What options for resistance are left to the author of fiction in a nation structured by totalizing political and economic violence? This is the question at the heart of Niall Geraghty’s eloquent and engaging book, The Polyphonic Machine: Capitalism, Political Violence, and Resistance in Contemporary Argentine Literature (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2019). It is also the historically situated problem (in Piglia’s phrase) that unites this particular generation of contemporary Argentine writers. Literary critic/detective Geraghty follows the works of César Aira, Marcelo Cohen, and Ricardo Piglia in their preoccupations with theory and history to reflect on the ways violence and capitalism have created and sustained modern Argentine life. The Polyphonic Machine also mimics the preoccupations of its subjects by embracing polyphony as a stylistic choice, foregrounding the multiplicity of voices used by the authors and their interlocutors within the text itself. In so doing, Geraghty highlights both the particularity of the Argentine Dirty War from 1976-1983 and the global vision of its writers. Latin Americanists of many disciplines will find this book interesting, in particular scholars of literature, philosophy, and history.
Elena McGrath is a Visiting Assistant Professor of History at Carleton College. She is a historian of race, revolution, and natural resources in the Andes.