Literature to infinity: a Borgesian genealogy of contemporary Mexican narrative

Access full-text files




Zavala, Oswaldo

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



These pages propose a literary genealogy that emerges in Latin America with the Modernismo movement at the end of the 19th century, a current in which literary language becomes an epistemological phenomenon that manifests along with the crisis of modernity, analyzed by French philosopher Michel Foucault. This possibility of literature challenges the stability of the modern subject, shatters our notion of teleological continuity and opens up a realm of a pure experience of language. To produce a genealogy, this investigation undertakes the study of four post-boom novels written about Mexico: Los detectives salvajes (1998) by Roberto Bolaño (Santiago de Chile 1953 — Blanes 2003), Porque parece mentira la verdad nunca se sabe (1998) by Daniel Sada (Mexicali 1953), La cresta de Ilión (2002) by Cristina Rivera Garza (Matamoros 1964) and A pesar del oscuro silencio (1992) by Jorge Volpi (Mexico 1968). Literary history, from this perspective, does not obey the chronological appearance of works as literature and tradition become fragmentary and discontinuous, without an origin or stable identity. The present study will consider the notion of infinity through four textual strategies traced in the works of Borges and reencountered in the four novels mentioned above: 1) The radical exhaustion of language: A proliferation of words —their duplication, modification and destruction— denotes the unstable condition of a fiction that pursues its own limits. 2) The expanding void of the absence of the œuvre: Deriving the concept from Maurice Blanchot’s theories, this dissertation argues that the impossibility of writing about what Foucault calls the “unthought” is one of modernity’s ultimate crises. 3) The destabilizing presence of the other threatening the unity of the same: Heterogeneity splinters our notions of individuality and identity, reflecting identity’s changing nature. 4) Transgression and madness: A disruptive approach to language that challenges both the coherence of the subject and the logical flow of the literary text. The (re)definition of infinity that Borges inscribed in his literature will let its presence be felt in each line of this investigation, hoping to produce new avenues for the study of contemporary Latin American narrative.