Self-Fictionalization, Parody and Testimony in Diario de una princesa montonera—110 % Verdad and Montonerisima
In 1986, only three years after the end of the dictatorship, Ruben Mira wrote what is to date his only novel, Guerrilleros (Una salida al mar para Bolivia), a humorous and experimental rewriting of Che Guevara’s Bolivian diary that mixes Latin American cyber punk, surrealism and science fiction, and parodies the symbols and ideals of the 1960s guerrillas.1 Drawing on the literary imaginaries of William Burroughs, Juan Rulfo, Osvaldo Lamborghini and Fogwill, Guerrilleros, which was published several years later in 1994, presents the adventures of an armed group of teenagers that consumes cocaine and owns a machine that produces a “Matriz del Guerrillero Perfecto” (“Matrix of the Perfect Guerrilla”). Guerrilleros was one of the first cultural texts to parody both the variously demonized or sanctified figure of Che Guevara and the main events of the 1960s and early 1970s in Argentina after the horrors of the dictatorship. In the years that followed its publication, many cultural texts echoed Mira’s comical representation of this period, including Carlos Gamerro’s novels, the television character Bombita Rodriguez (alias “the Palito Ortega Montonero”), and the satirical magazine Barcelona. In all of these cases, parody is used not as mockery but to displace, destabilize and disarticulate epic or overly solemn narratives of the revolution.
While Mikhael Bakhtin believed that parody—a dialogical relation between texts—is part of the natural cycle of every genre, some have argued that it is particularly prevalent in postmodern culture. From this © The Author(s) 2016
J. Blejmar, Playful Memories, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-40964-1_4
perspective, parody is the result of the loss of faith in grand narratives (e.g. the revolution) and belief systems (e.g. religion), which has, in turn, opened the door to a playful reappropriation of those narrative conventions, symbols, slogans and forms. In this vein, Fredric Jameson saw parody as an inscription of the past in the present and a way to bring to life real historical tensions. He also suggested that a good parodist has to have a secret sympathy for the original, adding that parody is not necessarily malicious and can even be an oblique form of homage.2
Furthermore, Giorgio Agamben has written that the definition of parody as a text in which the serious becomes ridiculous, comic and grotesque is a modern one, and it comes from the work of Giulio Cesare Scaligero at the end of the sixteenth century.3 In his Poetics, Scaligero describes certain songs called paroidous, in which the Homeric poets or rhapsodes interrupted their recitations and let performers enter who, “out of playfulness and in order to spur the souls of the listeners, inverted and overturned everything that had come before.”4 For Agamben, Scaligero’s definition established the two canonical features of parody: “the dependence on a pre-existent model that is subsequently transformed from something serious into something comic, and the preservation of formal elements into which new and incongruous contents are introduced.”5 In the classical world, “parody” (“para” means “besides” in Greek) designated a musical technique according to which music, melody or song (supposedly corresponding to the rhythm of the speech) was separated from words, provoking the laughter of the audience. Agamben uses this meaning of the word as a split between song and speech to describe the broken (parodic) relationship between the intolerable (the traumatic) and language, arguing that “there may be great seriousness in the reasons that drive the parodist to renounce a direct representation of his or her object.”6 Most likely, writes Agamben, this object is unnarratable, sacred and mysterious, and the only way to refer to it is through repetition, distance, mimicry and a profane childish voice, all of which he calls “a serious parody.”
Continuing a trend started by the novels of the 1980s and 1990s, the autofictions by children of disappeared parents that appeared in the new millennium in Argentina turn to parody (as understood by Jameson and Agamben) to bring to life historical tensions and to narrate what is supposed to be unnarratable, sacred and unrepresentable. As Martin Kohan and others put it, however, what is new in these texts is that their object of humor is not so much—or at least not only—the popular movements of the 1970s but rather the politics, institutions and rites of memory and reparation in post-dictatorship Argentina.7 In addition, while most of the authors of previous texts were not directly affected by state terror, many of the authors of these works parody their own condition as children of disappeared parents and their own stories of trauma, thus “playfully occupying a monstrous place.”8
In this chapter I look at how parody and the concept of testimony underpin one of the most provocative autofictions of recent years, Mariana Eva Perez’s blog Diario de una princesa montonera—110 % Verdad. First, I analyze recent debates about the notion of postmemory, paying particular attention to Perez’s intervention in this debate and her questioning of how apt the term is to describe local forms of generational transmission of trauma. Following Perez, I suggest that rather than the vicarious or absent nature of their memories, what brings the artists and writers addressed in this book together is a shared aesthetics and ethics of remembering embraced in adulthood, of which parody is one of the most significant elements. I then argue that the term “post-orphans,” coined by Uruguayan sociologist Gabriel Gatti, himself a son of a disappeared father, and which alludes explicitly to the blend of parody and tragedy in these works, is thus more appropriate than most terms coined to describe the work of descendants of victims of other authoritarian regimes when referring to the Argentine artists studied in this volume. In the second part of the text I develop these hypotheses by analyzing Perez’s blog and Victoria Grigera Dupuy’s one-person show, Montonerisima (2014), highlighting what I consider to be one of the main achievements of these artists—namely, the creation of a new “lexicon of terror”9 which has shaken up discourses of memory and accounts of the self in the aftermath of trauma.