Postdictatorial Traumas: Autofiction by Children of the Disappeared in Argentina

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2023-05

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Abstract

This dissertation examines seven contemporary autofiction novels, nearly all written by children of people who were persecuted or disappeared during Argentina’s heinous military dictatorship of the 1970s and early 1980s, and posits that their objectives are primarily literary, rather than autobiographical. The novelists’ shared artistic impulse differentiates them from the testimonialists who came forward in the years following the dictatorship. These seven works of autofiction—a term coined in 1977 by the French writer Serge Doubrovsky—engage in what Argentine cultural critic Beatriz Sarlo calls writing “desde afuera de la experiencia” (Tiempo pasado 47). Unlike the testimonials, the twenty-first-century autofictional novels at the center of this study do not attempt to reveal truth, nor to establish historical facts, and so they should not be judged by their fidelity to history. Whereas those testimonios require a passive reader who will receive their emotionally numbing accounts of trauma, the autofiction authors relinquish the autobiographer’s narrative and moral authority, instead creating ambiguity and complexity through the use of autofictional invention, such as what Doubrovsky calls “dissonances” (qtd. in McDonough 7), which will also be referred to as “texture” throughout this dissertation. “Texture” can take the form of contradictory or unexpected elements that inject ambiguity into the story. By actively reinterpreting history in order to complicate its meaning, the autofictional impulse also creates space for the reader to feel and reflect. It eschews the “truth” of facts so that it can speak to deeper truths, and it uses imagination to reach for what is missing. The corpus of Argentine autofiction for this dissertation consists of: Los topos (2008) by Félix Bruzzone, Diario de una princesa montonera: 110% Verdad (2012) by Mariana Eva Perez, El espíritu de mis padres sigue subiendo en la lluvia (2012) by Patricio Pron, Una muchacha muy bella (2013) by Julián López, Pequeños combatientes (2013) by Raquel Robles, Aparecida (2015) by Marta Dillon, and La casa de los conejos (2018) by Laura Alcoba. These texts contain testimonial, denunciative, political, and social elements, but this thesis recognizes another central characteristic: the intention to produce works with literary value, not just moral value.

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Keywords

Argentine literature, Children, Disappeared, Dissonance, Autofiction, Literary intention, Testimony, Postmodern, Aesthetic objective

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