Viewing stories and novels from an ethnographic perspective, Eduardo González here explores the relationship between myth, ritual, and death in writings by Borges, Vargas Llosa, Cortázar, and Roa Bastos. He then weaves this analysis into a larger cultural fabric composed of the works of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Joyce, Benjamin, H. G. Wells, Kafka, Poe, and others.
What interests González is the signature of authorial selfhood in narrative and performance, which he finds willfully and temptingly disfigured in the works he examines: horrific and erotic, subservient and tyrannical, charismatic and repellent. Searching out the personal image and plot, González uncovers two fundamental types of narrative: one that strips character of moral choice; and another in which characters' choices deprive them of personal autonomy and hold them in ritual bondage to a group. Thus The Monstered Self becomes a study of the conflict between individual autonomy and the stereotypes of solidarity.
Written in a characteristically allusive, elliptical style, and drawing on psychoanalysis, religion, mythology, and comparative literature, The Monstered Self is in itself a remarkable performance, one that will engage readers in anthropology, psychology, and cultural history as well as those specifically interested in Latin American narrative.