UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Reading testimonio today : Central American literature from 1982 to the present Thakkar, Upasana


This thesis argues that testimonio is above all a perspective from which to read a literary text: it is one way (among many) to understand or interpret a text. The thesis investigates the continued validity of this perspective in the twenty-first century, even as the genre of testimonio is apparently in decline in today’s neoliberal world in which the market governs the production and consumption of literary works. Written and read by would-be revolutionaries and their sympathizers during the resistance to military regimes, testimonio helped propagate the belief that the end of the struggle would bring social change. Texts such as Me llamo Rigoberta Menchú, Miguel Mármol, Si me permiten hablar, and others describe the oppression of military rule and outline the dream of forming a peaceful post-war society. However, in many cases post-war settlements brought disappointment and frustration to the people, leading to a new, more cynical ethos in contemporary literature, and the notion that testimonio (or any other literary tool) might bring social change came to seem an illusion. Against this dominant narrative, I read contemporary fiction and film from Central America (specifically, El Salvador and Guatemala) as testimonio, with a focus on aspects such as parody, transnationalism, and visuality. Contemporary Fictions such as El asco, Insensatez, The Tattooed Soldier, or Voces inocentes are examples that can be read as testimonio. Reading literary fiction from the perspective of testimonio will bypass much of the unproductive debate that surrounds the genre: the dichotomy between truth and lies, fact and fiction, authenticity and inauthenticity. The testimonio genre is trapped in this debate, which occludes the literariness of a text read as testimonio, on the one hand, and the testimonial aspects of literary texts, on the other.  

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