Just a Vieja de Barrio
The pájaro of Arenas’s Cuban countryside who migrates to the city but never fully leaves behind the campo has its parallels in the périca, the “nobody” or streetwalker/flâneur of the Chilean neighborhoods. Like Arenas, a large part of Diamela Eltit’s writings is invested in reclaiming the local space, of which many were deprived by a repressive regime, and in reassigning its value in the world. She too enacts a performance of herself in her writing. Especially in Eltit’s firt novel Lumpérica (1983; English translation E. Luminata [1997a]), the female body, literally made open to the public through a photograph of the author’s self-mutilation, becomes a starting point for complex negotiations with the self and the other. To consider a cosmopolitan realm within Eltit’s works begins to challenge the assumed and reductive categories of the global and the local. Coming together in Santiago, Chile during General Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship, Eltit and other participants in the Escena Avanzada questioned social and geographic barriers by interrupting public space with nonfigurative artwork and more traditional linguistic structures with fragmented discourse. On the most general level, what we may say of Eltit resonates with what was said about Arenas: by reinserting the body into a national discourse that promoted itself through spirituality and other transcendental values, Eltit’s performances attempted to disturb its forces of normalcy.
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