Writing memory or memory writing : Santo oficio de la memoria, La madriguera, El árbol de la gitana



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The most recent dictatorship in Argentina (1976-1982) constituted a traumatic period. Current scholarship about the fiction produced after 1983 tends to focus either on novels that deal with the rewriting of episodes of Argentine history, or the depiction of the violence unleashed by the military government, without a reflection upon its causes and consequences. This dissertation concentrates on texts that make use of the thematic element of memory. I analyze three autobiographical novels: Mempo Giardinelli’s Santo oficio de la memoria (1991), Tununa Mercado’s La madriguera (1996), and Alicia Dujovne Ortiz’ El árbol de la gitana (1997) so as to trace the workings of memory, which allow for the reflection of the personal and national past in contemporary Argentine writing. Chapter One provides a theoretical framework in which I discuss several concepts of memory as understood by different disciplines and memory’s limitations and advantages as an epistemological tool. As memory is closely linked to the existence of a self and how a self presents him or herself, I also summarize different views of autobiography and the political implications of selfrepresentation. In Chapter Two, I discuss Giardinelli’s works and Santo oficio de la memoria. The third chapter analyzes Mercado’s prose writing with special attention to La madriguera. Chapter Four is devoted to Dujovne Ortiz’s works and El árbol de la gitana. Each one of these three chapters discusses how autobiography is complemented by fiction. In addition, I point out the random mechanisms of memory in the remembering process, and the attempt to create a personal genealogy that enlarges memory so as to make it a reservoir of social experiences. I also deal with the tension between history and memory that illuminates the reflection about personal and national identity, and memory as a form of resistance against forgetting human rights abuses that took place in the late 1970s. From the discussion of these elements, I show the importance of this corpus of texts so as to propose grouping them under the name of writings of memory, in which autobiographical features are blended with fictional events to explore the origins of violence in twentieth-century Argentine history.