(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Dear Diego is based on one chapter of Bertram Wolfe’s The Fabulous Life of Diego Rivera (1963). The novel is a fictionalized portrayal of Quiela (the Russian painter Angelina Beloff) as a broken-hearted lover waiting for the well-known painter Diego Rivera to send for her from Mexico City.

Dear Diego is divided into twelve love letters dated from October 19, 1921, through July 22, 1922—nine months in which Quiela, in spite of her desperation and longing for her lover, creates her own work as an illustrator for the Parisian magazine Floreal. By painting in nine months exactly, she affirms her identity through the art that Diego Rivera represents for her. The letters are followed by a brief narrative at the end of the book.

The book begins as Quiela is waiting for her lover. She expects him to send for her, but toward the end of the novel she realizes that he does not need her anymore. On one level, the narrative is about one woman in love with someone who does not want her; at the same time, it is about the aesthetic process of painting without the influence of her lover, a process that makes Quiela a newborn woman at the end.

The plot of the novel is fairly straightforward: Angelina Beloff (Quiela), a Russian painter in Paris, falls in love with the Mexican painter Diego Rivera. They live together for ten years. Diego Rivera goes back to Mexico in order to participate in the new beginning of...

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(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Berry, John. “Invention, Convention, and Autobiography in Elena Poniatowska’s Querido Diego, te abraza Quiela.” Confluencia 3 (Summer, 1988): 47-56. Berry analyzes Poniatowska’s technique of writing the twelve letters to Diego Rivera. He concludes that Dear Diego is neither a testimonial narrative nor an autobiography but contains elements of both. Berry considers the novel to represent a break with existing literary conventions.

Gold, Janet. “Feminine Space and the Discourse of Silence: Yolanda Oreamuno, Elena Poniatowska, and Luisa Valenzuela.” In In the Feminine Mode: Essays on Hispanic Women Writers, edited by Noël Valis and Carol Maier. Lewisburg, Pa.: Bucknell University Press, 1990. A postmodern reading of Poniatowska’s short story “La felicidad” that places her writing in the context of other works by Hispanic women.

Jorgensen, Beth Ellen. The Writing of Elena Poniatowska: Engaging Dialogues. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1994. A comprehensive book-length study of Poniatowska’s work from the perspective of a number of critical approaches.

Lagos, Maria-Ines. “Elena Poniatowska.” In Modern Latin-American Fiction Writers. Vol. 113 in Dictionary of Literary Biography, edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli. Detroit: Gale Research, 1992. A good overview that includes a brief biography of Poniatowska and discusses her fiction, journalism, and criticism. Lagos focuses on the relationship between history and fiction in Dear Diego and argues against criticism of Poniatowska’s creation of a weak, submissive female protagonist.

Paul, Marcella L. “Letters and Desire: The Function of Marks on Paper in Elena Poniatowska’s Querido Diego, te abraza Quiela.” In Continental, Latin American, and Francophone Women Writers, edited by Ginette Adamson and Eunice Myers. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1990. Paul analyzes Poniatowska’s exploration of language as a means of communication that fails when it is not an expression of the self.

Poniatowska, Elena. Interview by Susana Conde. Belles Lettres 7 (Winter, 1992): 41-45. Poniatowska discusses her characters, themes, and style and comments on the effects of gender on writing.