May 25, 2012
Mexican poet and author ROSARIO CASTELLANOS (1925–74) wielded mad intellectual superpowers in a nation not always noted for nurturing progressive feminist ambiente. Her semi-autobiographical 1957 novel Balún-Canán (translated as The Nine Guardians) unveils salient and sordid details of class hatred and racialized loathing particular to the Chiapas region of Mexico. Her elegiac 1962 novel Oficio de Tinieblas (The Book of Lamentations) documents Tzotzil resistance to Mexican hegemony over indigenous Maya communities in the same region. Her poetry — a good place to begin is the 1972 collection Poesía no eres tú; Obra poética: 1948-1971 — forces readers to rethink the self/other dichotomy. As a thinker, she tolerated no fools and left writers from a misogynistic philosophical tradition — like Schopenhauer, Weininger, and Simmel — emasculated and reeling. Her brutally smart and engaging essays on women and the rhetoric of savagery (among other topics) are better-written and at the same time more complex than the essays of Kristeva and Irigaray; the best collection in English, which features an insightful introduction by Maureen Ahern, is A Rosario Castellanos Reader (1988). Castellanos was a true 20th-century Mexican bombshell; I’d like to see Univision and Televisa get into a bidding war to film a telenovela of her life and work.
READ MORE about members of the Postmodernist Generation (1924-33).