Narration and madness: schizophrenia, paranoia and autofiction in Rodrigo Rey Rosa's El material humano and Horacio Castellanos Moya's Insensatez.
In various of these narratives, madness presents a recurrent feature. Surprisingly, however, this relation between madness and violence in contemporary Central American literature has not yet been studied in a systematic manner. In this paper, I will analyze Insensatez (2004) by Horacio Castellanos Moya and El material humano (2009) by Rodrigo Rey Rosa, focusing on the literary representations of madness and, most particularly, paranoia and schizophrenia. I will consider madness as a structuring element in both texts that con/disfigures the ways of narrating violence in past and present Central America.
The narrator-protagonists of Insensatez and El material humano are involved in, respectively, a publication project and a research project, related to the history of violence in Guatemala. In both novels, the primary sources about the history of violence are intercalated with passages of the reading and research activities, realized by the narrators. Whereas Insensatez explicitly refers to the narrator's disturbed mental state, intensified during his reading work, in El material humano the atmosphere of madness is represented in a less explicit way, through the figure of the Labyrinth.
Insensatez (translated as Senselessness) includes a series of details related to the massacres of the indigenous population, by the National Army during the Civil War in Guatemala between 1960 and 1996. The protagonist-narrator of the novel is involved as a copyeditor in a publication project of an extensive report, consisting of "one thousand one hundred pages" (Castellanos Moya 3) about the violent acts committed during the massacres; allusion to the collection of testimonials !Guatemala: Nunca Mas! (Guatemala: Never Again!), published in 1998.
Castellanos Moyas novel highlights the harmful effects of the cruelties committed during the Guatemalan Civil War for the physical and mental health of its victims, as well as that of the ones who work with the testimonial accounts on the topic, like the narrator himself: "Editing one thousand one hundred pages of stories about Indians obsessed with terror and death could break even the strongest of spirits, infect me with malignant and morbid curiosity" (Castellanos Moya 19). As the narrator progresses in his revising work, the pathological features of paranoia come to the fore. The reading of the testimonial accounts on violence seems to drive the narrator "to the edge of insanity" (Kokotovic 560). He becomes obsessed with them and, in "a paranoid spiral," starts to invent conspiracy theories, imagining his enemies following him everywhere (Castellanos Moya 74).
In the novel by Rey Rosa, El material humano (literally translated as "human material"), the referential basis of the book becomes evident in the introduction, which discusses the recent, "implausible" discovery of the Archives in which the Identification Cabinet of the Guatemalan Police has been stored (Rey Rosa 13). The protagonist-narrator gets access to the records of the Archives. Initiating his research project with the aim to analyze the cases of artists and intellectuals who have been persecuted by the police, the narrator discovers the labyrinthine character of the Archives.
In El material humano, the features of paranoia are represented in a less explicit way, utilizing the enigmatic figure of the Labyrinth. During his investigation and while the access to the Archives becomes more difficult, the narrator starts to invent a fictional plot about the labyrinthine Archives, in which the figure of the Labyrinth exemplifies a tendency of paranoia. That is, the Labyrinth seems to present a threat, that provokes the narrator's conspiracy ideas related to the supposed hidden Minotaur. This threatening ambience particularly comes to the fore in the narrator's sense of suspicion with respect to the interruption of his research project and the inaccessibility of the Archives, the increasing number of anonymous phone calls he receives while conducting his investigation and the persecutory nightmares he experiences.
Autofiction and Schizophrenia
After having given a brief introduction to El material humano and Insensatez, discussing in short a series of features of paranoia, I will now focus on the connections between the feature of schizophrenia and the autofictional component of the narratives, relating the idea of the cleavage of the self with the autofictional narrative perspective in which the I becomes more than one. This analysis will start from a basic definition of autofiction, proposed by Manuel Alberca: a fictional narrative with an autobiographical appearance (confirmed by the (nominal) identification between the author, the narrator and the protagonist), that generates an ambiguous reading pact (Alberca 158).
