Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Stranger than Fiction: True Crime Narratives in Contemporary Latin American Literature
by Sherriff, Gina Louise Robinson, Ph.D., Yale University, 2010, 194; 3440631
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation explores the true crime novel in Latin America, a trend that combines documentary writing with the detective novel to re-examine recent cases of murder. The novels I analyze in this dissertation are Rodolfo Walsh's Operación masacre (1957), ¿Quién mató a Rosendo? (1968) and Caso Satanowsky (1973); Jorge Ibargüengoitia's Las muertas (1977); Mario Vargas Llosa's Historia de Mayta (1984), ¿Quién mató a Palomino Molero? (1986) and Lituma en las Andes (1993); and Roberto Bolaño's 2666 (2004).

Each author's decision to write about real-life murders was deliberate and strategic. It allows them to deconstruct the conventions of documentary writing and the detective novel. Their novels frustrate readers' expectations by providing neither the resolution associated with the detective novel nor the intimate relationship of documentary writing. By focusing on current events, these authors make the detective genre relevant to Latin America, using it to comment on issues of violence, crime and justice in their respective countries.

In my first chapter, I show how Rodolfo Walsh turns the detective novel into a political weapon by portraying the hidden crimes of the Argentine military government, and how he uses the genre to seduce his working class readers and to call them into action. In Chapter Two, Jorge Ibargüengoitia uses an infamous murder story to express his disillusion with a post-1968 Mexican society, its institutions and its obsession with scandal. Chapter Three traces Mario Vargas Llosa's literary trajectory following his investigation into the murder of eight journalists in the Andes, and shows how his detective novels are a personal and political exploration of that experience. In Chapter Four, I examine Roberto Bolaño's depiction of the femicides in Ciudad Juárez as part of his vision of systematic and unstoppable evil, implicating the Mexican government, the city and its residents in the women's murders.

This dissertation views the true crime novel as an innovative and socially oriented trend that has had a significant impact on the mainstream of the Latin American detective novel. It has wide ramifications for the way future scholars read true crime as well as the detective and testimonial genres.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Perez, Anibal Gonzalez
School: Yale University
School Location: United States -- Connecticut
Source: DAI-A 72/02, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Latin American literature, Latin American Studies
Keywords: Argentina, Bolano, Roberto, Chile, Detective novel, Ibarguengoita, Jorge, Mexico, Nonfiction, Peru, Vargas Llosa, Mario, Walsh, Rodolfo
Publication Number: 3440631
ISBN: 978-1-124-42148-3
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