The view of Latin American letters, at least in the United States, has sorely needed an update for quite some time. Magical realism has been one of Latin America's most profitable exports for many years, operating as the prevailing commercial literary mode long after outliving its usefulness. Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) and Love in the Time of Cholera (1985), two books we would describe—without exaggeration—as perfect, served as precursors to an unfortunate string of imitations, novels that combined a little magic, a little folklore, and a few miraculous recipes in entirely predictable formulas, creating an exotic, unrealistic, and ultimately damaging vision of Latin America. Perhaps the most dispiriting consequence of this stylistic hegemony is that so many other worthy writers have received less attention than they deserve. Giants like Jorge Luis Borges and Mario Vargas Llosa are widely celebrated, though not widely read in English—to say nothing of Juan Carlos Onetti, Juan Rulfo, Clarice Lispector, Julio Cortázar, or Manuel Puig. In this context, the recent canonization of Roberto Bolaño in the United States and around the world is a truly welcome development, which we hope will lead to greater interest in not-yet-famous and emerging Latin American writers.
It's been almost thirty years since García Márquez was awarded the Nobel Prize. In the interim, the demographics, politics, culture, and even language of Latin America have shifted significantly, and the iconic small-town landscapes favored by García Márquez and some of his talentless acolytes are no longer the predominant experience of its people. A majority of Latin Americans now reside in cities, and the isolation of out-of-the-way places like the mythical Macondo—a town where the appearance of ice causes a commotion—is less stark, less complete than you might imagine. If you were to visit such places today, you'd find teenagers downloading cumbia from Buenos Aires and Monterrey, uploading cell phone pictures to their flogs, or Skyping with cousins in the United States. They might be studying English or learning to break-dance, and able to recite all the latest Spanish league soccer scores. In some ways this condition is no less magical than that of García Márquez's Macondo, of course, but it is self-evidently a different reality.
This is not the first collection to propose a reevaluation of Latin American letters. Alberto Fuguet and Sergio Gómez's McOndo, published in Chile in 1996, did much the same, as did Bogotá39, organized by the Hay Festival in 2007. But the opportunity to do this work in English is just as important: the Latino population in the United States is growing, and a greater understanding of the places we come from is vital and necessary.
The research for this edition of Zoetrope: All-Story began with an anthology called El futuro no es nuestro (The Future Is Not Ours), edited by Diego Trelles Paz and just published in Argentina by Eterna Cadencia. That collection includes twenty writers from more than a dozen countries but does not pretend to be anything more than a snapshot of a Latin American moment. It is not comprehensive—for a region this large and diverse, how could it be?—just as this edition of All-Story isn't. Still, we have attempted to show some of the talent that exists among this new generation; and it's no coincidence that the writers here are all under forty years old, therefore born after the publication of One Hundred Years of Solitude.
As we embarked on this issue, we wondered if we might find a distinctive theme or style within these stories, something that connects them all. And while in some cases it's easy enough to pick out shared influences—from literature, film, music, art, comics, blogs, sitcoms, etc.—these don't necessarily cohere into anything approaching a common voice, theme, or ideology. Each story is unique in its narrative approach, and this diversity is part of what made the preparation of this special edition of All-Story so exciting. In the end, in lieu of attempting to make any sort of overarching statement about Latin America or its literature, we simply selected stories we like. We hope you like them, as well.
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