The Invention of Argentina.

Author:Hernandez Martin, Jorge

In his book El espejo enterrado (The Buried Mirror), Carlos Fuentes writes about the "Argentine Paradox -- A rich nation, with a large middle class, undoubtedly the best fed, best dressed, best educated, and most homogeneous nation in Latin America, that has been incapable of creating political institutions that really represent it." The paradox expressed by Fuentes also engaged the imagination of Jorge Luis Borges, the most universal of Argentinean writers, who wrote: "The Argentineans, contrary to the Americans and almost all Europeans, do not identify themselves with their government."

In The Invention of Argentina, Nicholas Shumway adds an interesting chapter to the voluminous exploration of the paradox. To explain his contention, Shumway elaborates on the concept of "fictions," an idea that inevitably recalls Borges's thoughts.

The critic adapts this literary concept of fiction to provide a historical-political explanation of the Argentine nation's particular development. Fiction requires that the reader temporarily suspend his disbelief in the narrative while he is reading. Shumway bases his argument on observations by Edmund S. Morgan that the success of any government rests on people believing in the claims by which it represents itself and stabilizes the nation's order and progress.

These axiomatic fictions may be indispensable to create a culture and a history that relate to the past. In the case of Argentina, Shumway believes that he has found a divisive mentality that contrasts the ideal of a national unity, created by ninteenth-century intellectuals who provided a framework for the concept of an Argentinean nationality. The failure of the intellectual exercise of creating a unifying framework, produced what the novelist Ernesto Sabato calls "a society of opponents," who are more interested in pointing out the differences that separate the groups that make up the Argentinean society than in developing a viable nation united by consensus and a readiness for compromise.


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