In general, in both Insensatez and El material humano a series of paratextual elements can be distinguished which facilitate an ambiguous reading, vacillating between a referential-autobiographical one and a more fictional one. That is, the narrative "I" is and is not the author of the book itself. This basic feature of autofiction can be related to the idea of schizophrenia as the cleavage of the self or the split personality: The narrative "I" becomes more than one, being the apparently real author and a fictional character at the same time, or, more elaborately, triplicating into an "implied author," a narrator on the discursive level, and a character on the story's level (Schlickers 157). In this analysis, I will consider both the schizophrenic experiences in which the narrator literally gets beside himself and the less explicitly described cleavages of the self in which the narrator, in a narrative metalepsis, figuratively gets beside himself
In Insensatez, the reading of the testimonial accounts on violence not only makes the narrator paranoiac, but it also seems to facilitate a "schizophrenic experience" (Mendez Garcia 71). During his revising work, he tends to identify more and more with the witnesses of the massacres, to such an extent that he imagines himself as "the suffering ghost of the civil registrar in a town called Totonicapan," trying to convert the tragic story of his violent death into a novel (Castellanos Moya 60). However, this identification is not complete as the narrator realizes that he, as a "copyeditor," can never quite identify with the souls of the witnesses: "my thoughts playing some kind of disorganized ping-pong game, if at the time I had been a novelist, needless to say, and not just a copyeditor of barbarous cruelties who dreamed of being what he was not" (Castellanos Moya 62).
It seems that the narrator reflects upon his own position within the project, dreaming of being a novelist while knowing that he is actually the "copyeditor of the one thousand one hundred pages" (Castellanos Moya 90). In this way, he reveals the ambiguous nature of his own perspective on the testimonial accounts, involving two different readings: on the one hand, he aspires to turn the tragic story of the victims of the massacres into a novel with a "story of suspense and adventure" (Castellanos Moya 62); on the other hand, he usually refers to himself as the "copyeditor of the one thousand one hundred pages" (Castellanos Moya 90). His work as a copyeditor is supposed to imply a referential reading that aims to provide an accurate and reliable story. His novelist's fictional reading, on the contrary, involves a creative act of invention, in which he exercises his lively and--as he calls it--"sick" imagination or "macabre" fantasy (Castellanos Moya 162, 126). As Valeria Grinberg Pla states, this fictional exercise is realized as an attempt to understand, through the narrator's imagination and fantasy, the traumatic experiences that others have suffered (or provoked) during the massacres (n.p.).
Several critics discuss this (im)possibility of empathic identification with the indigenous victims (Basile; Buiza; Grinberg Pla; Kokotovic; et al.), emphasizing the ethnical and ideological distance between the narrator, an intellectual who testifies for the eye-witness reports of others, and the indigenous voice, the voice of the other. Nanci Buiza argues that the narrator, in the end, is able to identify emotionally and morally with the witnesses (Buiza 167), whereas Valeria Grinberg Pla and Misha Kokotovic underscore the illusion that implies such an attempt (Grinberg Pla) which, inevitably, involves an appropriation of the indigenous voice (Kokotovic 260). Teresa Basile, on the other hand, highlights the pathological character of the narrator's perspective on the testimonies, arguing that the gradual submergence of the protagonist in the violence experienced by the victims provokes his mental perturbation and leads him to identify with them (Basile 2).
However, rather than facilitating an identification with the witnesses, the pathological character of his reading seems to intensify further the distance between the narrator and the victims. That is, it is through a series of hallucinations--through his pathological imagination and fantasy--that the narrator literally gets beside himself, imagining himself, for an instant, in another place (the scenario of the massacres) and as another person (the violator or the violated). (2) Rather than coming to understand the traumatic experiences of others to make sure they never occur again, he cannot but repeat them in a compulsive way. The distance between the narrator's perspective and that of the indigenous population is never resolved, as the narrator continuously comes to himself, realizing that he is not the victim nor the perpetrator, but a copyeditor "perturbed" by reading the testimonial accounts (Castellanos Moya 125).
On the other hand, one can say that the passages in which the narrator discusses his own vacillating thoughts involve a series of "autoscoptical" observations (Mendez Garcia 26): In a narrative metalepsis, the narrator reflects upon his own narration on a metadiegetic level. This cleavage of the narrative sell can be related to the schizophrenic experience, in the sense that it concerns a disruption of the unity of the self, the idea that one is complete and indivisible (Saavedra). Several other passages in his discourse imply a similar narrative metalepsis, in which the narrator reveals a consciousness of his perturbed mental state.
