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After-Dinner Conversation

Translated with an introduction and notes by Kelly Washbourne
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  • Book Info
    After-Dinner Conversation
    Book Description:

    Lost in a shipwreck in 1895, rewritten before the author's suicide in 1896, and not published until 1925, José Asunción Silva'sAfter-Dinner Conversation(De sobremesa) is one of Latin America's finest fin de siècle novels and the first one to be translated into English. Perhaps the single best work for understanding turn-of-the-twentieth-century writing in South America,After-Dinner Conversationis also cited as the continent's first psychological novel and an outstanding example ofmodernistafiction and the Decadent sensibility.

    Semi-autobiographical and more important for style than plot,After-Dinner Conversationis the diary of a Decadent sensation-collector in exile in Paris who undertakes a quest to find his beloved Helen, a vision whom his fevered imagination sees as his salvation. Along the way, he struggles with irreconcilable urges and temptations that pull him in every direction while he endures an environment indifferent or hostile to spiritual and intellectual pursuits, as did themodernistawriters themselves. Kelly Washbourne's excellent translation preserves Silva's lush prose and experimental style. In the introduction, one of the most wide-ranging in Silva criticism, Washbourne places the life and work of Silva in their literary and historical contexts, including an extended discussion of howAfter-Dinner Conversationfits within Spanish American modernismo and the Decadent movement. Washbourne's perceptive comments and notes also make the novel accessible to general readers, who will find the work surprisingly fresh more than a century after its composition.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79681-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. 1-48)

    It is perhaps regrettable that the full fin de siècle flowering of Latin American prose should not appear until 1925, well into avant-garde times, a belatedness that may help account forAfter-Dinner Conversation′s status as a ″lost novel.″ The work actually is thrice lost: first literally, in the wreck of theAmérique; second in its rewritten manuscript; and third in critical discourse, at least until very recent times.¹

    The work′s ontological status as a re-created entity is perhaps too much with us as we read; no reader fails to let Silva′s tragic biography intrude on the text. We read a...

  5. After-Dinner Conversation TRANSLATION OF De sobremesa
    (pp. 49-218)

    Secluded by the shade of gauze and lace, the warm light of the lamp fell in a circle over the crimson velvet of the tablecloth, and as it lit up the three china cups, which were golden in the bottom from the traces of thick coffee, and a cut-crystal bottle full of transparent liqueur shining with gold particles, it left the rest of the large and silent chamber awash in a gloomy purple semidarkness, the effect of the cast of the carpet, the tapestries, and the wall hangings.

    In the back, dimmed by diminutive shades of reddish gauze, the light...

  6. NOTES
    (pp. 219-250)
    (pp. 251-260)