Friedman, Mary Lusky
About the author: Mary Lusky Friedman is Associate Professor of Spanish at Wake Forest University, where she teaches Latin American literature and culture. A specialist in modern Latin American narrative, she is the author of The Emperor’s Kites: A Morphology of Borges’ Tales (1987).2004 0-7734-6419-0
José Donoso (1924-1996), the most celebrated fiction writer Chile has produced, created over a span of some fifty years, a large and remarkably various body of work. His ten novels, nine novellas and four volumes of tales take up many of the social and political questions of his day. Although each work probes a different social issue, each contains as well Donoso’s lifelong meditation on the nature of the self. “José Donoso’s Conjuring of the Self” explores this central theme in Donoso’s writings.
This study explores in rigorous detail José Donoso’s most important theme – the perils of establishing a self. Concentrating on the Chilean’s late writings -- The Garden Next Door, Curfew, “Taratuta,” Conjeturas sobre la memoria de mi tribu and Donde van a morir los elefantes, the author infers from these little studied narratives Donoso’s idiosyncratic views about selfhood. Donoso, who conceived of individual identity as compact of social role and intrapsychic form, fuses his social vision with psychoanalysis. The author points out that what permits Donoso to combine with seeming naturalness these two incongruent sets of ideas about the self is his stark ambivalence toward selfhood, understood in either way. Psychoanalytic theorist Melanie Klein, whose theories were in vogue in Chile as Donoso came of age, gives primacy to ambivalence, and the author is the first to suggest that Klein may have influenced Donoso. As the author traces Kleinian tendencies in Donoso’s work, she reveals how they inform a paradigmatic storyline that inheres in most Donosan texts. The author’s special access to the voluminous personal notes Donoso made as he wrote Curfew gives her special insight into the creative process of one of Latin America’s most brilliant novelists.