For example, he imagines how he "would have interpreted" the waitress' look in "other circumstances" (as a "natural feminine interest"), but not at that moment when he can only consider it a conspiracy gesture (Castellanos Moya 75-6). Using conditional sentences, the narrator describes the past sell in the present and imagines what he would have thought or done in other circumstances, if his vision had not been distorted by fear (Castellanos Moya 91). That is, the lucid narrator of the present reflects upon his mentally perturbed past self, revealing the cleavage between the experiencing self and the narrating self.
Before passing on to Rey Rosa's El material humano, it seems relevant to discuss one other central scene in Castellanos Moya's novel in which the cleavage of the experiencing self reaches a climax. After having read a testimonial account which discusses a series of "barbarities" (Castellanos Moya 127) committed during the massacres, the narrator literally gets beside himself, describing his own mind as if it were something autonomous, a mind that is no longer his, "if it ever had been" (Castellanos Moya 127). In this series of "autoscoptical" hallucinations (Mendez Garcia 70)--key feature of the schizophrenic experience--his mind repeats in a "vicious circle" the cruel images by which he has been horrified during his reading (Castellanos Moya 127).
In this central scene, terms related to the idea of the tragedy and the "theater" are used which can be connected to the novel's epigraph, citing a passage of Sophocles' Antigone: "My Lord, the good sense one has at birth never abides with the unfortunate but goes astray" (Castellanos Moya x). Through this quote, the manifestations of extreme violence, as described in the testimonial accounts on the massacres, become situated within the tragic scenario, elaborating on the theme of the senselessness, as staged in Sophocles' Antigone. In fact, it seems no coincidence that this specific passage is included in the novel, citing the words of Ismene, Antigone's sister and a secondary character in Sophocles' tragedy. (3) While Creon, earlier in the play, accused Antigone's senseless "disposition of mind" of having provoked misfortune among the people, at this particular moment, Ismene argues the opposite, claiming that bad fortune is rather the "source" of the lack of sense (Goldhill 176).
This idea of the distortion of mental dispositions, caused by "disastrous events" (Goldhill 176), constitutes a key element in Castellanos Moya's Insensatez. The novel's first phrase "I am not complete in the mind" quotes one of the testimonial accounts in which a man describes his own state of mind after having witnessed the execution of his family (Castellanos Moya 1). An interesting parallelism can be observed between the situation of violence and the subsequent mental perturbation of its victims, as described in the novel, and the scene in Sophocles' Antigone in which Ismene claims the misfortune to be the cause of the going "astray" of sense (Castellanos Moya x). Both works seem to insinuate that such particular situations of extreme violence, in which reality's essence as senseless --i.e. to be void of meaning--comes to the fore, constitute a prominent source of mental perturbations. (4)
Having mentioned this key passage of the testimonial account, the protagonist-narrator develops an extensive discourse on the "general perturbation" of the entire population of Guatemala, being obsessed with, or even intoxicated by, terror and death (Castellanos Moya 3). The final conclusion that results from his reflections is even more "overwhelming," as the narrator argues that he himself, performing "a task that consists precisely of copyediting an extensive report of one thousand one hundred pages that documents the hundreds of massacres," should be "completely out of his mind" (Castellanos Moya 3). One can see that it does not concern an external observer of the "general perturbation" from which the population suffers, as the narrator includes himself within this pathological picture, caused by the senselessness of the violence of the massacres.
In this way, the narrator's own position, the place from which one speaks, becomes ambiguous, as he develops a discourse on the "general perturbation" and, at the same time, seems to speak from madness. However, it seems relevant to bear in mind that the one who has the last word is the lucid narrator of the present who reflects upon his mentally perturbed past self, developing a discourse on madness that, inevitably, denies it, in the sense that it is the logos or reason of language that denominates madness and, therefore, excludes it (Felman 252). In fact, the phrases he uses--although they often tend to lose the story's thread--do not show grammatical anomalies that deviate from the linguistic rules (or reason). So, instead of speaking from within madness, the text enacts it, creating a certain distance from its literary representations.
