The Enchanted Generation
The autofictional works of Laura Alcoba and Marfa Giuffra have produced a radical shift in the cultural remembrance of the Argentine dictatorship. These texts have brought to light important aspects of the period previously unexplored by the testimonies of the adult survivors of state terror. Before the publication of La casa de los conejos, little was known about the daily lives of militant families living clandestine existences, or about how children the age of Alcoba when she went into hiding experienced isolation, persecution and repression, only half understanding what was going around them. Moreover, the visual testimonies of Los ninos del Proceso show how the children of the dictatorship suffered from civil stigmatization and the weight of prejudice even after the return to democracy.
If these works were able to address these sensitive issues so openly, without taking a moral stance or being judgemental about militancy, it is because they chose to do so not through testimony but through art, literature and autofiction. Alcoba has said in this respect that
for me the criticisms of the 1970s generation was a horrible trap and I decided to leave behind the child’s voice precisely to avoid that trap. The girl does not quite understand what a Montonero is and she does not need to analyze the situation in political terms nor intellectualize it because it is what it is and she simply lives it.42
In another interview that Alcoba shared with Mariana Eva Perez, she also said that “for me fiction is liberating while autobiography is a way of enclosing yourself.”43 In a similar vein, Giuffra expresses emotions and feelings that are perhaps more easily delivered by the ambiguity and indirectness of art than by documentary accounts of the past.
If in these narratives the child characters felt alone or isolated, experiencing fear and persecution without knowing that many other children were going though similar situations, one of the most interesting aspects of these new cultural memories is the ties of solidarity and collaboration that they construct with other artists of the same generation. Alcoba has confessed to feeling impressed by Felix Bruzzone’s novel and the way it offers a new take on memory and the dictatorship. Moreover, when Benjamin Avila’s film about his own experience of childhood in hiding was released, she told me that she did not see the point of turning her book into a film when Avila had already done so. Giuffra is not only a member of the Cdh along with other artists addressed in this book, such as Mariana Eva Perez and Lucila Quieto, but has also collaborated with some of its members on different artistic projects. For example, she made a puppet that Perez used in her autofictional play Abaco, and they worked together in Una historieta subversiva (2005), a comic strip about a young militant set during the 1970s. In addition, Giuffra presented some of her works in, and was interviewed for, Alejandra Almiron’s El tiempo y la sangre (2004), a docufiction about the disappeared in the west of Buenos Aires as told by Giuffra’s mother. Almiron in turn was the film editor of Los rubios, which is probably why her film has a similar aesthetic take to Carri’s, including the use of a third voice (a friend of Giuffra’s mother) to give testimony, of animation (Giuffra’s drawings become alive in this film) and of the staging of generational disagreements.
Among the aesthetic choices that many of these artists share, one of the most distinctive is, as we have seen in this chapter, the use of characters, motifs and narrative structures from children’s literature and folk fairy tales. Bruno Bettelheim, a well-known psychoanalyst, child survivor of Nazi concentration camps and specialist in fairy tales, has argued that good children’s literature and fairy tales entertain children but most importantly enrich their life, stimulating their imagination, developing their intellect and clarifying their baffling emotions and anxieties.44 In their autofictions, post-dictatorship artists have now found a new use for, and meaning to, these fables. Childhood heroes and beloved characters from their early readings have come to the rescue once again, but this time to fight against even more terrifying villains and against total forgetting, the most dangerous of all curses.