Postcolonial concepts of hybridity and identity in Carlos Fuentes‘ "Aura"

Term Paper, 2011
12 Pages, Grade: 1,3


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Aura: A Boom novel

3. Postcolonial Key Elements
3.1 Hybrid identities and intertextual references
3.2 Deconstructing notions of time and space

4. Conclusion

5. Bibliography

1. Introduction

In her essay “Postcolonialism and Latin American literature: the case of Carlos Fuentes“ Nadia Lie describes two different currents of Postcolonialism: the first one is the literature that grew out of colonial experience in Latin America and is considered an answer to the over present literature of the oppressing European literary traditions. The second one is characterized by a set of theoretical concerns and reading strategies. Rather than merely “writing back“, a term introduced by Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin, this approach suggests that cultural differences are constructed by replacing the strong binary opposition “us“ versus “the other“ with concepts of hybridity, inbetweenness and border thinking (see Lie 2005: 139-140).

The early work of Mexican author Carlos Fuentes (*1928) can be seen in an intermediate position between these two concepts. Even though the theme of otherness and opposition is very present in his work, as can be seen in La frontera de cristal (1995) and his early novel Aura (1962), his writing is full of intertextual references that show his appreciation for both European and Latin American literary tradition. As part of the “Boom“ movement in Latin American literature he also uses supernatural and gothic elements that sometimes make it hard or even impossible to distinguish between reality and illusion:

According to this aesthetic, unreal things are treated as if realistic and mundane, and mundane things as if unreal. Plots, while often based on real experiences, incorporate strange, fantastic, and legendary elements, mythical peoples, speculative settings, and characters who, while plausible, could also be unreal, and combine the true, the imaginary, and the nonexistent in such a way that they are difficult to separate. (Pope 1996: 229)

Fuentes‘ novel Aura is an early example of this tradition. The purpose of this essay will be a postcolonial approach to the novel, showing Fuentes‘ position in the discourse of postcolonial identities and literatures. The argument will be based on notions of time, space and intertextual references that can be found in Aura.

2. Aura: A Boom novel

Carlos Fuentes is part of the Latin American literary movement of the “Boom“, a literary movement that emerged in Latin America in the 1960s and 1970s. It was highly influenced by modernist currents from both Europe and North America and characterized by the breaking of literary conventions such as originality, authorship and coherence. Besides its influence on the literature of that time it was also a highly political movement that tried to break free from European traditions and conventions and create an own and unique Latin American tradition. Alejo Carpentier described the uniqueness of Latin America as “lo real maravilloso“. He considers the cultural history, the people and the nature of the Latin American continent as so unique and special that they might be perceived as magic and marvellous. From this the literature of “Magic Realism“ emerged, in which reality and illusion are often merged into one another and no clear distinctions can be made. This literature of the “Boom“ stands in a tradition of developing a national or Latin American self awareness that can be differentiated from the former colonizer Europe which ceases to be considered the origin of all Latin American culture.

Carlos Fuentes‘ early novel Aura stands in the tradition of this “Boom“ literature. A young man reads an advertisement for a job in a newspaper and applies. He is supposed to edit and revise the memoirs of Señora Llorente‘s deceased husband. While working for her he lives with the old lady and her niece Aura, for whom he quickly

develops romantic feelings. His perception soon seems to be confused, until he learns that Aura and the old lady are one, and he finds himself in an old picture as General Llorente. Magic and gothic elements, a confused perception of reality and illusion and a total denial of authorship and originality characterize Aura as a very good example of “Boom“ literature.

3. Postcolonial Key Elements

3.1 Hybrid identities and intertextual references

In his essay “How I wrote Aura“ Carlos Fuentes points out some of the sources that inspired him to write this novel in 1962. It can be seen that many of the references he used come from a European literary tradition. In Aura these references converge with originally Latin American elements and create a new, hybrid narrative. The name Felipe Montero is a reference to Spanish writer Francisco Quevedo, whereas Aura refers to a medieval witch from Jules Michelet‘s La Sorci è re (Lie 2005: 142, 143). To make it more complex Fuentes denies the notion of originality and true authorship by using the second form to write to someone who is ‘tú‘, but also the author of the writing.

Indeed, although Fuentes rejects the traditional notion of ‘authorship’, he simultaneously preserves it in a fictional, playful way as he assigns the true authorship of Aura to the Spanish poet, Francisco de Quevedo. In this way, he claims to be the direct heir of the Spanish cultural legacy, and more particularly the baroque. (Lie 2005: 143)


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Postcolonial concepts of hybridity and identity in Carlos Fuentes‘ "Aura"
University of Toronto
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Antonia Lilie (Author), 2011, Postcolonial concepts of hybridity and identity in Carlos Fuentes‘ "Aura" , Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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