Returning to the central scene in which the schizophrenic experience reaches a climax, in this particular case it is not the witness of the massacres who becomes "incomplete in the mind" (Castellanos Moya 2). It is rather the reading of the testimonies' cruel contents that seems to cause a similar experience (even though being an indirect one), provoking the narrator's mental perturbation. Describing how his mind is transported to the "theater" of the horrifying "events," as recounted in the testimonies, the accounts on violence become, again, situated within the tragedy's theatrical scene (Castellanos Moya 127). In fact, the narrator (as a secondary character, being the one who testifies for the testimonies of others) ends up playing a leading role within the theatrical scenario, running to the courtyard while howling "like a sick animal under the star-studded sky" (Castellanos Moya 127).
The end result of these schizophrenic experiences comes to the fore in the final specular scene in which the narrator looks at himself in the mirror as if he were someone else: "I conjure up the possibility of finding somebody instead of myself" (Castellanos Moya 136-7). One can say that the cleavage of the self is completed, when the narrator no longer recognizes himself in the mirror and considers his face as that of a stranger. In this last scene, the narrator seems to assume, for an instant, literally, the madness he describes, repeating--outrageously like a madman and unnoticed in the "hubbub" of the German Carnival--the emblematic phrase of a testimonial account: "We all know who are the assassins!" (Castellanos Moya 139). He seems to embody, in a certain sense, the "vicious circle" of violence by which Guatemala is haunted, a curse from which he cannot escape, not even when he achieves to flee to another country. (5) That is to say, he cannot but repeat pathologically the testimonies' violent contents, confirming his incapacity to break through the history and continuity of violence in Guatemala.
In El material humano, the idea of the cleavage of the self is represented in a less explicit way. It concerns a highly self-reflexive novel in which the narrator continuously discusses the process of writing and the generic status of the text. These self-reflexive passages involve a narrative metalepsis in which the narrator figuratively gets beside himself, reflecting upon his own narration on a metadiegetic level.
During his investigation and its interruption, the narrator keeps a "personal diary" (Rey Rosa 171), filling a series of notebooks with his, as he calls them, "simple impressions and observations" (Rey Rosa 14). He does not only report on his activities in the Archives, but he also discusses personal aspects of his love life, he talks about the oblique threats to his person and his subsequent sense of suspicion, he includes passages of the literary works he reads, and he comments on the newspaper items, directly related to the continuity of violence in post-war Guatemala. The self-reflexive feature of this supposed personal diary particularly comes to the fore in the literary quotes which are intercalated. That is, while keeping his diary, the narrator also includes a series of literary passages which discuss the specific genre of the diary, passing on to a metadiegetic level to reflect upon the narration of the self, while writing in his diary.
Even more, one can say that the diary, as such, is a genre par excellence in which the process of the cleavage of the self becomes visible. That is to say, in the writing of a diary, the narrator becomes almost, but never completely, simultaneously two: the narrating self (or the subject of the narrative) and the experiencing self (or the object of the narrative). (6) The narrator, as a subject of the narrative, speaks about himself as if he were someone else, the object of the narrative. Quoting Voltaire's Memoirs, the narrator reflects upon this specular nature of the genre of the diary in which one seems to make himself ridiculous, talking "about himself with himself " (Rey Rosa 148).
On the other hand, quoting Voltaire's Memoirs, the narrator discusses the ambiguous nature of the personal diary, reflecting upon its underlying double bind: "[...] the need to speak, the difficulty of not having anything to say" (Rey Rosa 73). This feature of saying that one has nothing to say implies a risk, as the narrator concludes, quoting Sartre's Nausea--. "I think the risk of keeping a diary is the following: one exaggerates it all [...] and surpasses the limits of truth" (Rey Rosa 116). These reflections that involve a narrative metalepsis, thus, problematize the truth pact of the diary genre, blurring the lines of distinction between truth and imagination. In a similar way, the narrator's own status becomes ambiguous, being the apparently real diarist and, at the same, an invention of his imagination.
