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Dos o tres cosas sobre la novela de la Violencia y las violencias en Colombia


In April 9, 1948 a massive riot broke out on the streets of Bogot� as a result of the assassination of the popular leader Jorge Eli�cer Gait�n. The violence escalated rapidly, but by the end of the day, the military forces had regained control. Despite the government’s efforts, the outrage at the news of the assassination had spread throughout the nation, awakening a wave of violence that would last over a decade and that would be remembered as the period of la Violencia.

La Violencia was notable not only for the popular revolt in the cities and the countryside that lead to the deaths of thousands of people, but also for the profound impact it had on Colombian culture in general and literature in particular. This dissertation focuses on the Colombian novel during the fifties and sixties, which was produced in great numbers as a response from writers who tried to interpret and understand the violence that surrounded them. This surge represented a point of contention between those literary critics and writers like Eduardo Zalamea Borda, Hernando T�llez, and Gabriel Garc�a M�rquez all of whom, claimed that, in Colombia, the novel as a genre did not exist (with only a few exceptions), and those who argued exactly the opposite. These debates were pivotal specifically due to Garc�a M�rquez’s important texts—in 1959 and in 1960— and, in effect, sentenced the novel of la Violencia to occupy a small corner in Colombian literature. Furthermore, Garc�a M�rquez’s verdict influenced the works of literary critics that studied the Colombian novel in later decades to the point that only the same small group of novels were mentioned by the critics, leaving behind a vast literary corpus worthy of examination.

This dissertation also examines Garc�a M�rquez’s experience in Cartagena as he fled the violence in the capital as well as his early beginnings as a journalist and how this professional endeavor influenced his literary works. In addition, I propose that his 1958 short novel El coronel no tiene quien le escriba was his direct response to la Violencia and to his 1959 article in which he vehemently criticized the novels of the period.

Due to the nature of Colombia’s endemic violence, I explore from la Violencia, a phenomenon characterized by bipartisan conflicts, to a plural violence that has taken multiple forms as new agents in the socio-political strata emerge. Hence, creating a re-signification of the traditional violence to multiple violencias. As a consequence, the novel will also adapt to the new violencias as a way make sense of reality, and different subgenres will be used to capture it. Finally, I discuss, in detail, the testimonial novel, the sicaresca novel and the novella as distinct manifestations of the plurality the violence.

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