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Beatriz Sarlo on Genres

Between Narrative and the Essay

The author defines La máquina cultural as a series of narrative essays with a lot of non-fiction, as well as a lot of interpretation. She remembers that in her previous books, like Instantáneas, she had already begun to make use of narrative. "We are at the end of the millennium," she justifies, "genres aren't so strict. I have bounced between narrative and the essay many times in a single book."

Maybe there are certain zones of reality that only literature can capture in all their complexity. Sarlo doesn't rule out this hypothesis, but she continues to clarify why she can't imagine a novel in her future: "I come from the humanities. It's with literature--and the arts in general--that I have the most intense relationship." The scholar imagines herself organizing narratives as a form of understanding certain things. But what she would really love, she admits, is to tell the day-to-day happenings of politics: "I participated in Graciela Fernández Meijide's campaigns in the last four elections," she explains, "and I would like to write about tons of political experiences, so as to put them in order. Not about my experiences, but about what I saw in the campaigns; forms of politics, from the highest to the most ordinary."

At the University of Buenos Aires, Sarlo is in charge of the department of twentieth century Argentine Literature. She has also worked at the University of Cambridge, England, and in many North American Universities. However, she is distrustful of the isolation of the academy. For this reason, she assures us that if she had to give advice to a young person, "I would tell him/her that it is necessary to waste time. But waste time in quotations, outside of one's specific discipline. I'm not speaking, necessarily, about political experience; it could also be the experience of being a rock band groupie. A school that demands immediate specialization at age twenty is somewhat impoverishing. You can explore, and above all, you have to keep in mind that no one is pushing you to become a literary critic or an historian."

(translated by Ryan Max Steinberg)

Excerpted from: Patricia Espinosa "Entre la narración y el ensayo." La Maga, May 15, 1998, pp. 10-11

© La Maga, 1998


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