In The Spanish American Novel, John S. Brushwood analyzes the twentieth-century Spanish American novel as an artistic expression of social reality. In relating the generic history of the novel to extraliterary events in Spanish America, he shows how twentieth-century fiction sets forth the essence of such phenomena as the first Perón regime, the Mexican Revolution, the Che Guevara legend, indigenismo, and the strongman political type. In essence, he views the novel as art rather than as document, but not as art alienated from society.
The discussion is organized chronologically, opening with the turn of the century and focusing on novels from 1900 to 1915 that exemplify various aspects of the nineteenth-century literary inheritance. Brushwood then highlights the avant-garde fiction (influenced by Proust and Joyce) of the 1920s as a precursory movement to the “new” Latin American novel, a phenomenon that came into its own during the 1940s. He then examines the “boom” in Spanish American fiction, the period of extensive international recognition of certain works, which he dates from 1962 or 1963.
In each era considered, the development of the novel is placed in dual perspective. One view—that of particularly significant novels in light of others published during the same year—is a cross section of the genre at one particular moment. The second view—that of a panorama of novels published in intervals between significant moments in the history of the novel—is more general and selective in the number of books discussed. Combining the historical with the analytical approach, the author proposes that the experience of a novel in which reality has been transformed into art is essential to our understanding of that reality.
John S. Brushwood (1920-2007) was the Roy A. Roberts Professor Emeritus of Latin American Literature at the University of Kansas.