Are Latin America open ended crime fiction books a new genre?


Peter Rozovsky brought an interesting comment to my post: Interview with Luiz Alfredo García-Roza:

I like what he has to say about his crime stories being open texts. This goes somewhat against that old suggestion that crime novels restore a social order ruptured by crime.
But Garcia-Roza is just one among contemporary crime writers for whom mystery means more than just a puzzle to be solved
.”

I presume these are García-Roza words:

“… A murder is not a problem, or at least, it is not only a problem to be solved, but it is also an enigma, in the same sense that ancient Greeks conceived the enigma: something that holds the truth but also holds the shadow side of the sentence, the ambiguity and the silence. So, I hope my readers are left with a vivid sensation of an open story. The sense of the story is always given by the reader, not by the writer. The writer gives only the text, and the richness of a fictional text is its capacity to produce countless senses and meanings. There is no final meaning.”

This seems to me an interesting comment since some scholars propose a new name for this genre: Spanish American alternative detective fiction. For example in a paper called La novela policial alternativa en Hispanoamérica, Diego Trilles Paz writes:

Despite the great popularity and increased prestige of classic detective fiction, as well as the American hard-boiled novel, since their introduction in the nineteenth century many readers and authors have perceived them as genres incompatible with Latin American realities. The inherent conventions of the whodunit, the presence of a detective whose legitimacy is never in doubt, and its conservative ideology, which presupposed the punishment of criminality and the reestablishment of the status quo, were incongruous in societies in which people had no faith in justice. The genre, then, was regarded as unrealistic for third world countries. In this way, in order to be plausible, the detective novel in Latin America needed a different approach.

In broad terms, these pages propose the emergence of a new genre that can be observed in the works of contemporary authors such as Vicente Leñero’s Los albañiles (1963), Ricardo Piglia’s Nombre falso (1975), Jorge Ibargüengoitia’s Las muertas (1977) and, most notably, in Roberto Bolaño’s Los detectives salvajes (1998), which I consider the most prominent and complex example of this type. The present study examines how this innovative Spanish American detective fiction incorporates and restates some of the structures and conventions of the hard-boiled novel and shares some features of contemporary Spanish American fiction, while developing its own characteristics in contrast with both detective fiction schools. Due to the necessity of the native writers to adopt, formally and thematically, alternative approaches when creating credible detective stories, I have named this emergent genre: Spanish American alternative detective fiction.”

Although others like Franklin Rodriguez  The Bind Between Neopolicial and Antipolicial, called it Neopolicial:

Critics like Braham, and writers such as Paco Ignacio Taibo II and Leonardo Padura Fuentes, promote the notion of the neopoliciaco. This concept refers to the self-conscious appropriation of structures and elements from the detective genre and to how these appropriations can lead to the creation of original detective stories rather than literary parodies. The neopoliciaco focuses on political and social criticism of the State and society, organized in part around the events of 1968 in Mexico, the Cuban struggles, particularly after 1989, and the dictatorships in Latin America during the 1970s and 1980s. In the neopoliciaco the traditional central role of the detective or the criminal event is combined with an exhaustive examination of the struggles of communities and secondary characters, usually associated with marginal situations. The figure of the detective as restorer of order and executor of the law is inverted in favor of balanced questioning and exposition of all the characters or institutions involved in the crime.”

My question is: Do you see open ended crime fiction stories as a new genre? Is there a similar trend in other countries? Can you give examples of some open ended crime fiction books/writers?

5 thoughts on “Are Latin America open ended crime fiction books a new genre?”

  1. >I have not read enough Latin American crime novels to be able to answer your question, Jose Ignacio. Nor South American (though I have read a couple of Argentinian novels this year). I don't know if Latin/South American are similar, but I have read several Venezuelan books (not "crime genre") and other S American, and I wonder if the "magical realism" of that region (most noticeably Isabelle Allende (Chile), whose first few books were marvellous) is part of this picture. The House of the Spirits and Of Love and Shadows were both so unbearably sad that there is almost no way to have an "ending" in the tranditional sense. Another novel I read along similar lines is "Kiss of the Spider Woman".

  2. >Maxine I guess that the concept of an open ended novel can apply to any genre, not necessarily to crime fiction only. What I like most is García-Roza idea that "the sense of the story is always given by the reader, not by the writer. …the richness of a fictional text is its capacity to produce countless senses and meanings".

  3. >Jose Ignacio – What a fascinating question! I certainly see the open-ended crime fiction novel as a possibility. As Maxine suggests, and you mention, it's not just crime fiction where we see this open-endedness, where the reader's interpretation figures heavily in the novel. Gabriel García Márquez' magical realism novels certainly reflect some of this. So do others. I'm going to have to start thinking of some crime novels that fall into this category. Fascinating…

  4. >The novel I reviewed Saturday, The Murder of Halland, is certainly open-ended, but in my opinion it is not crime fiction as it does not offer a solution. And it is not even possible for the reader to construct any kind of solution (as far as I can see) as the story begins with a crime but the focus moves on to other things altogether.

  5. >To be honest I am just getting into crime fiction books, and of them I have mainly read books that centered around the mafia, the latest book being "Rogues, Riches and Retribution" by Harry Taylor, which was an intriguing book that lead me on an exciting journey from Italy to the UK to the States. I will have to pay attention more and look for Latin America crime fiction.

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