"Lastarria's conscientious detailing of facts is a boon to scholars... his political tracts are fiery..."--PublishersWeekly Novelist, scholar, journalist, statesman, and leading member of Chile's "Generation of 1842"--an intellectual movement so named for the founding of the National University--José Victorino Lastarria (1811-1888) lived his life at the forefront of nineteenth-century Chilean and Spanish American culture, literature, and politics. Recuerdos Literarios (or Literary Memoirs) is his masterpiece, encompassing the candid memories of a tireless activist, both the creative and critical sensibilities of an influential Latin American early modernist, and an eyewitness account of the development of Chilean literature and historiography. An ardent, eloquent participant in every defining artistic and ideological debate in Chile during the formative mid-1800s, Lastarria recorded his epoch as closely as he did his own origins, education, ambitions, and career. Sometimes reminiscent of Montaigne's essays, Eça de Quieroz's journalism, or Barbusse's didactic convictions, Literary Memoirs is an engrossing account of Chile's newly ordained nationhood.
During this momentous era, the essence of Chile's evolving literature was at stake. Lastarria witnessed, and here chronicles, several fundamental disagreements occurring in salons, in lecture halls, and in print. We encounter breaks between the Valparaíso and Santiago presses, between classicists (led by Andrés Bello) and romantics (best represented by Domingo Faustino Sarmiento), and between ideas of conservatism and liberalism. We also learn how such rifts fostered the establishment of the "Generation of 1842" group. Favoring invention over tradition, the new over the old, Lastarria goes on to offer an original notion of history itself, the meaning of which was debated throughout Latin America at this time. History should serve a purpose, he thought, as should fiction; it should not simply narrate but also teach and inspire. Such rousing assertions fully agreed with Lastarria's conviction that Chile should reject the Peninsular past and accept French aesthetic influences while finding its own literary way. His early speeches on these matters are thus included in these rich Literary Memoirs.
This addition to Oxford's prestigious Library of Latin America series is more than a retelling of things past; it is an informed yet informal testament to the idea of chilenidad (or "Chileanness") and a detailed portrait of one of Chile's cultural architects. For this new edition of Literary Memoirs, Frederick M. Nunn's introduction presents an informative historical background and R. Kelly Washbourne's translation carefully preserves Lastarria's form and content.
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From Publishers Weekly:
ABOUT THE EDITOR AND TRANSLATOR
Frederick M. Nunn is Professor of History and International Studies at Portland State University. He is the author of The Time of the Generals: Latin American Professional Militarism in World Perspective.
R. Kelly Washbourne is completing his doctorate in Latin American literature at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He is assistant editor of the Amazonian Literary Review.
From Oxford University Press's Library of Latin America comes a significant but dry work about the formation of Chile's literary culture. Born in 1817, the year before Chile won its independence from Spain, Lastarria quickly rose through university ranks and became actively involved in the development of the country's culture. In his introduction, Nunn points out that, unlike most of the Latin American countries that broke away from Spain in the 19th century, Chile managed to create a stable government within the first 15 years of its independence. Nonetheless, Lastarria makes a point of reminding his readers that the transition was anything but smooth. In fact, the author was prompted to write his memoirs because Chilean historians only a generation younger than himself were already misrepresenting the country's history and misattributing its achievements. Lastarria sets the record straight: he provides a blow-by-blow account of the founding of the National University and the reform of the education system (which he helped move away from peripatetic, monastic style by promulgating less disciplinarian classroom techniques developed in France), and he recounts how writers began to develop the literary culture that eventually laid the path for future Nobel laureates Gabriela Mistral and Pablo Neruda. Lastarria's conscientious detailing of facts is a boon to scholars, but his writing is parched; though his political tracts are fiery enough, their melodramatic poetics are likely to put off modern readers. (Dec.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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