Dying for Madame Ocampo

Daniel Waissbein

  • ‘Sur’: A Study of the Argentine Literary Journal and its Role in the Development of a Culture, 1931-1970 by John King
    Cambridge, 232 pp, £27.50, December 1986, ISBN 0 521 26849 4

Can a literary magazine, however important, be said to have played a fundamental role in the development of a national culture for almost half a century? Can one really say that Argentine culture has ‘developed’ over those same years? Is there, indeed, such a thing as a clearly definable Argentine culture, and if so, what does it consist of? These questions are not discussed in John King’s otherwise informative study of the Argentine literary journal Sur, from its inception in 1931 to its slow death in the Seventies and Eighties. Yet an answer to them, however approximate, is crucial to any attempt at placing the publication in the context referred to in the title of King’s study. He does, however, present us with an articulate, lucid and competent analysis of most – but not all – aspects of Spanish America’s best-known – to some, most prestigious, to others, most infamous – literary magazine. What is puzzling is that he himself cannot altogether make up his mind whether he sees the journal as having made a positive or a negative contribution.

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