The Colombian Novel

Juana Suárez

in Latin American Studies

ISBN: 9780199766581
Published online October 2011 | | DOI:
The Colombian Novel

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  • Regional and Area Studies
  • History of the Americas



Most classifications of the Colombian novel follow the Westernized model, adjusting literary movements to historical periods. Recent scholarship places emphasis on locating pre-Columbian literature since most literary histories quote Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada’s Antijovio (circa 1567) as the earliest narrative text. The Colonial period was highly dominated by poetry and by an elitist vision from criollos. For many critics, the transition from the Colony to the Republic did not represent a major stylistic or ideological change in literature, as it remained exclusively in the hands of the criollos, with rare exceptions in the context of the novel. Nineteenth century narrative was, in many cases, linked to the political views of the writers. Jorge Isaac’s María is considered to be the Colombian foundational romance par excellence; the work of writers such as José María Vargas Vila and Tomás Carrasquilla (died 1940) is considered equally important. Same as María, José Eustacio Rivera’s La vorágine is a novel of major national and international transcendence. The period of modernization of the country (1930–1946) witnessed the emergence of an extensive number of national literary histories. The assassination of Liberal leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán on 9 April 1948 is often cited as initiating the political wave of violence (la Violencia) that shook the country in the 1950s; García Márquez’s La hojarasca (1955) inaugurates a series of novels related to those years. His One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) marks the most significant turn in discussions and bibliographies about Colombian novels. The regionalist tradition, the marriage between power and writing, and the shadow of magical realism find their counterpoints in the 20th-century and contemporary novel. Yet, in the 1970s and 1980s, there was a group of novels that can be read with more defined experimental postmodern characteristics. The confluence of different manifestations of violence erupted with new topics and stories. Fernando Vallejo’s La Virgen de los sicarios (1994) crystallized a concern of the decade on the way drug dealing took over the country. Sicarios (hoodlums) became conspicuous in literary works, and the term “sicaresca” gained some temporary significance. The first decade of the 21st century witnessed a group of writers distancing themselves from magical realism, including Héctor Abad Faciolince, Evelio José Rosero, Mario Mendoza, Jorge Franco, Juan Gabriel Vásquez, and Santiago Gamboa, among others. Although their novels, topics, and literary styles are different, these authors share an affinity with visual languages; some of their works have been adapted to films. Old vintage concerns such as the centrality of Bogotá in literary debates, the invisibility of women writers (despite exceptional cases such as Laura Restrepo), the place of indigenous and Afro-descendant cultures, and writing in exile are examples of topics of contention and urge for restatements in studies of Colombian narrative.

Article.  5253 words. 

Subjects: Regional and Area Studies ; History of the Americas

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