The Untimely Present: Postdictatorial Latin American Fiction and the Task of Mourning / Edition 1

Paperback (Print)
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $14.26
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 42%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (8) from $14.26   
  • New (3) from $19.17   
  • Used (5) from $14.26   


The Untimely Present examines the fiction produced in the aftermath of the recent Latin American dictatorships, particularly those in Argentina, Brazil, and Chile. Idelber Avelar argues that through their legacy of social trauma and obliteration of history, these military regimes gave rise to unique and revealing practices of mourning that pervade the literature of this region. The theory of postdictatorial writing developed here is informed by a rereading of the links between mourning and mimesis in Plato, Nietzsche’s notion of the untimely, Benjamin’s theory of allegory, and psychoanalytic / deconstructive conceptions of mourning.

Avelar starts by offering new readings of works produced before the dictatorship era, in what is often considered the boom of Latin American fiction. Distancing himself from previous celebratory interpretations, he understands the boom as a manifestation of mourning for literature’s declining aura. Against this background, Avelar offers a reassessment of testimonial forms, social scientific theories of authoritarianism, current transformations undergone by the university, and an analysis of a number of novels by some of today’s foremost Latin American writers—such as Ricardo Piglia, Silviano Santiago, Diamela Eltit, João Gilberto Noll, and Tununa Mercado. Avelar shows how the ‘untimely’ quality of these narratives is related to the position of literature itself, a mode of expression threatened with obsolescence.

This book will appeal to scholars and students of Latin American literature and politics, cultural studies, and comparative literature, as well as to all those interested in the role of literature in postmodernity.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“[A]n ambitious and formidably intelligent study of the overlapping of the literary and the political in recent Southern Cone literature.” - G. Gómez, Choice

“Avelar conjugates an impeccably researched and wide-ranging historical sensibility with a philosophically engaged approach to literary texts produced in the aftermath of the recent dictatorships in the Southern Cone of Latin America. . . . [T]he great strengths of this book include its uncompromising attention to cultural history, its complex yet elegant arguments, its fine, philosophically inflected and well contextualized readings of individual texts, and its intelligent contributions regarding allegory theory.” - Mary Beth Tierney-Tello, Modern Language Notes

“Challenging many commonly held assumptions, deploying a complex theoretical framework, and displaying his vast knowledge of Latin American literature and culture, Avelar’s book promises to spark much discussion on the nature of the postdictatorial predicament and establish itself as one of the key texts in a growing field of study.” - Alessandro Fornazzari, Nepantla: Views from South

The Untimely Present convincingly argues that the distinctive feature of South American fiction in the aftermath of military regimes, a horizon marked by a sense of defeat, loss, and the impossibility of writing itself, lies in its efforts to insert the untimely. . . . [A] brilliant analysis of contemporary Southern Cone fiction.” - Laura García-Moreno, Bryn Mawr Review of Comparative Literature

“[A] remarkable project . . . . The Untimely Present offers compelling readings of some of the most sophisticated narratives to have emerged in the Southern Cone in recent years . . . . [Avelar has an] unerring sense of the ways in which the text may interact with its moment to bring culture and politics into complex and crucially intimate relationships.” - Joanna Page, Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

“Avelar delivers a complex account of postdictatorship society, culture, thought, and literature in a lucidly clear prose and an eloquent style.”— George Yudice, New York University

“This is a book of superior scholarship, providing an original reading of texts that are of increasing interest to students and critics.”—Jean Franco, Columbia University

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822324157
  • Publisher: Duke University Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/1999
  • Series: Post-Contemporary Interventions Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 312
  • Product dimensions: 6.07 (w) x 9.28 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Meet the Author

Idelber Avelar is Associate Professor of Latin American Literatures and Critical Theory at Tulane University.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Introduction: Allegory and Mourning in Postdictatorship 1
1 Oedipus in Post-Auratic Times: Modernization and Mourning in the Spanish American Boom 22
2 The Genealogy of a Defeat: Latin American Culture Under Dictatorship 39
3 Countertraditions: The Allegorical Rewriting of the Past 86
4 Encrypting Restitution: A Detective Story in the City of the Dead 107
5 Pastiche, Repetition, and the Angel of History's Forged Signature 136
6 Overcodification of the Margins: Figures of the Eternal Return and the Apocalypse 164
7 Bildungsroman at a Standstill, Or the Weakening of Storytelling 186
8 The Unmourned Dead and the Promise of Restitution 210
Afterword: Postdictatorship and Postmodernity 230
Notes 235
Works Cited 271
Index 287
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)