‘So what, I’m on the roof’: Lucia Berlin’s roots in Spanish and Chilean literatures | Intellect Skip to content
1981
Short Fiction as World Literature
  • ISSN: 2043-0701
  • E-ISSN: 2043-071X

Abstract

In 2015, the North American short story writer Lucia Berlin (1926–2004) was ‘rediscovered’ when her posthumous collection, , became a bestseller. It has since been translated into more than twenty languages, and has been received with particular enthusiasm in Spain and Latin America. Many of her stories are set in Chile or Mexico, where she lived for many years. This article proposes that Berlin’s adolescence in Santiago, her bilingual education, and her studies with Spanish novelist Ramón J. Sender at the University of New Mexico had important impacts on her writing. This connection has yet to be made: Berlin is most often associated with North American ‘dirty realism’, or other anglophone movements. I argue that we are wrong to place her work exclusively in the context of her country of birth, and propose that we read her alongside the hispanophone writers she learned from. In my first section, I describe Berlin’s experience in Santiago as a young, privileged North American, and explore how this formed her identity as an outsider–insider, or insider–outsider. In my next section, I focus on Berlin’s undergraduate years in New Mexico, charting her interests in liminal and domestic spaces, which may have been encouraged by Sender. In my final section, I examine the stories with Chilean settings that she published in 1988, and ask what prompted her to return to the country of her adolescence on the page.

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/content/journals/10.1386/fict_00080_1
2024-02-14
2024-04-21
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