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“Nothing ever ends”: Archives of Testimony and Images in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Lauren Jean Gantz

Abstract


 

This article reads The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007) as a critique of metatestimonial fiction, and of the tendency to over-state literature’s power to heal cultural traumas. Metatestimonio bears figurative witness to historical atrocities and interrogates who is or is not allowed to speak of such events. Although Díaz’s narrator Yunior gathers testimony from multiple survivors of the Trujillo regime, he mediates their experiences through his own authorial voice. The novel suggests that in refusing to allow testimony to speak for itself, Yunior (and by extension metatestimonio as genre) replicates the discursive practices of the regime it denounces. Furthermore, by referencing specific comic book series, the artwork accompanying the 2007 Riverhead edition of the novel generates a counternarrative critiquing Yunior’s project. This graphic counternarrative illustrates that ending the Trujillato’s hold on Dominicans is impossible—that certain traumas cannot be healed once and for all. Oscar Wao thus suggests that in claiming literature’s power to heal the past, we (like Yunior) privilege our own desire for resolution over the lived realities of survivors, for whom the working through of trauma is an ongoing and incomplete process.

 


Keywords


Testimony, Trauma, Dominican Republic, Comic Books, Caribbean, Latin America, Science Fiction, Trujillo

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The Johns Hopkins University Press

ISSN: 1920-1222

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