A History of Chilean Literature

Happy National Hispanic Heritage Month! This week's review provides a comprehensive look at Chilean literature, expanding and enriching the definition through its inclusion of indigenous and diasporic authors.

A History of Chilean Literature

ed. by Ignacio López-Calvo Cambridge, 2021
654p bibl index, 9781108487375 $110.00, 9781108806909 $88.00

A History of Chilean Literature book cover.

This ambitious collection of 30 essays provides an extensive, intensive overview of Chilean writing since the Spanish conquest. In the introduction, López-Calvo (Univ. of California, Merced) states that this “is the first English-language history of Chilean literature to bring together a comprehensive analysis of every period, from a variety of theoretical and thematic perspectives” (p. 2). The book discusses three periods: the “proto-Chilean,” the 19th century, and the 20 and 21st centuries. Essays address the full spectrum of the Chilean experience, expanding understanding of Chilean literature to include indigenous and diasporic authors. Essays examine Mapuche poetry and aesthetics, women’s writing, LGBTQ writers, Chilean American writers, and authors from Afro-Chilean, Jewish, Croatian, Asian, and Arabic communities in Chile. All the canonical authors—Alonso de Ercilla, Gabriela Mistral, José Donoso, Pablo Neruda, Roberto Bolaño, Alejandro Zambra—are here with fresh readings, and there are introductions to overlooked subaltern voices and contemporary writers. The collection offers important essays on theater, film, digital literature, criticism, and memory. López-Calvo accurately claims that this work “challenges previous binary debates and essentialist or nationalist paradigms” (p. 17) about what constitutes Chilean literature. This is an excellent, readable, teachable addition to Latin American literary studies.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower- and upper-division undergraduates; graduate students.
Reviewer: A. A. Edwards, Mercyhurst University
Interdisciplinary Subjects: Latin American & Latina/o Studies
Humanities – Language & Literature – Romance
Choice Issue: Aug 2022

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