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In this paper I focus on the way in which irony, humour and cynicism manifest themselves in two different cases: the Argentinean memory of the last dictatorship (1976-1983) and the Mexican war on drugs as it was declared by Felipe Calderón (2006-2012). Tarantino boasted that “taboos are meant to be broken,” but when the taboo against harming another is broken, there can be no limits, no social pact” (1). Héctor Schmucler’s review, in which he stated famously: “¿Qué extraña traición se teje entre el autor y su palabra cuando la tragedia -no es otro el tono que merece la agonía de las personas reales que padecieron el destino de Leonora- se resuelve en divertimento literario?
In Latin America, the impact of violence in the second half of the 20th century was so high that in the 1980s a specific discipline, called the “violentología,” was created. In Política y/o violencia, Pilar Calveiro analyses the origins of this binary narrative in the discourse of the guerrilla movements, especially in the case of the Montoneros (cf. Saturado por su propia biografía, Liliana Heker hace de El fin del la historia un espejo multiplicado en el que la novelista de ficción Diana Glass, busca descubrir su intimo rostro en la imagen de su amiga montonera, pero sólo encuentra ecos de sucesivas traiciones” (web).
(Basile and Trigo 2013; Firstly, this call for papers states that the memory paradigm underwent a kind of transculturation in the Southern Cone. Although I do agree on the fact that the examples extracted from daily life are particularly illustrative of a tendency to black humour, the narrative strategies used by Bruzonne are, from my perspective, more akin to irony: not only the parody of the discourse of the HIJOS movement is based on irony, but the multiple conversions of the character Maira, and the absurd twists of plot can also be interpreted as examples of situational irony.
Indeed, the conceptual framework developed in the context of Holocaust Studies has not been merely exported to Latin America, but has been critically reconsidered. These data were published by several media, but it is the weekly newspaper Zeta from Tijuana in particular, that has accused the PRI-government of silencing the numerous deaths caused since Peña Nieto’s presidency (see Some noteworthy and early exceptions are Angelo Nacaveca’s Diario de un narcotraficante (1967) and El tráfico de la marihuana (1987).
In Mexico, however, the situation is entirely different. There is an interesting contrast between the exposure of bodies produced by the drug gangs, and the invisibility of the corpses of the 25.000 disappeared in Mexico, victims both of state violence and the drug cartels who ultimately prefer to dissolve the corpses of their victims. Even though the abject corpse is also extremely present in this novel, it is not exposed in the same spectacular or humorous way (which does not mean that irony would be absent from 2666).
The Mexican conflict is marked by a context of late capitalism in which it is considerably more difficult to identify victims and perpetrators. 2666 is exceptional too by the fact that it has been considered as the most monumental and most succesful example of a novel in which violence in Mexico is related not only with drug trafficking, but placed in a broader context of structural violence related to the permanent state of exception installed by the neoliberal system (Farred).
The stress both in social and academic discourse is not that much on the fate of the victims (which amount to more than 80,000 since Calderón’s coming into power), but rather on the perpetrators’ excessive use of violence and expressive crime. It should be noted that the position of the drug gangs and cartels in this context is cause of controversy: are they examples of extremely well organized multinationals, or are they tribal organizations in which the local is more important than the global exchange of goods and money?
Although there exist various social movements, like Javier Sicilia’s “Movimiento por la Paz”, which use memory to fight against impunity and oblivion, the main discourse in relation to the war on drugs is still that of violence. However, Marco Kunz is utterly suspicious about the veracity and reliability of all these recent,“testimonios de incierta veracidad de narcos, policías, políticos, víctimas, etc.” (article in press).Making fun of traumatic experiences is a delicate issue. On La vita è bella, Lauterwein states that “Benigni présente tantôt La vie est belle comme une “love story” (suppl.However, Freud has worked on the cathartic function of the joke (1905), and Andréa Lauterwein, in her edited volume Rire, Mémoire, Shoah (2009) insisted on the presence and relevance of laughter in the memory of the Shoah. Historias reales de desaparecidos y víctimas del narco. DVD), avec un message d’amour et d’humanité qui secondarise la Shoah, tantôt il revendique la finalité mémorielle du film.The state, drug lords, drug proletarians, multinationals, and bank holdings are all suspicous of complicity. “Nación y narración de la violencia en Colombia (de la historia a la sociología).” Revista Iberoamericana 74.223 (2008): 345-59. Not only could the endless description of corpses in the fourth part be considered as a way of introducing these murders into collective memory, the “genealogy of evil” (Galdo) that is designed in 2666 might also contribute to insert the Juárez murders in a memory paradigm, of which the Shoah described in the fifth part is obviously an essential part.A third difference pertains to the scope of these conflicts: while the Argentinian or Chilean state terrorisms were seen as a national issue, the war in Mexico was initially represented as a northern problem. However, it is interesting that in the literary criticism on 2666 the key concepts in analysis still seem to be “violence,” “evil,” and “cruelty,” rather than memory itself.
Despite the fact that it was originally founded in Colombia, when president Barco created the famous “Commission of Studies on Violence” in 1987 during his campaign against the narcos, the field broadened its scope and began to focus on violence in other parts of the continent as well. 17 For a more detailed analysis of the functions of irony in Kohan’s novel, see Adriaensen 2009.