Distributed Agency in Marcelo Cohen’s Casa de Ottro

  • Edward King


In her article on postpolitics in Latin America, Beatriz Sarlo describes Marcelo Cohen’s best-known novel El oído absoluto (1989) as offering a critique of the neoliberal present coded in the form of a science fiction dystopia. Through the classic science fictional procedures of exaggeration and displacement, Cohen’s novel stages the regime of simulacra that Sarlo describes in her now classic account of neoliberal consumer culture in Argentina, Escenas de la vida posmoderna (1994). The rampant consumerism captured by Cohen’s novel perfectly complements Sarlo’s account of the paradox of “programmed individualism” at the heart of neoliberal consumerism. This aspect of Cohen’s fiction is clearest in his narratives set in the fantastical world of the Delta Panorámico, which spans three texts from the 2001 short story collection Los acuáticos through the 2007 novel Donde yo no estaba to his 2011 novel Casa de Ottro. The islands of the Delta are home to a fantastical phenomenon known as the “Panconciencia,” which manifests itself as an intersubjective network that allows inhabitants of the Delta to inhabit briefly the minds of the other inhabitants. The discovery sparks a frenzy of technological innovation in which the inhabitants of the island set out to harness or control these interneural connections.


Natural History Museum Circuit Breaker Science Fiction Object World Control Society 
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© Edward King 2013

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  • Edward King

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