The OF Blog: The Crack Manifesto

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Crack Manifesto

Despite the understandable reluctance to abide by them or to stomach the umpteenth reiteration of worn-out rhetoric, literary manifestos can be fascinating. Although I've been aware of this particular "group" since 2004, for some reason I never thought to blog about the Mexican Crack Manifesto group until after reading yet another post commenting on that person's wariness of such manifestos.

The link above discusses each of the five authors involved in this ad hoc group. I have read two of them, Ignacio Padilla and Jorge Volpi, and I would hold them up against most writers today. Best of all, much of their work skirts around the boundaries of Anglo-American "speculative fiction" without ever being "Magic Realism" (a term against which they were rebelling in 1996, incidentally). Below is an excerpt from one of the five authors' comments about why they were publishing such a manifesto:

Consistent with its life project and its future, the Crack novel longs for renewal in the last spot to be visited: another walk through the Crack’s fair, with the same willingness for failure, as shown in the following tetralogy:

1. The Crack novels are not small, edible texts. They are, rather, a barbecue: let others write the steaks and the meatballs. Between that which is disposable and ephemeral, the Crack novels oppose the multiplicity of voices and the creation of self-ruling worlds, which is not a tranquil task. First commandment: “Thou shall love Proust above everyone else.”

2. The Crack novels are not born from certainty, which is the mother of all creative annihilations, rather from doubt, the older sister of knowledge. There is not one kind of Crack novel, but many; there is not one prophet, but several. Each writer discovers his own breed and shows it proudly. Descendants of champion fathers and grandfathers, the Crack novels take all their risks in stride. Second commandment: “Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s novel.”

3. The Crack novels are ageless. They are not novels of formation, and Pellicer’s phrase reemerges: “I am old, and believe that the world was born with me.” They are not, therefore, the first works of their authors, sweet temptations of autobiography; they are not about first loves or family histories, which underline everything. If the writer’s most valued possession is the freedom to imagine, these novels go much further, demanding more from their narrators. Nothing is easier than to write about oneself; nothing is more boring than a writer’s life. Third commandment: “Thou shall honor schizophrenia and listen to other voices; let them speak through your pages.”

4. The Crack novels are not optimistic, rosy, adorable novels; they know, as much as Joseph Conrad does, that being hopeful in an artistic sense does not necessarily imply believing in the world’s kindness. Or they search for a better world, being aware that such a fiction can exist only in a place we will never know. The Crack novels are not written in the new Esperanto, which is the language standardized by television. It is the celebration of language and a new baroque: of syntax, lexicon, and the morphological game. Fourth commandment: “Thou shall not take part in a group that accepts you as a member.”

Needless to say, A-MEN to #4. Thoughts on this? If I have time later this week, I'll blog about another Latin American "group" from the late 1990s/early 2000s that have produced some interesting works. For now, just know that I think Padilla and Volpi deserve greater recognition among the gringos (and yes, Padilla's The Shadow Without a Name and Volpi's In Search of Klingsor are available in English translation and presumably in at least a few of the major European languages).


Liviu said...

I liked the excepts from both so I ordered them. I remember actually browsing In Search of Klingor a while ago - most likely when it was published the title/cover attracted my attention - and it seemed interesting but I was not in the mood for it at that time and then forgot about it.

But now and due in part to your posts I seem to have returned to reading more mainstream literature with fanatstic or historical elements than pure genre, so I will
read those.

Regarding your posts about the Aeneid related review, a very famous book that is very interesting though difficult but I want to read in time is Death of Virgil by H. Broch. I have no idea if you read it, but I skirted around it for a long time, read passages - it's mesmerizing - but never spent the necessary time

Larry said...

Good! Shall be interesting to hear your reactions to the next group I plan on blogging about in a couple of days. Latin America has a wealth of talented young writers these days :D

I haven't read the Broch, but from the sounds of it, it'd be something I'd really enjoy reading :D

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