Which way is hope? Dystopia in the (Mexican) Borgian Labyrinth



Publication Details

L. Gomez Romero, 'Which way is hope? Dystopia in the (Mexican) Borgian Labyrinth' in B. Grubisic, G. M. Baxter and T. Lee(ed), Blast, Corrupt, Dismantle, Erase: Contemporary North American Dystopian Literature (2014) 373-392.

Additional Publication Information

ISBN: 9781554589890


Prelude: Stories from the Borgian Labyrinth

My homeland, Mexico, and indeed Latin America as a whole, invokes the delirious tasks undertaken by Ts'ui Pen in Jorge Luis Borges' celebrated "El Jardin de Senderos que se Bifurcan:' The story describes Ts'ui Pen, a Chinese astrologist who devoted his final years to the composition of a novel more populous than the fabled Hung Lou Meng and the construction of a labyrinth in which all men and women would sooner or later lose their way. Ts'ui Pen is murdered before completing the novel-he leaves behind what seems to be a confusing collection of wavering drafts-and the labyrinth is never found. Eventually, however, the reader learns that Ts'ui Pen accomplished his goal in the vast, intricate, and apparently unfinished novel depicting a world in which all possible outcomes of an event occur simultaneously, each one itself leading to· further possibilities. Readers of the novel can make no sense of it precisely because the forking paths of Ts'ui Pen's labyrinth are not placed in space, but in time. And so it is with Latin America: a historical labyrinth erected upon antique and new stories of oppression and inequality thafseem to stretch from the sixteenth century right into the twenty-first.

The stories told in Latin America recurrently mirror the perplexing, chaotic, and troubled history of its dwellers. Accordingly, the evolution of Latin American dystopian literature cannot be adequately explained with just the critical elements provided by political and literary theories. More powerful and eloquent images are required to address the many voices summoned up in Latin American realities: the centennial resignation of the aboriginal peoples, the decaying but still animated arrogance of the conquerors inheritors, the resented discourses on the colonial past that conflict the mestizo identity, and the pathologies of globalized capitalism overlapping a living system of Baroque mores. Above and behind these voices-challenging them, destabilizing them, sometimes even overcoming them-parallel speeches of resistance struggle to open new spaces for conceiving the possibility of a yet unrealized emancipated and fair society. An apt metaphor for understanding Latin America might be found in music: the cadence of its stories is itself polyphonic, beat provided by dramatic but paradoxically coexisting fluctuations in its historical tempo. If Ts’ui Pên had ever been interested in music, Latin America could have inspired his final symphony.

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