American Collections blog

20 July 2011

Guest posts on Out of this World

My colleagues have been moonlighting on the Science Fiction exhibition blog. First, up, it's Aquiles on SF in Latin America:

The narrative of alternative, fantastic worlds is a hallmark of Latin American literature. Many novels written in Latin America, especially in the second half of the 20th century such as The Kingdom of this World by Alejo Carpentier or A Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez became worldwide famous under the label 'magic realism', a narrative of alternative lives, beings and landscapes that challenge our concept of reality. What many readers do not realise is that the fantastic world as ascribed to contemporary Latin American literature can in fact be identified much earlier in the SF narratives that were published in the continent – a literary genre which has been and continues to be widely published in Latin America.

Dos Partidos en lucha: Fantasía científica by Eduardo Holmberg (Buenos Aires: El Arjentino, 1875) [Two Fighting Parties – Science Fantasy – BL holds it at shelfmark 7006.b.1] is considered to be one of the first Latin American novels written in the genre. This novel does not, in fact, make projections on how a future world would look but, instead, is based on a historic event that happened in Argentina: Charles Darwin’s visit to the country in 1872 during a scientific expedition. The novel narrates how Darwin captured some specimens from Argentina, including what he believed to be some monkeys who turned out to be human beings. The interesting aspect of this work (Holmberg wrote other SF novels dealing with space travel, aliens, etc) is that it brings forward the discussion about how science, working on a system of classification, is but a fantasy (or fiction) since it does not grasp reality as it is but rather projects the scientist’s own values and beliefs onto worlds which are completely alien to him. [read more]

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