayan Augusto Roa Bastos.

Authors and works of the Latin American Boom

Carlos Fuentes was one of the Mexican writers belonging to the Boom.

The main authors of the boom (and its main novels) were four, of different nationalities:

  • Julio Cortázar (Argentina, 1914-1984). Exiled in France during the presidency of Juan Domingo Perón, he was an open enthusiast of the Cuban and Sandinista Revolutions, as well as the government of Salvador Allende in Chile. His work of stories and novels dabbled in the fantastic with great success. His novel Hopscotch consolidated its entry into the Boom, and it is a text which can be read according to multiple paths, not necessarily linearly.
  • Gabriel García Márquez (Colombia, 1927-2014). Journalist by profession and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature In 1982, he became famous for joining the Boom during his stay in Europe, before residing for the rest of his life in Mexico, with his novels The colonel has no one write, Hundred years of loneliness Y The Autumn of the Patriarch , among other.
  • Carlos Fuentes (Mexico, 1928-2012). Born in Panama, the son of Mexican diplomats, he was an important critic and fighter against the discrimination in Mexico, and professor at prestigious American universities. His work The death of Artemio Cruz It catapulted him to fame, as there he recounts the life of a former Mexican revolutionary on his deathbed. He also became famous for Aura Y Terra nostra .
  • Mario Vargas Llosa (Peru, 1936-). One of the greatest Latin American novelists of the 20th century, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2010, is a lawyer by profession and holds the title of nobility of Marqués de Vargas Llosa, granted by the King of Spain Juan Carlos I. He was a particular enthusiast of the Cuban Revolution in its beginnings, although later it became a staunch opponent of it. His international success began with his novel The city and the Dogs , The green House Y Conversation in the Cathedral , although later he published several journalism books, rehearsal and literary criticism.

The boom, however, also consecrated other authors of other nationalities, which is well worth highlighting, given that their works were of equal significance for the history of Latin American literature, such as:

  • Juan Rulfo (Mexico, 1917-1986). And his books Pedro Paramo Y The Burning Plain .
  • Augusto Roa Bastos (Paraguay, 1917-2005). With his novel I, the Supreme .
  • Manuel Puig (Argentina, 1932-1990). With his novels Painted mouths Y The kiss of spider women .
  • Miguel Ángel Asturias (Guatemala, 1899-1974). Author of Mr. President .
  • José Donoso (Chile, 1924-1996). With The obscene bird of the night .
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