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The Latin American Literary Boom and U.S. Nationalism during the Cold War

Author(s): Deborah Cohn

During the 1960s and 1970s, when writers such as Julio Cortazar, Carlos Fuentes, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Mario Vargas Llosa entered the international literary mainstream, Cold War cultural politics played an active role in disseminating their work in the United States. Deborah Cohn documents how U.S. universities, book and journal publishers, philanthropic organizations, cultural centers, and authors coordinated their efforts to bring Latin American literature to a U.S. reading public during this period, when interest in the region was heightened by the Cuban Revolution. She also traces the connections between the endeavors of private organizations and official foreign policy goals.

The high level of interest in Latin America paradoxically led the U.S. government to restrict these authors' physical presence in the United States through the McCarran-Walter Act's immigration blacklist, even as cultural organizations cultivated the exchange of ideas with writers and sought to market translations of their work for the U.S. market.

Biography of Author(s)

Deborah Cohn, Associate Professor of Spanish and American Studies at Indiana University Bloomington is the author of History and Memory in the Two Souths: Recent Southern and Spanish American Fiction (Vanderbilt University Press).


  • "Deborah Cohn's lucid, meticulous study is a model of historical inquiry and critical acumen. Unprecedented and groundbreaking, in a field still muddled by academics who have not moved beyond political agendas and the careless shortcuts of historical amnesia, is Cohn's fair-minded retrospection of what was clearly a fiercely paradoxical era of intense cultural productivity and conflict under the deforming shadow of the Cold War."
    --Suzanne Jill Levine, author of The Subversive Scribe: Translating Latin American Fiction
  • Recommended
  • Through a remarkable job of exhaustive archival research, the study reveals how the promotion of Latin American literature in the United States became entangled in political interests.
  • "An exciting study of the Boom in translation, taking an experimental 'contrapuntal' approach to the hot-cold promotion of Latin American literature during the period of U.S. Cold War nationalism. Cohn's politico-literary history counterpoints the worlds within the U.S. that produce, consume and promote the Boom, revealing its striking success as an import-export phenomenon, both created and threatened by the relationship between literature and the state. In these days of walled borders along the U.S. South and an increasing Latino demographic within the U.S., Cohn offers a timely look back to another moment of immigration anxiety as it played itself out in the paradox of containment and dissemination of Latin American literature during the 1960s and '70s."
    --Susan Gillman, University of California, Santa Cruz
  • "A splendid, engagingly written work, based on a wealth of hitherto unexplored archival material. It offers a fascinating account of how the publication and dissemination of Latin American literature in the U.S. were enmeshed in the contradictions of Cold War culture: caught between the desire to support the literary revolution of the Boom writers and the fear of revolutionary politics. Essential reading for all scholars of the Americas."
    --John King, University of Warwick
  • Historians will benefit from Cohn's transnational approach to Cold War issues and especially her discussion of "the relationship between literature and the state[, which] plays a key and recurrent role" in the story
    --The Journal of American History