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Sites of Disquiet: The Non-Space in spa American Short Narratives and Their Cinematic Transformations

Ilka Kressner
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    Sites of Disquiet
    Book Description:

    Some of the most important writers of the twentieth century, including Borges, Cortázar, Rulfo, and García Márquez, have explored ambiguous sites of a disquieting nature. Their characters face merging perspectives, deferral, darkness, or emptiness. Such a space is neither a site of projection (as utopia or dystopia) nor a neutral setting (as the topos). For the characters, it is real and active, at once elusive and transforming. Despite the challenges of visualizing such slippery spaces, filmic experimentations in spa American cinema since the 1960s have sought to adapt these texts to the screen. Ilka Kressner’s Sites of Disquiet examines these representations of alternative dimensions in spa American short narratives and their transformations to the cinematic screen. The study is informed by contemporary critical approaches to spatiality, especially the concepts of atopos (non-space), spaces of mobility, sites of différance, of a self-effacing presence, and sonic spaces. Kressner’s comparative study of textual and cinematic constructions of non-spaces highlights the potential and limits of inter-arts adaptation. Film not only portrays the sites in ways that are intrinsic to the medium but, during the cinematic translation, it further develops the textual presentations of space. Text and film illuminate each other in their renderings of echoes, gaps, absences, and radical openness. The shared focus of the two media on precarious spaces highlights their awareness of the physical and situational conditions in the works. Therefore, it vindicates the import of space and dwelling, and the often underestimated impact of surroundings on the human body and mind. Despite their heterogeneity, the artistic elaborations of these ambivalent atopoi all share a liberating impulse: they assert creative and open-ended interactions with space where volatility ceases to be a negative term.

    eISBN: 978-1-61249-287-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Preface Approaching Un-common Grounds
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  2. Introduction Spotting the Non-Space
    (pp. 1-24)

    Space is a changing construct. It is created, experienced, and remembered individually and through social exchange and interaction with objects. Henri Lefebvre, one of the pioneers of the “spatial turn” in critical thinking, rejects any definition of a neutral space independent of the human perception. InLa production de l’espace, he states:

    l’illusion de l’espace transparent, “pur” et neutre ne se dissipe que lentement. … L’espace ne peut plus se considérer comme une “essence,” un objet distinct pour et devant les sujets, relevant d’une logique autonome… Il ne peut pas davantage se considérer comme une résultante et un résultat… Médium?...

  3. Chapter One Into Spatial Vagueness: Jorge Luis Borges’s and Miguel Picazo’s Hombre de la esquina rosada
    (pp. 25-40)

    A major element in many of Borges’s short fictions is the relationship between reality, human perception, and language. How do we make sense of the world around us and of ourselves within it? Is our language a reliable tool to communicate or is it a means of dispersion and misunderstanding? Borges’s texts do not present single answers. Instead, they evoke puzzling worlds with doubtful protagonists who are uncertain whether they dream or are awake, or whether they are criminals, victims, or even the creators of the fictitious webs in which they live. Donald L. Shaw, inBorges’ Narrative Strategy, compares...

  4. Chapter Two The Power of Staging: Spaces of Emulation in Jorge Luis Borges’s “Tema del traidor y del héroe” and Bernardo Bertolucci’s Strategia del ragno
    (pp. 41-60)

    Borges’s “Tema del traidor y del héroe” (“Theme of the Traitor and the Hero”) has received much critical attention since its first publication in 1944. From its beginning, the three-page story is clearly marked as a self-referential artifice, an artistic work in progress. The narrator considers writing, perhaps, the theme, which, at this point, he barely sees: “He imaginado este argumento, que escribiré tal vez. … Faltan pormenores, rectificaciones, ajustes; hay zonas de la historia que no me fueron reveladas aún; hoy, 3 de enero de 1944, la vislumbro así” (OC 1: 496). However, while he writes about his decision...

  5. Chapter Three Screening the Void: Julio Cortázar’s “Cartas de mamá,” and Manuel Antin’s and Miguel Picazo’s Filmic Translations
    (pp. 61-86)

    In 1946 Julio Cortázar published his first work of fiction in a literary magazine, whose editor was none other than Jorge Luis Borges, by then the most influential writer of short prose in Argentina. As Jaime Alazraki points out, like any other writer of the genre in the 1940s and 50s, Cortázar had to establish his place in relation to Borges:

    Cortázar comenzó a escribir sus primeros cuentos dentro de un medio en que el magisterio de Borges era el eje de la vida literaria en Buenos Aires, verdadero Minotauro de las letras porteñas: todos los caminos iban a dar...

  6. Chapter Four Echoes in the Dark: Pedro Páramo on the Page and on the Screen
    (pp. 87-114)

    In the novellaPedro Páramo(idem) [1955], Mexican author Juan Rulfo creates a desolate village on the prairie, haunted by whispers and apparitions. His Comala is doubtlessly one of the most disquieting and radical non-spaces portrayed in Spanish American literature. Rulfo’s bibliography is brief. In 1953 he published the collection of short storiesEl llano en llamas(The Burning Plain and Other Stories), followed two years later byPedro Páramo. His third and last work, the collection of three filmscriptsEl gallo de oro y otros textos para cine(The Golden Cock and Other Filmscripts), is from 1980.¹ The impact...

  7. Chapter Five Toward Amor Vacui: Gabriel García Márquez’s and Ruy Guerra’s Eréndiras
    (pp. 115-132)

    Gabriel García Márquez’s “La increíble y triste historia de la cándida Eréndira y de su abuela desalmada” (“The Incredible and Sad Tale of Innocent Eréndira and Her Heartless Grandmother), from the 1972 collection of the same name, displaysatopoiof openness in motion. Compared to the spaces in Borges, Cortázar, and Rulfo discussed in previous chapters, as well as to those evoked in García Márquez’s earlier fiction, the sites in “Eréndira” are among the most challenging, both for the characters to interact with and for the readers to imagine.¹ The sites are perhaps the most radical physical manifestations of the...

  8. Epilogue The Non-Space Revisited
    (pp. 133-138)

    It is challenging to approach the spaces in texts and films—slowly and with many detours via scarce, indirect descriptions and by way of the characters’ reactions toward their surroundings. One has to read “against the grain” and detect, not a prominent textual or filmic element, but on the contrary, a discrete and almost invisible entity, at least at first sight. The scant portrayals of space initially delude the characters, who fail to notice the impact of this force in their life-worlds. The spaces expose their occupants to equivocality; the shock the characters experience when facing slippery, dark, or merging...