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Fictions of Totality:  The Mexican Novel, 1968, and the National-Popular State

Ryan F. Long

The Mexican government’s brutal repression of the Student Movement of 1968 in the infamous Massacre of Tlatelolco exposed and exacerbated a serious crisis of political legitimacy. This study examines the cultural impact of this watershed event through historically contextualized readings of five paradigmatic novels: Carlos Fuentes’s La región más transparente (1958), Fernando del Paso’s José Trigo (1966), María Luisa Mendoza’s Con Él, conmigo, con nosotros tres (1971), Jorge Aguilar Mora’s Si muero lejos de ti (1979), and Héctor Aguilar Camín’s Morir en el golfo (1986).

Fictions of Totality compares texts published before and after 1968 in order to identify how literature has registered Mexico’s political transition from a national-popular to a neoliberal state model. Long argues that the dissolution of the national-popular ideal in Mexico manifested itself culturally as the gradual weakening of the capacity to imagine the Mexican nation and its historical trajectory as a coherent, comprehensive totality, a weakening apparent in both political ideology and literary discourse.

Each text analyzed in this study instructively exemplifies how the effort to represent totality always appears in conjunction with a meditation, either intentional or not, on that effort’s limitations. Fictions of Totality concludes that the events of 1968 revealed the state’s violent foundations, and that this series of novels published during Mexico’s mid-20th-century political transition likewise revealed the representational violence germane to the project of rendering the social totality in literature.

“This superior piece of scholarly research is an excellent contribution to Mexican literary history and a valuable addition to criticism on the Mexican novel. It deserves a solid place in the bibliography of academic research on the Mexican novel, which is crucial to the study of the Latin American novel in general.”—David William Foster, Arizona State University

"Ryan F. Long has written not only an excellent book, but also a  necessary one, which promises to become a first reference for any future reflection on Mexico's democrataic-neoliberal transition as traced in the literary. ... Long is not only a fine literary scholar, but possesses a broad historical knowledge that informs his readings. ... an important, groundbreaking study." Samuel Steinberg, A Contra corriente 7.2 (Winter 2010): 353-60.

"… contribuye al entendimiento de la transición de México de un estado popular nacional hacia un estado neoliberal, y de la preeminencia de la novela como medio para reflexionar sobre la realidad nacional …." —Fernando Fabio Sánchez, Revista de Estudios Hispánicos 45.1 (Winter 2011): 241-43.

“… Long ha hecho un trabajo sólido y su libro constituye sin dudas un aporte a la lectura de este periodo literario en México.” —Pablo Brescia, Chasqui 41.2 (Nov 2012): 195-98

Ryan F. Long, University of Oklahoma, focuses his research on culture and politics in Mexico, especially the late twentieth century. He has published articles on a range of topics, including the conflict in Chiapas, Mexican cinema, and a number of writers, such as Ignacio Manuel Altamirano, Álvaro Mutis, and Luis González de Alba.

ISBN-13: 978-1-55753-487-3            
2008. Vol. 44. x, 224 pp. Paper $43.95

Long-display case

Display in case in Stanley Coulter Hall, November 10–24, 2008.             
Photo of Tlatelolco Square Memorial courtesy of Wikipedia.            
Plant on left is a rain lily (lirio de lluvia), a plant that grows in Mexico.

Information last updated June 24, 2015

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