What is the Latin American boom?
The term “Latin American boom” is used to refer to a literary and publishing phenomenon that developed between the 1960s and 1970s, in which Latin American literature flourished, particularly the narrative genre, with an important artistic production that would be fundamental for the evolution of the literary world, this time from another region of the world.
During the 1960s, an important distribution of works created by writers of Latin American origin to the European continent began, but also to other parts of the world. In this way, young writers broke with the traditional scheme that had been developed until then with what was called magical realism, one of the crucial elements of this phenomenon.
The main representatives are Gabriel García Márquez from Colombia, Mario Vargas Llosa from Peru, Julio Cortázar from Argentina and Carlos Fuentes from Mexico. Other names such as Juan Rulfo, Jorge Luis Borges and Juan Carlos Onetti will soon follow.
Origin of the Latin American boom
In order to talk about the emergence of this phenomenon, it is necessary to specify the historical context that the region was going through at the time. Particularly, the 1960s were marked by an important social upheaval that spread throughout Latin America in the economic and political environment, induced by the Cold War. This event would become the axis for the creation of the authors that would form the Latin American boom.
Under a social and political context of great intensity, the first works began to appear, among them Rayuela, written by the Argentine Julio Cortázar and which, according to literary critics, is the first work of the literary phenomenon, followed by La ciudad y los perros by Mario Vargas Llosa, among others. These authors coincided in that in their narrative forms were present controversial issues of that time, such as political issues, the upper classes, homosexuals, among others.
However, it is necessary to mention that the intellectual precursor of the phenomenon is not specifically known, given that many of these writers were especially motivated to find the Latin American within their own literature, a literature that would leave aside the aesthetic models and that would propitiate a reencounter with their own areas of origin.
Thus, in their narrative, what was called “Magical Realism” would emerge, a resource that would allow them to explain the events that Latin America was going through through through the expression of feelings, sensations, fantastic facts and other great series of elements that would be imprinted in the great works that were developed during this period and that would later become the great classics of Latin American literature.
Literary development of the Latin American boom
This phenomenon took place mainly in the narrative genre, especially through the novel based on an extensive prose narration with descriptions of the geographical space in which the story and the characters take place. However, it will also take as its axis the short story, developed through a short extension in which fictional stories are synthesized.
Among them we can highlight the use of counterpoint through which places, events, characters, etc. are represented simultaneously and without warning. They also use different types of narrator, literary figures such as metaphor, simile, interior monologue, hyperbole, among others, and also the climax, a point to which the authors paid special attention.
It is considered a current of Realism that will have a predominant development in Latin America from the emergence and advance of the Latin American boom. One of the most important premises of magical realism will be to use a new form of expression that dictates a social denunciation without leaving aside the use of fiction for the representation of Latin American reality.
This current usually includes in its development aspects of the fantastic such as the use of legends, myths, but also cultures of the natural landscape according to the area of origin of the authors. These landscapes can be real or a product of the imagination as the atmosphere that covers Comala in the work of Juan Rulfo, Pedro Páramo. It includes supernatural elements, the unreal passes as natural, fragments of unreality, presents mainly social facts and the culture of the peoples of the American continent.
Another fundamental element in the literary phenomenon had to do with the interest in history, which will be seen mainly in novels. There, fictional stories will appear that gather historical events, including regimes, dictatorships, power, among other events that were portrayed.
The publishing industry
As we have mentioned, it was both a literary phenomenon, but also a publishing one, since it is mainly the publishing industry that favors the flourishing of Latin American literature during the Boom. In particular, the publishing house directed by Carlos Barral, called Seix Barral, was key to the diffusion of Latin American works. However, other publishing houses in different areas, such as Mexico, Argentina and Cuba, were decisive for its extension, thanks to the publication of novels.
On the other hand, it is important to mention that the phenomenon was also a space for renewal that interested publishing houses, which also had an effect on publishing houses in Spain, where these works began to be published.
Most important characteristics of the Latin American boom
Now, after knowing its origin and notion, it is time to review the most important characteristics of the boom based on a series of features that can be identified in the interests of its authors, their thinking and literary works. Among them we find the following:
Influences of the Latin American boom
It is important to mention that the authors of this phenomenon were especially influenced by the narrative of modernists such as James Joyce, Rubén Darío, José Martí, William Faulkner, Virginia Woolf, Jean Paul Sartre, among other renowned authors of foreign literature.
Characters of the works
One of the great aspects of Latin American literature is the profile of the characters that appear in their works. This is due to the fact that the authors choose to print in their stories characters that correspond to the Latin American reality itself, which will allow them to express in a profound way the social, political and cultural facts that go through them.
The rural and the urban
Another important point that we cannot leave aside when reviewing works of this phenomenon has to do with the treatment of the scenarios, where both the rural and the urban appear. These will be extremely key scenarios of its development because they will allow us to see the two faces of regions that have both panoramas and in which national identity, the functioning of populations and others, are seen in a different way.
Fantasy and everyday life
Particularly nourished by magical realism, the works of the Latin American boom allow us to experience the breaking down of the barriers between the everyday and fantasy. The authors mix these two aspects for the construction of a new reality in which new stories are developed with the two environments merged.
The authors of the Latin American boom break the traditional schemes of narration, including techniques that allow them to find their own styles and models for the novel, especially. That is why in their works it will be possible to see the presence of several perspectives, not always linear times, use of techniques such as the so-called “flashback” in cinema, plots that introduce new moments, among others.
In this sense, and hand in hand with real characters from the region, the authors choose to deal with themes that also correspond to their Latin American reality. That is why in the works it will be possible to see descriptions of the common man and woman of the region, social problems, political problems, aspects on the organization of the populations, among others.
Authors and works of the Latin American boom
We end with the most important authors of this phenomenon, who emerged from different areas, capturing in their works a national reality that, in many cases, managed to be transversal. Among the main authors we find: Julio Cortázar, Gabriel García Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, Juan Rulfo, Jorge Luis Borges, Juan Carlos Onetti, Ernesto Sabato, Leopoldo Marechal, Adolfo Bioy Casares, Silvina Ocampo, Alejo Carpentier, Agustín Yáñez, Felisberto Hernández, María Luisa Bombal, Jorge Amado, João Guimarães Rosa and Miguel Ángel Asturias. Other outstanding authors not long after, are: Clarice Lispector, Elena Garro, José Donoso, Manuel Puig, among others.
It is also possible to identify the most important works of the boom, among which we find the following: Rayuela by Julio Cortázar, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, The City and the Dogs by Mario Vargas Llosa, The Death of Artemio Cruz by Carlos Fuentes, The Kingdom of this World by Alejo Carpentier, El Señor Presidente by Miguel Ángel Asturia, Pedro Páramo and El llano en llamas by Juan Rulfo, El obsceno pájaro de la noche by José Donoso, Boquitas pintadas and El beso de la mujer araña by Manuel Puig, Yo, El Supremo by Augusto Roa Bastos, among others.
One of the great features of the Latin American boom was the impact it had on Latin American culture, since it changed the way in which culture was seen not only from the outside, but also from within itself. Thus, it managed to open an important door for universal literature, demonstrating that it was not following models, but proposing its own paths of literary development, paths that will be followed by the literature of posterity.
The literary world is full of movements, avant-gardes, authors and processes that continue to promote its development until today, which is why it is an art in constant movement. If you want to know more about Literature, remember that we have a section dedicated to this artistic field, where you can learn much more information.