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The Voice of the Masters

The Voice of the Masters
Writing and Authority in Modern Latin American Literature

A timely and ambitious study of authority as theme and authority as authorial strategy in modern Latin American literature.

Series: Number 64

Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies University of Texas at Austin
September 1985
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207 pages | 6 x 9 |

By one of the most original and learned critical voices in Hispanic studies— a timely and ambitious study of authority as theme and authority as authorial strategy in modern Latin American literature.

An ideology is implicit in modern Latin American literature, argues Roberto González Echevarría, through which both the literature itself and criticism of it define what Latin American literature is and how it ought to be read. In the works themselves this ideology is constantly subjected to a radical critique, and that critique renders the ideology productive and in a sense is what constitutes the work. In literary criticism, however, too frequently the ideology merely serves as support for an authoritative discourse that seriously misrepresents Latin American literature.

In The Voice of the Masters, González Echevarría attempts to uncover the workings of modern Latin American literature by creating a dialogue of texts, a dynamic whole whose parts are seven illuminating essays on seminal texts in the tradition. As he says, "To have written a sustained, expository book ... would have led me to make the same kind of critical error that I attribute to most criticism of Latin American literature.... I would have naively assumed an authoritative voice while attempting a critique of precisely that critical gesture."

Instead, major works by Barnet, Cabrera Infante, Carpentier, Cortázar, Fuentes, Gallegos, García Márquez, Roa Bastos, and Rodó are the object of a set of independent deconstructive (and reconstructive) readings. Writing in the tradition of Derrida and de Man, González Echevarría brings to these readings both the penetrative brilliance of the French master and a profound understanding of historical and cultural context. His insightful annotation of Cabrera Infante's "Meta-End," the full text of which is presented at the close of the study, clearly demonstrates these qualities and exemplifies his particular approach to the text.

  • Acknowledgments
  • Preamble
  • 1. The Case of the Speaking Statue: Ariel and the Magisterial Rhetoric of the Latin American Essay
  • 2. Doña Bárbara Writes the Plain
  • 3. The Dictatorship of Rhetoric/The Rhetoric of Dictatorship
  • 4. Terra Nostra: Theory and Practice
  • 5. Los reyes: Cortázar’s Mythology of Writing
  • 6. Biografía de un cimarrón and the Novel of the Cuban Revolution
  • 7. Literature and Exile: Carpentier’s “Right of Sanctuary”
  • “Meta-End,” by Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Translated, with an Introduction, Commentary, and Notes
  • Notes
  • Index

Roberto González Echevarría is the R. Seldon Rose Professor of Spanish at Yale University.


“. . . a challenging book for the reader, bold, innovative, and profound, as one would expect from Roberto González Echevarría.”
Hispanic Review

“...breaks new ground in the interpretation of Latin American literature.”
World Literature Today

“Language and authority may well be inseparable. Unfortunately, as these essays point out, the reality of Latin America reflects excessive abuses on both counts. The Voice of the Masters clearly reflects the need for a more pluralistic Latin American society in which divergent ideologies are allowed to be expressed without fear of native or foreign interference.”
Times of the Americas

“A very rich and lucid critical meditation on the language of literature in Spanish America ... an original and thought-provoking book.”
Sylvia Molloy, Emery L. Ford Professor of Spanish, Princeton University


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