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Crimes against the State, Crimes against Persons: Detective Fiction in Cuba and Mexico

Persephone Braham
Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Crimes against the State, Crimes against Persons
    Book Description:

    Persephone Braham shows how the Cuban novela negra examines the Revolution through a chronicle of life under a decaying regime, and how the Mexican neopoliciaco reveals the oppressive politics of modernization in Latin America. Considering the work of writers such as Leonardo Padura Fuentes as well as G. K. Chesterton, Braham addresses Marxist critiques of the culture industry and Latin American postmodernity._x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9470-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction: Latin American Detective Literature in Context
    (pp. ix-xvi)

    Until the 1970s, the field of Latin American detective fiction was both limited and derivative. Through simulation or parody, authors engaged the marginal status and formulaic nature of detective narrative to dramatize Latin America’s peripheral position with respect to modern Western culture. Detective writing in Spanish remains a marginalized endeavor, charting an uncertain path between the politicized arenas of literary production and the contested phenomena of popular culture. But the Latin American detective genre is also flourishing, on its own merits and as a source for other literary experimentation.

    This book examines the trajectory of the detective novel in Mexico...

  5. 1. Origins and Ideologies of the Neopoliciaco
    (pp. 1-18)

    Detective literature explores the relationship between authority and justice. While classic detective stories present crime as the transgression of norms in an essentially just system, hard-boiled stories present the pursuit of justice itself as a transgression of norms in an essentially corrupt system. The nature of these transgressions reflects a series of relationships between the individual and the corporate, the aesthetic and the ethical, and the modern and the nonmodern.

    The detective genre is a product of the conditions of nineteenthcentury modernity: the scientific and philosophical transformations of the post-Enlightenment era; the emphasis on empiricism and ratiocination; and the burgeoning...

  6. Cuba:: Crimes against the State

    • 2. A Revolutionary Aesthetic
      (pp. 21-38)

      The socialist detective novel occupies a place within Cuban literary culture, and indeed Cuban culture in general, unlike that of the detective novel in any other setting. Far from the suspicion that genre literature usually provokes in academics, the popular aspect of detective fiction was precisely the element that legitimized it in the socialist intellectual culture of the 1970s. Political, academic, and literary communities alike adopted it as a symbol of equality and identification with the masses. For this reason, it is important to understand the continuities between the socialist detective novel and the rest of Cuban literary culture, as...

    • 3. Masking, Unmasking, and the Return to Signification
      (pp. 39-62)

      The socialist detective novel was part of an institutional program of nation building and national defense. Because it originated as a specifically ideological genre, the trajectory of its development over time exposes clearly the underlying social and political issues that motivated its invention. It also reveals the affiliations between ideology and gender in this process and demonstrates the ambivalence concerning gender roles within the newly defined socialist culture. Fidel Castro’s regime associated bourgeois power structures with problematic sexualities and differentiated itself from them according to unambiguous gender norms. In attempting to portray the idealized, progressive society that the leadership was...

  7. Mexico:: Crimes against Persons

    • 4. Contesting “la mexicanidad”
      (pp. 65-80)

      From Sarmiento forward, the Latin American relationship to European models for modernity has been characterized by the violence exercised by the “civilized” on the “barbarous.” Straying far from their liberal origins, proponents of modernization have advanced eugenic projects, condoned bossism orcaciquismo, and authorized dictatorship and police terrorism. These enterprises excuse an essential irrationality in the pursuit of progress, order, and economic stability. In recent decades, critics like the liberation theologist Enrique Dussel have rejected the “irrationality of violence generated by the myth of modernity.”¹ Latin American postmodernist theorists have organized themselves behind a rejection of neoliberalism, a commitment to...

    • 5. The Dismembered City
      (pp. 81-100)

      The hard-boiled genre is based on an essentially antisocial view of society; the detective often operates outside the law, using the techniques of criminals against the criminals themselves. In the Mexicanneopoliciaco, the criminals are invariably those in power: the wealthy, the government, and the police. The villain is corporate: the pervasive discourses of a “barbaric pseudodemocracy.”¹ The outcome of the clash between the detective’s personal ideals and the corporate reality is inevitably violent and dramatizes a greater battle for discursive territory, or what Homi Bhabha calls “the ‘right’ to signify from the periphery of authorized power.”²

      Paco Ignacio Taibo...

  8. Epilogue: Globalization and Detective Literature in Spanish
    (pp. 101-108)

    Walter Benjamin likened both the detective and the criminal predator to the alienated, modern figure of theflâneurin fin de siècle Paris, whose ability to read his surroundings is a function of his outsider status. Poe, wrote Benjamin, was the first writer to apply scientifically and aesthetically modern ideas to the messy phenomena of crime. His detective narratives were the original “exposition of pathological manifestations.”¹ The inscrutable genius of a Dupin, Holmes, or Poirot represented the social decontextualization of modern man and the solitary, disengaged eminence of the artist. Raymond Chandler believed that a good hard-boiled detective never gets...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 109-144)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 145-164)
  11. Index
    (pp. 165-169)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 170-170)