Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies (PhD)

Degree Level



Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies


Violeta Lorenzo

Committee Member

Yajaira Padilla

Second Committee Member

Luis Fernando Restrepo


Archivo, Factualidad, Ficcionalidad, Historia, Intertextualidad, Novela


This doctoral dissertation aims to study four Latin American documentary novels of the 21st century. This type of novel is especially characterized by its deep and direct connection with historical archives, its high degree of auto fictionality and the self-awareness elaboration of an extreme ambiguity between fictionality and factuality. Likewise, this research proposes a reading of this type of novels through what has been called the poetics of failure, which configures not only the defeat of the characters within the plot, but also offers an ethical and aesthetic position in order to represent historical memory in a different way.

In the first chapter, I analyze the novel La Carroza de Bolívar (2012) by Evelio Rosero scrutinizing how the nineteenth-century foundational discourses of the nation and the heroic figures such as the hero Simón Bolívar can be called into question through subordinate memories which have remained latent within the social nucleus. This reading focuses mainly on the strong intertextuality with the dissident historical archives, which insufflate the projects and utopias of the fictional characters. At the same time, I propose that although within the plot the characters fail in their plans, staying in resistance against official historical discourses means accepting a necessary dissensus on the ways of representing historical memory.

In the second and third chapter, I study the novels La dimensión desconocida (2016) by Nona Fernández and El material humano (2009) by Rodrigo Rey Rosa. These chapters address the historical memory of large-scale traumatic events such as the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in Chile and the Civil War in Guatemala during the 20th century. I analyze the way in which the figure of a narrator-author-character —that is evident in all these novels— represents the collective memory through a reflection about the individual memory and how the interweaving of these memories with the archives of horror allows not only the remembrance (and the oblivion), but also the reconfiguration of the subject's own identity.In the fourth chapter, referring to the novel Una novella criminal (2018) by Jorge Volpi, I examine the Machiavellian manipulation of judicial files in Mexico, the daily injustice against the underprivileged people and the impossibility of reaching a hopeful closure. Also, this novel represents not only a legal case that occurred at the beginning of the 21st century, but also offers a reflection on how injustice and corruption are sadly common in the social present, not only in Mexico, but throughout Latin America.

To conclude, the final conclusions raise questions about the aesthetic and ethical possibilities of these documentary novels, since they are novels that fearlessly navigate the seas of historiography, chronicle, journalism, and literary essay to offer new transgenre narratives, both in its structure and in its ethical commitment to oppose traditional representations of historical memory.

Available for download on Sunday, August 11, 2024