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Argentina´s Narratives and the Exploration of the Emptiness

In recent Latin American narratives (literature and films), spaces play a central role as key devices of exploration. Some of them are empty spaces. But what does “empty” mean? They, primarily, are spaces not colonized by previous meanings. Art and literature find there a great occasion to explore new meanings, topics, aesthetic reformulations. The wastelands, for instance, used to be seen as deserts, wilderness, badlands: unproductive spaces. On the contrary, wastelands have a powerful and secret life. Art and literature could colonize them to create complex territories. There is a rich literary tradition in Latin America focused on wastelands. In the Southern Cone, Domingo F. Sarmiento´s Facundo (1845) is a powerful description of the empty spaces. Previously, the European travelers who crossed the continent in search of economic profit, during the 1820s, have described the same territory as a wasteland. What Sarmiento called “the desert” was, however, the Indians´ territory, the reign of the nomads; despite Sarmiento´s description, an intensive life occurred there for centuries, empty of meaning for the modern creole elite. Some contemporary narratives return today, to those “wastelands”. Either as unproductive land or land of the barbarians, the tradition as wasteland remained active in the twenty-first century Argentine fictions, although completely transformed. The memory of the radical emptiness that founded the nation helped to deploy an imaginary of exploration and fictionalization in literature and films. In this project, I focus on three film directors (the Argentinean Mariano Llinás and Lucrecia Martel, and the Paraguayan Paz Encina). In their films, they explore multi-layered spaces, spaces where history is the occasion to interrogate new meanings and possibilities of the present. The main purpose of this project is to study the exploration of the emptiness in contemporary narratives. 


Graciela Montaldo