Furthermore, the narrator realizes that his investigation is somewhat "Kafkaesque" (Rey Rosa 17), imagining the Archives as it they were a Labyrinth from one of Kafka's parables (Rey Rosa 134). He highlights the literary character of his perspective on the Archives, admitting that if these labyrinthine Archives would not include a Minotaur, he "might be tempted to invent one" (Rey Rosa 56). During his investigation, the narrator faces the "micro chaos" of the Archives-labyrinth, reflecting upon the capricious series of police dossiers, that, according to him, exemplify the arbitrary and often "perverse" nature of the "typical and original Guatemalan justice system that constituted the basis of the generalized violence," from the 1980 onwards, "the consequences of which we still live with" (Rey Rosa 36).
It seems no coincidence that the narrator utilizes the figure of the Kafkaesque Labyrinth to describe the chaotic nature of the Archives. As Milan Kundera states, discussing Franz Kafka's Der Prozess (1925), Kafka tends to invert the causal chain between fault and punishment. That is, in his narratives the punishment precedes the fault and his characters (like Joseph K.) try to retrieve every moment of their past in order to discover the fault that should have caused the punishment. A similar inversion can be observed in Rey Rosa's novel in which the narrator, while conducting his investigation, receives an increasing number of anonymous phone calls and other sorts of oblique threats to his person, without knowing the fault that should have originated this kind of punishment.
Moreover, after having imagined the Archives as if they were a Labyrinth from one of Kafka's parables, the narrator describes in his diary a persecutory nightmare he experiences the following night in which he himself is the one being persecuted: "I do not know why they are searching for me" (Rey Rosa 144). An interesting parallelism can be observed between the Kafkaesque ambience in which Joseph K. obsessively searches for the fault that should have preceded his punishment and the narrator's feelings of suspicion and persecution without knowing the motive, as illustrated in his nightmare. The source of this threatening ambience seems to be the Archives in which, as in Kafka's parables, everyone is being "watched by policemen, by concentric circles of the police, members of the same repressive police forces whose criminal acts the archivists investigate" (Rey Rosa 143).
In that sense, the Archives not only preserve the historical dossiers of the Guatemalan police, but they also exemplify the current police repression, still at work within the Archives. This connection between the history of violence and its continuity in the present becomes evident when the narrator discovers the supposed Minotaur, hidden in the "depths" of his Labyrinth (Rey Rosa 178): Lemus, one of the employees who is working in the Archives in the present and, also, one of the people who were involved in the kidnapping of the narrator's mother in the past (from June until December 1981). Conducting his research project (initially, without the purpose to investigate the case of his mother's kidnapping), the narrator faces the resistance of anxious people who do not want certain aspects of their personal history, related to the history of violence, to become exposed. He discovers that his so-called "investigation" is "not convenient" (Rey Rosa 87) to several people (and Lemus, in particular), who are now working in the Archives, delving into the history of violence in which they themselves, in some way or another, are involved. (7)
Another fictional feature, related to the threatening ambience of the Archives described in the novel, has to do with the genre of the thriller. As his colleague Claude Thomas argues, several elements of the narrator's diary contain similarities with a thriller; most particularly, the passages in which he speaks about his suspicion concerning his investigation on hold, as well as the oblique threats and anonymous phone calls he receives. Further on in the text, the narrator reflects upon the possibility of becoming a "police officer," something that might serve in his investigation and writing: "I tell [B+] about my idea of becoming a police officer. [...] In that way, as I continue partly jesting, I could make a positive contribution to the fight against crime in the country" (Rey Rosa 147).
He continues "fantasizing" about the idea of becoming a police officer, saying that, "of course," only thinking about being part of the body of "enforcement" disgusts him, concluding that he "would be a subversive police officer" (Rey Rosa 148). Utilizing conditional sentences, verbs like "fantasize" and speaking "partly jesting," the narrator reveals the fabulatory nature of his reflections, knowing that he is actually an intellectual-researcher, while dreaming of assuming the role of the subversive police officer in a kind of thriller. As his initial investigatory propose does not bring him anywhere and results to be inconvenient to several people, he starts to think about the possibility of becoming a subversive police officer who could infiltrate secretly into the circles of the repressive police forces, still dominant in the Archives.
