Latin American fiction won great acclaim in the United States during the 1960s, when many North American writers and critics felt that our national writing had reached a low ebb. In this study of experimental fiction from both Americas, Johnny Payne argues that the North American reception of the "boom" in Latin American fiction distorted the historical grounding of this writing, erroneously presenting it as mainly an exotic "magical realism." He offers new readings that detail the specific, historical relation between experimental fiction and various authors' careful, deliberate deformations and reformations of the political rhetoric of the modern state.
Payne juxtaposes writers from Argentina and Uruguay with North American authors, setting up suggestive parallels between the diverse but convergent practices of writers on both continents. He considers Nelson Marra in conjunction with Donald Barthelme and Gordon Lish; Teresa Porzecanski with Harry Mathews; Ricardo Piglia with John Barth; Silvia Schmid and Manuel Puig with Fanny Howe and Lydia Davis; and Jorge Luis Borges and Luisa Valenzuela with William Burroughs and Kathy Acker.
With this innovative, dual-continent approach, Conquest of the New Word will be of great interest to everyone working in Latin American literature, women's studies, translation studies, creative writing, and cultural theory.
"In recent years a new map of literary history has begun to emerge where "American Studies" yields to "Americas Studies," and the lines of literary descent criss-cross north and south rather than flowing steadily from Europe to the "New World." . . . Johnny Payne's Conquest of the New Word is an excellent example of these new comparative American literary and cultural studies. . . . [It] calls us to attention: it fruitfully opens up many territories of interpretation—suggesting new configurations of contemporary fiction—but it also demands much more of interpreters."
—Southern Humanities Review