Words across frontiers

DEC Writing across CulturesWriting across Cultures: Narrative Transculturation in Latin America
Angel Rama, translated by David Frye
2012, Duke University Press
243 pages, paperback

NARRATIVE transculturation, a term that became the central theme of the work of the great Uruguayan literary critic Angel Rama, but coined by his Cuban peer Fernando Ortiz, can be seen as a key to decades of creative and highly fertile Latin American social thought and cultural criticism that accompanied the boom, debates on dependency theory and liberation theology. If it belongs to a specific era in the Latin American imagination, the theoretical and practical insights that it provides are by no means confined to the period in which Rama took and developed this centrepiece of his work prior to his death in 1983. Indeed, this effort to understand and explain the encounter between traditions has a broader relevance to any culture that has a peripheral relationship with the metropolis, and its translation into English makes the explanations it offers much more accessible to students of subaltern and postcolonial studies. Rama, an exile from Uruguay’s military dictatorship after 1973, applies Ortiz’s concept to regionalist literature and offers a way of associating this with broader global socioeconomic trends. He applies the concept in particular to the work of the Peruvian writer José María Argueda, who drew upon both Spanish and Quechua in his writing to yield the most accomplished examples of narrative transculturation in the region.