The mirage of exile in the postnational era. Mario Benedetti, Zoe Valdes and Leopoldo Maria Panero

Open Access
Navarro Albaladejo, Natalia
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
March 04, 2004
Committee Members:
  • Aida Beaupied, Committee Chair
  • Anibal Gonzalez Perez, Committee Member
  • Julia Cuervo Hewitt, Committee Member
  • Thomas Oliver Beebee, Committee Member
  • Hispanic Exile Literature
  • Hispanic Subaltern Studies
  • Postmodernity and Identity Formation in Hispanic L
This dissertation examines the works of Mario Benedetti, Zoé Valdés and Leopoldo María Panero in their exiles through a reading of Homi Bhabha’s The Location of Culture. There is evident in the works of Benedetti, Valdés, and Panero a tension brought about by the needs of the present (the acceptance of exile, the forging of a new life) and the pull of the past, made ever present by their ethical commitments to their countries of origin. The migratory movements that have transpired since the second half of the 20th century through the present era of globalization give immediate relevance to the dissertation. “Narciso ante su exilio”: The chapter locates the topic of exile and identity in the context of the postmodernist experience, discourse and politics; it introduces the three writers and comments on the most important fact they have in common: the tension of living between two temporalities and spatialities. It is in that space of hybridity, in the splintered signification of the subject of representation, that the new political object is created. “Mario Benedetti en la primavera rota de su exilio” presents Benedetti’s only novel written in exile in the context of the rest of his literary career and of his political commitment as an intellectual. Primavera con una esquina rota, with its strong testimonial component and its advocacy of a definite assimilation to the new country, manifests the paradoxes of the experience of exile better than the poetry of the author in the same period. After experiencing exile the writer has to face the collapse of the foundations that justify his fight for a redeeming politics. The tension articulated in the text exemplifies the presence of hybridity, a factor that before his exile he considered to be a flaw in an intellectual’s work. “Zoé Valdés en su búsqueda pendular de la identidad” locates this author in the context of Cuban contemporary writers and analyzes two of her most recent novels: Querido primer novio and El pie de mi padre. In view of her other works, these two novels contribute to mark a pendular movement in the career of this Cuban writer. This movement perfectly accounts for the need to fight for Cuban democracy and against Castro’s regime and, at the same time, for the need to constantly reinvent oneself as an individual. Writing itself is in the novels of Valdés the space of self-reconstruction and her texts display the contradictions that the experience of exile imply. “Leopoldo María Panero y su manifiesto filial” introduces the theme of insanity into the discourse of identity and exile. Aware of the poststructuralist theory, and committed to an asylum for more than thirty years, Panero conceives the insane subject as deterritorialized and engages himself in a radical critique of any institutionalized discourse. The text as the only space to prove himself alive and a palimpsestic notion of writing comprise this writer’s poetics. His essays and the short story “Allá donde un hombre muere, las águilas se reúnen” are analyzed in this chapter. Borges is one of the main sources for this short story, which is, at the same time a literary manifestation of Derrida’s “Plato’s Pharmacy.” Conclusion: This chapter compares and contrasts the different forms in which these authors have confronted the paradoxical experience of exile and explains how their discourses call for a change in the Western inclusion of the margins into its hegemonic discourse. I explore the significance of their constant reinvention through writing in the present moment in which the generalization of migratory movements is shattering the foundations of what has always constituted Western discourse.