University of Wisconsin–Madison

Antonio Skármeta and the novel of the post-boom: Notes to the Postman

This week, our LACIS lecture series continued with Cesar Ferreira a Professor of Latin American Literature at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. Ferreira lectured on his book Antonio Skarmeta y la novela del posboom: Apuntes a El Cartero de Neruda.

At the beginning of his lecture, César Ferreira raises the question that drove his book: how can you be a writer in Latin America after the literary era of the Boom, with writers such as Garcia Marquez, Carlos Fuentes, Julio Cortázar and the likes. Writers of the boom generation, he explained, were writers of great dimension and of great significance.

Ferreira thinks that the work of Manuel Puig was a precursor of post-boom. In Puig’s work, he begins to distance himself from the boom and he explores the psychology of the middle class in Argentina. There, he begins to demonstrate for the next generation of writers that there is a shift approximating that will focus on writing that expresses more influence of popular culture in Latin America.

Skármeta was one of the first to propose a poetic style that showed the different aesthetics of the boom and the emerging post-boom writers. Ferreira references the Skármeta’s words: “Al fin y al cabo, es su propia vida la cosa más cercana que cada escritor tiene para echar mano”.  Ferreira explains that at this point the Chilean writers begin distancing themselves from the literary trademark of the boom and forming and claiming a new literary space for the new generation as part of new urban vitality.

According to Ferreira, Skármeta chooses to incorporate the importance of social and political issues of the time. He focuses on infrarealism, the working class looks to project new view of the Latin American through manifestations of popular culture. This generation also replaces the boom’s language with a colloquial perspective – for the purpose of portraying reality and life the way it is in Latin America. “Skarmeta’s narrative looks to manifest popular and contemporary culture and how they influenced and played roles in the perception and reality of Latin American writers”, emphasizes the lecturer.

Ferreira offers a lecture on Skarmeta’s El Cartero de Neruda, as a story that focuses on the postman Mario who is inexperienced, and his experience of learning and transformation that he undergoes thanks to the help of his mentor, the poet and Noble prize winner Pablo Neruda.

Ferreira explains that Mario’s role as a literary apprentice to Neruda extends at the beginning in his role in poetry and in his courtship and romance with Beatriz. In conclusion, the tragic end for Neruda, and for the president Salvador Allende who resulted from 1973 hit, leaves the legacy of freedom of expression and poetry, now incarnated through his disciple Mario, as one more victim of the Pinochet dictatorship.

In the novel, El Cartero de Neruda Ferreira believes that it is often thought to be educational in terms of poetry, love, and politics it has farther reach. Instead, Ferreira explains that a fun love story that originates becomes a sad story of how the Chilean people live the government effects and discusses the most traumatic moments of Chilean history in the 20th century.

El Cartero de Neruda was constructed from a fusion of pop culture and high society, and similar books and stories are important to help us understand the change and transition from the literary generation of the Boom to the Post Boom.

Ferreira concluded by saying that Skármeta’s work opened up space for post-boom literature where writers could use sentimental experiences, changes in Latin American history, humor, and popular culture which become defining elements of a renovated novelistic attitude which were illustrated in El Cartero de Neruda.

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