dictator novel

literary genre

The dictator novel (Spanish: novela del dictador) is a genre of Latin American literature that challenges the role of the dictator in Latin American society. The theme of caudillismo—the régime of a charismatic caudillo, a political strongman—is addressed by examining the relationships between power, dictatorship, and writing. Moreover, a dictator novel often is an allegory for the role of the writer in a Latin American society. Although mostly associated with the Latin American Boom of the 1960s and 1970s, the dictator-novel genre has its roots in the nineteenth-century non-fiction work Facundo (1845), by Domingo Faustino Sarmiento. As an indirect critique of Juan Manuel de Rosas's dictatorial régime in Argentina, Facundo is the forerunner of the dictator novel genre; all subsequent dictator novels hearken back to it. As established by Sarmiento, the goal of the genre is not to analyze the rule of particular dictators, or to focus on historical accuracy, but to examine the abstract nature of authority figures and of authority in general.To be considered a dictator novel, a story should have strong political themes drawn from history, a critical examination of the power held by the dictator, the caudillo, and some general reflection on the nature of authoritarianism. Although some dictator novels centre on one historical dictator (albeit in fictional guise), they do not analyze the economics, politics, and rule of the régime as might a history book. The dictator novel genre includes I, the Supreme (1974), by Augusto Roa Bastos, about Dr. Francia of Paraguay, and The Feast of the Goat (2000), by Mario Vargas Llosa, about Rafael Leónidas Trujillo of the Dominican Republic. Alternatively, the novelist might create a fictional dictator to achieve the same narrative end, as in Reasons of State (1974), by Alejo Carpentier, in which the dictator is a composite man assembled from historical dictators. The genre of the dictator novel has been very influential in the development of a Latin American literary tradition, because many of the novelists rejected traditional, linear story-telling techniques, and developed narrative styles that blurred the distinctions between reader, narrator, plot, characters, and story. In examining the authority of leadership, the novelists also assessed their own social roles as paternalistic dispensers of wisdom, like that of the caudillo whose régime they challenged in their dictator novels.
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