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E. Luminata

Diamela Eltit · Lumen · 2008 · 240 pp


Diamela Eltit is the prize-winning author of five novels that have attracted attention all over the Latin America, Europe, and academic circles in the United States. E. Luminata was published in 1983 when Eltit was participating in collective actions against Pinochet's military regime. This remarkable first novel broke with all established literary tradition and continues to astonish because of its intransigence and its refusals -- of plot, character, literary convention, and ideological positioning.

"E. Luminata consists of a series of scenes that occur at night when, because of the curfew, the city is supposedly empty of all but the military. Set in a public square, with a single protagonist -- a woman -- and a public of 'pale' people, the only illumination is the intermittent light of a neon sign. The uncanniness of those nightmarish, night-time years when 'something more unnameable than terror' prevailed is woven subtly into this staging of an area that witnesses a baptism, a filming, an interrogation -- abjection and surveillance. At the same time, Eltit speedly thwarts any temptation to read the square allegorically as public space and the illuminated sign as enlightenment: her allusions, puns, and verbal inventions work more as poetry than as narration, so we must repeatedly check back, follow the threads of connected metaphors -- read not for the plot, but the plottings. E. Luminata is not a novel to be devoured but to be carefully tracked through changes of pace and abrupt connections and disconnections.