Contemporary Latin American Fiction

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, our Review of the Week looks at emerging themes in Latin American fiction

Masquerade and social justice in contemporary Latin American fiction

Weldt-Basson, Helene Carol. New Mexico, 2017
226p bibl index, 9780826358158 $55.00, 9780826358165

Weldt-Basson (Univ. of North Dakota) argues that the interlinking of masquerade and social justice is unique to the contemporary Latin American novel. The study comprises chapters devoted to different kinds of justice—distributive justice, postmodern justice, postcolonial structural justice, transitional justice, and historical justice—as illustrated in exemplary novels by Mario Vargas Llosa, Augusto Roa Bastos, Isabel Allende, Ariel Dorfman, and others. Bookending the five core chapters are an introduction, “Masquerade and Literature,” and a conclusion, “Why Study Masquerade?” The approach is interdisciplinary, embracing history, philosophy, and psychology as well as social justice theory and literature (e.g., Renaissance and 18th- and 19th-century English masques). In showing the link between disguise/masquerade and social justice, the author brings carnivalization and US comic superheroes into the discussion. Many fictional characters in the books Weldt-Basson analyzes are writers who act as masks for the actual authors. Even those works that are not historical novels per se have historical backdrops (the Pinochet dictatorship, Zapatista movement, Cuban Revolution) and function as what the author calls “disguised historical novels.” Despite a tendency to repetition in the introduction and conclusion, there is much to digest in the meaty core chapters. Useful notes and works cited.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.
Reviewer: J. Walker, Queen’s University at Kingston
Subject: Humanities – Language & Literature – Romance
Choice Issue: Dec 2017