Moreover, after his fathers critical remark ("you continue playing with fire" (Rey Rosa 161)), the narrator reflects upon the risky nature of his investigation, wondering if he is actually playing with fire, while writing about the Archives (Rey Rosa 169). He even problematizes his own perspective, which he considers to be "very marginal" or that of "a mere amateur," compared to that of the "ex-combatant" (Rey Rosa 169). However, one can argue the opposite, in the sense that this "marginal" position allows him to reflect from another perspective, distant from the body of "enforcement," on the history of violence and its continuity in the Guatemalan post-war context. Parodying the ideological discourse of the police ("make a positive contribution to the fight against crime in the country"), the narrator fantasizes about his alternative "fight" as a subversive police officer.
He concludes with the following reflection, stressing the importance of the Archives: "As a finding, as a Document or a Testimony, the importance of the Archives is undeniable [...] and if I failed to 'novelar it, as I thought I could, it is because I did not have enough luck nor strength" (Rey Rosa 169). This passage illustrates a cleavage of the narrative "I." On the one hand, the narrator reveals the fictional character ("if I failed to 'novelar it") of his "book project" (Rey Rosa 171), as well as his perspective on the Archives as a novelist. On the other hand, however, he emphasizes the referential nature of his project, discussing the importance of the Archives as a document or a testimony.
Although this and other self-reflexive passages underscore the fictional character of the book, it is precisely in these narrative metalepsis in which a certain identification between the narrator and the author is suggested. That is, the narrator figuratively gets beside himself, while crossing the diegetic framework to reflect upon his own writing as if he were the real author. In other words, the metalepsis facilitates a narrative cleavage in which the narrator transposes the limits of the diegesis and starts acting like the writer of the book. It concerns a disruption of the unity of the self that ends up exposing the inherent division of the "I"'s of the narrative (author, narrator, protagonist) that, in the traditional model of autobiography, are usually integrated in the narrative.
In a similar way, these narrative cleavages facilitate the self-reflexive character of the book, a key feature of autofiction. In contrast with Castellanos Moyas novel, the cleavages of the self, as described in El material humano, are purely narrative. In fact, one of the fundamental differences between the two novels entails the presence or absence of the pathological picture of schizophrenia, in the strict sense. Whereas Insensatez brings to the fore the pathological character of the narrator's perspective on the testimonies on violence, illustrated (among other situations) during his schizophrenic hallucinations, such explicit pathological features are not present in Rey Rosa's novel, in which the disturbance of the unity of the self essentially comes to the fore in narrative metalepsis.
Returning to the narrator's reflections on the importance of the Archives, the passage seems to refer to the narrator's "intuition" (implying a similar narrative metalepsis), earlier mentioned in the novel, in which he says that his work "as a writer" could make the non-specialized people understand the importance of a finding like that of the Archives (Rey Rosa 87). Thus, the narrator explicitly contradicts himself when he concludes his diary, saying that it "perhaps" is "only" for himself (Rey Rosa 179), revealing that it concerns more than a personal document that is not as fictional as it is presented to be: El material humano, as a document or a testimony, could contribute substantially to the diffusion of knowledge about the Archives, as well as about the history and continuity of violence they symbolize.
Madness and Violence
Insensatez and El material humano can be considered peculiar cases of the literature on violence in post-war Central America. Both novels seem to insinuate, in different ways, a connection between the manifestations of violence, in past and present Central America, and the feature of madness. As noted, Insensatez seems to suggest that the extreme violence of the massacres, in which the senseless essence of reality comes to the fore, provokes mental disorders; a suggestion which can be related to the idea of trauma: "Under extreme conditions, existing meaning schemes may be entirely unable to accommodate frightening experiences" (Caruth 151). In such traumatic experiences one is unable to comprehend, the normal memory functioning--most particularly, of codification and integration--does not take place, leaving a residue of unintegrated fragments that frequently reappear in posterior episodes of re-enactment of the traumatic scene (American Psychiatric Association).
