In her 1999 novel,« Una mujer de fin de siglo», Maria Rosa Lojo evokes the decades that followed Rosas' dictatorship of Argentina (1829-1952), when the country began to move toward modernity, impelled by the ideology and aspirations of its new leaders. The protagonist of the novel, the writer Eduarda Mansilla de García, was Rosas' niece, and the sister of Lucio V. Mansilla, the author of the well-known «Una excursión a los indios ranqueles». Eduarda Mansilla's husband, Manuel Rafael García, a career diplomat, was a member of the victorious anti-Rosas party. Lojo's novel features the drama of this highly cultured woman of great literary and artistic talent, whose beauty and upper class privilege destined her for luxury and social success, but who was made to pay a high price for her vocation as a writer by the Argentine society of her era. Lojo constructs her character by interweaving texts by Mansilla («Recuerdos de viaje», «Creaciones») with her son Daniel García Mansilla's memoirs, and Lojo's own fictive texts. In the first part of the book, Lojo explores Eduarda Mansilla's thoughts and intimate conflicts, allowing her to speak in her own voice, either quoted or imagined. In the second part, the character is viewed from the perspective of her young French secretary, Alice Frinet, who understands the psychological torment of Mansilla, who, in order to fully develop herself as an individual and as a writer, abandoned her husband and children and returned to Argentina, after living for many years in the U.S. and Europe, where her husband held his various diplomatic postings. Eduarda Mansilla was a victim of slander and of lack of recognition in literary circles, but she was also troubled by her own sense of guilt, which may explain her request in final will and testament that her books not be reprinted. In the third part of the novel we hear the voice of Daniel, the son to whom she was closest, not only emotionally but also because he shared and appreciated her literary vocation.
The creation of memory and collective identity for Argentine women is taking place through novels like this one, in which Lojo has succeeded in reconstructing a world that exists only in literary texts, where the most outstanding literary and artistic individuals of that era, in Argentina and in Europe, live on through their fictitious characters.
«Una mujer de fin de siglo» is an excellent text to include in courses about Hispanic American women writers, in courses on gender and feminism, or courses about the fictionalization of historic characters in current narratives. Prof. Malva Filer's introduction to the text, and the many notes included in this edition make it accessible to undergraduates as well as graduate level students.
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