Latin America in the 1980s
Although the volcanic eruption on which ‘‘And of Clay Are We Created’’ is based occurred in Colombia in 1985, Allende does not specify the date and location in which the story is set. Like the rest of the collection The Stories of Eva Luna, the story is understood to take place somewhere in Latin America, sometime during the 1980s. The 1980s were a turbulent time for Latin America, the region encompassing approximately twenty nations in South America, Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean where Romance languages are spoken.
Politically, Latin America was a region of great instability during this period. Many countries, including Argentina, Haiti, Panama, El Salvador, Grenada, and Guatemala, were under the control of repressive military dictators. In Colombia, armed guerillas challenged the government, which they accused of corruption, and were killed by the hundreds. Chile, Allende’s native country, was ruled from 1973 until 1989 by General Augusto Pinochet, chief executive of the country and head of the armed forces. Pinochet held onto his power by torturing, killing, or banishing thousands of Chileans who opposed him. Books and magazines that were considered unfavorable to the government were banned or burned, and their authors were punished.
The effects of this political turmoil have been significant for writers and for Latin-American literature. Allende learned about the Colombian disaster the same way Eva Luna learned about Azucena— by watching the television news. Allende was living in California at the time, having been forced into exile shortly after Pinochet took control of the country by murdering Allende’s uncle, Chilean President Salvador Allende. Her greatest novel, The House of the Spirits, is in part about the political situation in Chile, yet she wrote it while living in Venezuela. Similarly, other great Latin-American writers have produced important work while in exile. Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez wrote about Colombia while living in Mexico. Mario Vargas Llósa wrote about Peru from exile in Paris. Other writers have shared their fate, writing about homelands in struggle and homelands they could not return to.
The Boom and After
The period roughly covering the 1960s and the first part of the 1970s is often referred to as ‘‘The Boom’’ in Latin-American literature. Previously, Latin-American writing, particularly novels, resembled the European works on which they were patterned. During the Boom, writers including Carlos Fuentes, Gabriel García Márquez, Julio Cortazar, and Mario Vargas Llósa experimented with new dramatic forms specifically intended to reflect a Latin-American consciousness. García Márquez in particular became known for ‘‘magical realism,’’ a combination of realism and fantasy through which fantastical events are narrated in calm, expressionless prose, as though the narrator had no idea that anything unexpected was occurring. Boom writers were overtly political, reflecting the shifting perceptions and instability of Latin American political and social life, and they were predominantly male.
Allende’s early fiction is sometimes compared with the magical realism of García Márquez, but The Stories of Eva Luna reflects the writing of the post-Boom generation. The writers of this period include many women, and their writing is less political. The new works also tend to be less dense than works from the Boom, intentionally more accessible to the general reader rather than only the intellectual elite. They feature characters from a wide spectrum of social classes, and frequently focus on themes of love and relationships, and on issues facing women.
Point of View and Narration
Point of view is handled in an unusual way in ‘‘And of Clay Are We Created.’’ The narrator tells most of the story in the first person, and yet most readers would say that she operates only on the edges of the action—she is an observer more than...
(The entire section is 2,298 words.)