Accepted Papers:

Fiction of memory and memory of fiction: remembering communism in Cold War Mexico  


William Booth (UCL)

Paper Short Abstract:

This paper explores the longstanding interaction between communism and literature/memoirs in Cold War Mexico. The writings of communist activists and sympathisers will be viewed alongside the depiction of communism in other relevant works.

Paper long abstract:

The recent publication of the expanded Carnets of Victor Serge presents an opportunity to consider how variants of communism were etched into Mexican memory, whether in the fiction of authors working in Mexico (José Revueltas, Juan Rulfo, Carlos Fuentes, and Serge himself) or in the writings and memoirs of leftists such as Valentín Campa, Narciso Bassols, Victor Manuel Villaseñor and Vicente Lombardo Toledano. The onset of the 'postwar Cold War' was crucial for the Mexican left for a number of reasons, but it was also a literary conjuncture during which Rulfo was writing Pedro Paramo, Revueltas Los Dias Terrenales, Lowry Under the Volcano, Serge finishing Unforgiving Years and the young undergraduate Carlos Fuentes experimenting with short stories. So began a period of intense engagement between authors and communism (a constant - though eccentric and generally marginal - presence in the Mexican polity). The importance of literature as a site of political contestation is clear: Revueltas and Serge used their fiction to project an anti-Stalinist Marxism, Rulfo to expose the ravages of rural capital. The paper will conclude with the glimpses of communism (both in Mexico and more broadly) in the writings of Roberto Bolaño and Elena Poniatowska.

panel P33
On Mexican time: politics and the past in twentieth and twenty first-century Mexico