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Surveillance, The Cold War, And Latin American Literature is a cultural and aesthetic analysis of the relationship between secret police agencies and the intellectuals and writers in Latin America during the Cold War. It examines the period from 1950 to 1989 from an interdisciplinary perspective, providing an original understanding of how the Cold War produced stories and created ‘truths’ at a national level through its mechanisms of surveillance and control and how that modus operandi transformed the broader society and its culture. It combines analysis of novels, short stories, and poems by Gabriel García Márquez, Pablo Neruda, José Revueltas, Rodrigo Rey Rosa, among others, with spy reports and declassified documents from Mexican, Guatemalan, Chilean, and Uruguayan police archives, as well as the CIA, FBI, and Stasi archives. Surveillance traces how the paradigmatic change that began in the Renaissance with Brunelleschi’s re-invention of perspective radically transformed the human locus of enunciation, allowing for the emergence of a new world vision. This consequence of modernity created a basis for paranoid societies like those that emerged during the Cold War in Latin America.
This chapter defines the gaze of modernity, a way of seeing and understanding the world that began during the Renaissance and continued during the Cold War in Latin America. It presents three key moments in the development of this gaze: Brunelleschi's invention of perspectiva artificialis in the 1400s, and its multifaceted consequences in the arts and sciences. Bentham's notion of panopticon in 1787, and its connection to the concept of surveillance. Robert Barker's creation also in 1787, the panorama. Finally, the chapter examines the relevance of the archive in theoretical terms, highlighting the connections to the panopticon and panorama, and discussing some of the archive's fundamental contradictions.
Chapter 5 begins with an overview of the ideology of the Chilean dictatorship (1973-1990). It then uses files from the secret police (CNI) and documents from the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Education to study several cases of censorship during the dictatorship. First, a secret police report on a book about torture in Chile published by Amnesty International in 1983. Second, a memorandum from Division of Social Communication that includes a Colonel’s criticism of a poem by Rubén Campos Aragón in 1976. And third, a thorough analysis, a “Sociological Appreciation,” of the transition to democracy written by a Captain of the Navy, in December 1988, right after Pinochet’s defeat in a referendum. In the first two cases, the focus is on how agents analyzed the language of the censored texts. In the third, on how language is used to characterize the political and social situation.
Chapter 6 opens with examination of several reports by informants and agents in the Guatemalan National Police Archive. It discusses the language used and its implications. Then it analyzes the file of president Jacobo Árbenz from YEARS. Next, it studies the over 2,500 pages of José Revueltas’ file found in the Archive of the DFS. Most of the documents refer to Revueltas’ trial after the events of 1968. The chapter discusses the language employed by the agents, how Revueltas’s “responsibility” for the events of 1968 was established, and how surveillance of Revueltas did not end until his death. Subsequently, the chapter scrutinizes the files of Gabriel García Márquez. These files show the ambiguous position held by García Márquez in Mexico—he was described as “guest of honor” and “KGB agent” simultaneously. It discusses the writer’s political views and his silence regarding Mexican state violence.
This chapter begins with a brief introduction to the origins and organization of the Ministry of State Security (Stasi) in the German Democratic Republic. It continues with an analysis of Timothy Garton Ash’s memoir The File: A Personal History, where he writes about his own file found in the Stasi’s archives. Using files from the Stasi, the chapter discusses the case of Chilean writer Carlos Cerda, who was exiled in the GDR from 1973 to 1985, and was approached by the Stasi to become an “Unofficial Collaborator” (IM). Next, it analyzes how the short stories “Ferrobádminton” and “Splendor and Agony of the Horses,” written by Cerda during his time in East Germany, engage with the subject of surveillance and exile. Finally, it examines To Die in Berlin, a novel that Cerda finished writing in Chile after his exile.
Chapter 7 reverses the perspective of the previous two chapters and reads several literary works to unearth their dialogue with the State’s surveillance. It begins with the analysis of García Márquez’s The Autumn of the Patriarch, emphasizing the role played by poetry in the novel and how it confronts hegemonic power. It then discusses the short story “The Most Handsomest Drowned Man in the World” and the ambiguity of the sense of liberation in its ending. The chapter then turns to two works by José Revueltas: the short story “Hegel and I,” which deals with the possibilities and limits of knowledge; and the novel “Errors,” which criticizes of the the Mexican Communist Party. The chapter continues with the analysis of several poems by Guatemalan writer and guerrillero Otto René Castillo, focusing on the relation between praxis and theory that all intellectual faces, and the importance of the lover’s gaze in the poetic construction of a new reality. Lastly, it examines the autobiographical text Thunder in the City, written by Mario Payeras . The author evokes his time in the urban guerrilla in the early 1980s in Guatemala City and provides a remarkable view into the State’s surveillance.
This chapter presents the historical background of the secret police and intelligence archives used in this book and describes how they came into the public domain: the Guatemalan National Police Archive, the Mexican Federal Security Directorate Archive (DFS); the Chilean National Intelligence Directorate (DINA) Archive and the National Information Center (CNI) Archive, as well as Colonia Dignidad's Archive; and the Uruguayan Service of Intelligence and Liason (SIE) Archive. It then analyzes Rodrigo Rey Rosa's text Human Matter as a literary example of the uses and intricacies of the archive. It studies how the novel discusses the inside and outside of the archive, as well as the notions of time and space that the archive produces. Finally, it examines Human Matter as an analysis of Guatemala's past and present after the genocide of the 1980s.
Chapter 3 begins with an examination of how anticommunism manifested in Mexico, Guatemala, and Uruguay, highlighting the importance of the National Security Doctrine and the notion of internal enemy, and analyzing the secret police files of Octavio Paz, Frida Kahlo, and Elena Poniatowska, and others, as illustrations of anticommunist paranoia. The examination of anticommunism culminates with analysis of Miguel Ángel Asturias’s collection of stories Week-end in Guatemala and its references to the 1954 coup d’état. The chapter then turns to the Cultural Cold War, using declassified documents from the CIA, to examine the organization of the Continental Cultural Congress (Santiago, 1953), with emphasis on the counter-maneuvering led by the American Embassy in Chile and Pablo Neruda’s role as one of the organizers of the Congress. Finally, it discusses Neruda’s “non-political” poetry at the time, The Captain’s Verses, vis-à-vis his “political” poetry.
Surveillance, the Cold War, and Latin American Literature examines secret police reports on Gabriel García Márquez, Pablo Neruda, Octavio Paz, Elena Poniatowska, José Revueltas, Otto René Castillo, Carlos Cerda, and other writers, from archives in Mexico, Chile, Guatemala, Uruguay, the German Democratic Republic, and the USA. Combining literary and cultural analysis, history, philosophy, and history of art, it establishes a critical dialogue between the spies' surveillance and the writers' novels, short stories, and poems, and presents a new take on Latin American modernity, tracing the trajectory of a modern gaze from the Italian Renaissance to the Cold War. It traces the origins of today's surveillance society with sense of urgency and consequence that should appeal to academic and non-academic readers alike throughout the Americas, Europe and beyond.
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