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Coming of age in the early XX century, Argentinean literature, like all other aspects of Argentinean culture, developed under strong European influence, particularly French literary movements. In search for an identity, Argentinean authors gave way to a gaucho style, called criollismo, which more than a defined school of literacy was a way to differentiate and reject French influences.

Beginning with Bartolomé Hidalgo, whose poems had political messages and patriotic sentiment, the gaucho style became the gateway of expressing patriotism and romanticize the definition of gaucho. The most exemplary gaucho piece ever written came to print in 1872 and since it has defined this literary movement. “El Gaucho Martín Fierro,” written by José Hernández, is the story of a gaucho who serves in a fort defending the Argentinean border against indigenous. His poor life in the pampas is described with melancholy, yet his fights as a soldier are not romanticized. Fierro becomes a fugitive, and after finding a running partner, he settles for an exiled life with the Indians, concluding it is better to live in the wild than in the society set up for him. The poem has a continuation, “La Vuelta de Martín Fierro,” in which the character returns to “civilization.”

Though Hernández is often considered the most important national author inside Argentina, Jorge Luis Borges has taken his place by international standards. Coming in half a century after Hernández, Borges actually contributed with the magazine named after Hernández’ famous character, among many other publications that printed the essays, poems and articles of this legendary literary figure. The next literary stage – in between Hernández and Borges – was named generation of the 80s, and was heavily influenced by European trends. The intellectual Julio Cortázar began publishing novels in 1938, innovating the literary scene right away, as he would one day come to be known as a master of story and short narration. In 1953 he translated the entire work of Edgar Allan Poe for the University of Puerto Rico; later that would be referred to by critics as the best translation of the work of Poe. By the time Borges was well established in the 1940s, other authors such as Ernesto Sábato and Leopoldo Marechal emerged also marking Argentinean literature at an international level. “El Túnel,” for example, received several European recognitions and even contemporary Latin American literature studies take his work as representation of the southern country. Furthermore, Marechal’s “Adán Buenosayres” (1948) is considered by many the fundamental Argentinean novel.

The military dictatorship from 1976 until 1983 interrupted the literary tendencies, however, authors like Ricardo Piglia, Juan José Saer, Rodolfo Fogwill, Alicia Steinberg, Luisa Valenzuela and Jorge Asís resumed their work in the 80s and caught up with contemporary discussions and themes. Currently the Internet serves as an outlet for new generations of writers, though it’s difficult to discern who will become the next Borges and who will pass in the shadows of endless virtual pages. Names like Leonardo Oyola, Federico Falco, Juan Terranova and Natalia Moret are emerging thus far.

Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Argentina: Biblioteca Nacional, The AĂłnikenk, Dance in Argentina, Convento San Bernado, Gauchito Gil, Studying tango and visiting milongas, Cerro de la Virgen, Tikunaco, Museo de Deuda Externa and Argentine Culture.

18 Apr 2008

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