Insensatez seems to be constituted by these residual fragments, exemplified in the testimonial passages that literally cannot be integrated in the text. The pathological character of the narrator's reading activities seems to obstruct the normal memory functioning of codification and integration. In his hallucinatory experiences, the narrator exactly repeats the violent events about which he reads, getting literally beside himself while imagining himself in the scenario of the massacres as the victim or the perpetrator. At the end, the narrator reflects upon these episodes of re-enactment, citing a testimonial passage that says "for me remembering, it feels I am living it once more": "for me remembering was living once more the nightmarish testimonies read so many times" (Castellanos Moya 135).
However, the narrator does not remember, but he reproduces pathologically the violence of the massacres about which he reads. Moreover, one has to bear in mind that he has not directly experienced nor witnessed the violence of the massacres, but enacts the traumatic experiences that others have suffered. Instead of facilitating an understanding of those experiences, he can only repeat them compulsively, raising the question of the impossibility of empathic identification with the victims of the massacres.
The motive of the unintegrated fragments is represented in a different way in Rey Rosa's novel. The Archives, with their police dossiers which are not organized according to intelligible criteria, seem to reveal a part of Guatemala's past which has not yet been integrated in its written history. Realizing his research activities in the Archives, the narrator reflects upon this labyrinthine space in which "stories of the deaths are floating in the air like threats of a strange plasma, a place in which 'spectacular terror machines' can be revealed, like intrigues that have been occulted" (Rey Rosa 84).
The narrator's book project seems to propose an effort to integrate this "mass of details" (Rey Rosa 167) of the Guatemalan violent past in a kind of "narrative memory" (Caruth 153) in order to reach a certain understanding of the terror. However, the reader ends up looking at a fragmented story in which, rather than becoming integrated, the frequently grotesque details, as archived in the police dossiers, are intercalated in an incomprehensive mode, representing the kind of "m[a]cro chaos" (Rey Rosa 36) that entails the Guatemalan history of violence and its continuity in the present.
To conclude, both Insensatez and El material humano recur to the feature of madness in their accounts on violence in past and present Central America, yet in different manners. Whereas Insensatez underscores the pathological features of paranoia and schizophrenia through explicit commentaries on the narrator's mental state, in El material humano paranoia and schizophrenia are represented in a more figurative manner, through the motif of the labyrinth and the recurrence of narrative metalepsis. In both novels, madness seems to dispose the modes of narrating violence, offering a critical perspective on the history and continuity of violence in Central America, as well as its psychological repercussions.
Marileen La Haije
Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen (Paises Bajos)
(1) This paper is related to a research project I conducted within the "Brilliant Assistants" program of Culture, Religion and Memory at the Radboud University of Nijmegen (The Netherlands) in 2013 and 2014, analyzing the literary representations of schizophrenia and paranoia in the narrative work by two contemporary Central American writers, most specifically, in Rodrigo Rey Rosa's El material humano (2009) and Horacio Castellanos Moya's Insensatez (2004). A text 1 wrote on Castellanos Moya's Insensatez, related to this paper's subject, has been published in the collection of conferences of the VII International Congress "Politicas de la memoria" (Buenos Aires, Centro Cultural de la Memoria Haroldo Conti, 7-9 October 2014).
(2) Further on in the analysis, these hallucinatory experiences will be discussed with more detail.
(3) Teresa Basile analyzes in detail the pathological picture of melancholy in Castellanos Moya's novel in relation to Ismene's words in the epigraph.
(4) In fact, in these manifestations of extreme violence, the two senses of "lo insensato' become converged, referring to both "madness," in a rather figurative sense, and, literally, "to be void of meaning" (Van Tongeren 121).
(5) This is another interesting parallelism between the curse of violence by which Antigone's family is haunted, as staged in Sophocles' Antigone, and the novel's repetition, in a "vicious circle," of the cruelties of the massacres.
(6) As Dorrit Cohn states, this process can never be simultaneous as the narrating self cannot "record instant happenings at the instant they happen, at least not without breaking the mimetic norms of his genre" (Cohn 209).
(7) This discovery also implies a subtle difference with respect to the threatening Kafkaesque ambience, as the narrator, in contrast with Kafka's protagonists, ultimately, is able to determine the motive of the threats to his person and the culprit behind the scenes.
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|Title Annotation:||Estudios y confluencias|
|Author:||La Haije, Marileen|
|Publication:||Confluencia: Revista Hispanica de Cultura y Literatura|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2017|
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