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Other Communions: Maya, Mulatto, Woman and God in Miguel Angel Asturias 1923-1974.

By Andrea Leigh Dewees


“Other Communions: Maya, Mulatto, Woman and God in Miguel Ángel Asturias 1923-1974” engages the Guatemalan Nobel Laureate’s literary production over five decades, beginning with his portrayals of the Maya and expanding to include his representations of the mulatto, female and God. I am primarily concerned with close readings of Los ojos de los enterrados (1960), Mulata de Tal (1963) and El árbol de la cruz (1997) but I draw also from others of Asturias’s novels, as well as historiography, postcolonial and feminist theory, to show how Asturias narrates the nation through literary figures of the Other. Chapter 2 begins with an intellectual history of Asturias as a “Maya” author, tracing the roots and permutations of this myth through biography, autobiography, and literary criticism. I then show how his appropriative creation of a Maya indigenismo is central to his political and aesthetic conception of Latin American literature. However, Asturias’s novels extend beyond this fictive Maya center. Chapter 3 analyzes a non-Maya, untranslated phrase associated with a mulatto character in Asturias’s Banana Trilogy. I analyze an emerging negrista aesthetic and argue that the interruptive repetition of the phrase structures the novel’s account of the recent history of revolution, land reform and democratic rupture in Guatemala, as well as the more distant legacies of the conquest, colonialism and slavery. Mulata de tal also features a mulatta character and in Chapter 4 I explain how Asturias connects land to the female body through a complex series of fragmentations, profanations and redemptions. In contrast to the more historical concerns of the Banana Trilogy, this novel is encased within an apocalyptic framework, marking a shift in Asturias’s attention from a Maya origin to the end of days. Finally, I examine a sketch published after Asturias’s death, El árbol de la cruz, calling attention to Asturias’s connection between the female Other and the cross in what amounts to a brief treatise on communion. I show how this text, read accumulatively through popular religiosity in others of Asturias’s novels, balances between definitive origin and conclusive end

Topics: Miguel ÁNgel Asturias, Latin American Literary Movement Indigenismo, Latin American Literary Movement Negrismo, History of Guatemala: 1944 and 1954, Popular Religiosity, Orientalism
Year: 2010
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