Eltit, Diamela 1949-

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Eltit, Diamela 1949-


Born 1949.


Santiago University, Santiago, Chile, professor of literary theory. Has also worked as a performance artist and activist. Guest lecturer, Columbia University and Stanford University.


Lumpérica, Ediciones del Ornitorrinoco (Santiago, Chile), 1983.

Por la patria, Ediciones del Ornitorrinoco (Santiago, Chile), 1986.

El cuarto mundo, Planeta (Santiago, Chile), 1988, translated by Dick Gerdes as The Fourth World: El Cuarto Mundo, foreword by Gerdes, University of Nebraska Press (Lincoln, NE), 1995.

El padre mío, Francisco Zegers (Santiago, Chile), 1989.

(With Eleonora Casaula and Edmundo Covarrubias) Duelo y creatividad: seminario—literature, sicoanalisis, enfoque sistemico, Editorial Cuarto Propio (Santiago, Chile), 1990.

Vaca sagrada, Planeta (Buenos Aires, Argentina), 1991, translated by Amanda Hopkinson as Sacred Cow, Serpent's Tail (New York, NY), 1995.

Los vigilantes, Editorial Sudamericana Chilena (Santiago, Chile), 1994.

(Author of text) El infarto del alma, photography by Paz Errazuriz, F. Zegers (Santiago, Chile), 1994.

Cronica del sufragio femenino en Chile, Servicio Nacional de la Mujer (Santiago, Chile), 1994.

E. Luminata, translated by Ronald Christ, Lumen Books (Santa Fe, NM), 1997.

Los trabajadores de la muerte, Seix Barral (Santiago, Chile), 1998.

Conversaciones con Diamela Eltit, Editorial Cuarto Propio (Santiago, Chile), 1998.

Emergencias: escritos sobre literature, arte, y politica, edited and with prologue by Leonidas Morales, Planeta/Ariel (Santiago, Chile), 2000.

Sobre castas y puentas: conversaciones con Elena Poniatowska, Rosario Ferré, y Diamela Eltit, Editorial Cuarto Propio (Santiago, Chile), 2000.

Diamela Eltit: conversación en Princeton, edited by Michael J. Lazarra, Program in Latin American Studies, Princeton University (Princeton, NJ),2002.

Mano de obra, Editorial Planeta Chilena (Santiago, Chile), 2002.

Custody of the Eyes, Lumen Books (Santa Fe, NM), 2005.

Tres Novelas, Fondo de Cultura Economica USA (San Diego, CA), 2005.

Ciudadinía, el otro poder: Foro Cuidadano III, compiled by Vicky Quevedo Méndez, LOM Ediciones (Santiago, Chile), 2006.

Some of Eltit's works have been translated into French and English.


A professor of literary theory by profession, Chilean Diamela Eltit is also a dedicated political activist and advocate for the poor. She is "known for her work with the poor in Santiago" and as a "committed activist who refused to leave Chile, or to remain there quietly, when the military dictatorship was established in 1973," according to Marisa Januzzi in the Review of Contemporary Fiction. Eltit's books "speak with pain, difficulty, and rage," Januzzi further commented, "recording a political landscape with sharpest visual acuity and engendering a new novel by implication."

El cuarto mundo (translated as The Fourth World: El Cuarto Mundo) was classified by Januzzi as a "very brilliant" book that tells the story of a pair of twins: a nameless sister and her brother, Maria Chipia. Their tale begins while they are still in the womb. There, in what is ostensibly the safest, purest environment humans ever experience, the twins vie for space, setting a pattern of competition between them that will follow them through life. The intense competition and closeness takes on a pathological turn as the twins develop a highly erotic relationship through childhood and their teen years. In the second half of the novel, the sister, pregnant with her brother's child, explores the family's reaction to the child and to the incestuous act that led to the infant's conception. A Publishers Weekly reviewer called the book a "bizarre, often difficult, yet compelling novel" that "demands attention."

With Sacred Cow, Eltit reveals "a fierce dark side that becomes oppressive" in the telling of a woman's obsession with her absent lover, Manuel, according to a Publishers Weekly reviewer. The narrator falls in love with Manuel, though he is already married, and as the novel progresses her contradictory, even psychopathological behavior towards him becomes apparent. Though he treats her poorly, she loves him all the more. When apart, she believes she can communicate with him telepathically. As her mental condition deteriorates, the narrator finally finds herself destitute in Santiago, searching for jobs that do not exist and still loving a man who is not there. "The writing here is startling, and often startlingly bloody, and the translation does it justice," the Publishers Weekly critic stated.

E. Luminata is an experimental novel constructed around a number of interrogation scenes and wild events that occur after dark in a mysterious public park. After describing these scenes, Eltit interrupts the narrative to offer analysis that confounds the reader but also leaves the way open for new interpretation. Jeffrey DeShell, writing in the Review of Contemporary Fiction, called the novel "an active unworking, a vigorous defying of psychological characterization, chronological story, unequivocal occurrences, and limiting or limited signification." Library Journal reviewer Carolyn Ellis Gonzalez commented favorably on its "innovative form" and "remarkable craftsmanship," declaring it an "important work."

The more recent Custody of the Eyes concerns the gradual decline of the mother of a teenage boy during a fearful winter in the era of the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile. Afraid even to sign her letters, she communicates with an unnamed person she refers to only as "you." As readers begin to recognize that "you" is her husband and the father of her son, they also come to realize that the man may be a spy and collaborator. Acts of generosity by the woman, such as taking in homeless families during the harsh winter, are misinterpreted by "you," leading him to believe she is cheating on him and sealing, unjustly, her doom. A Publishers Weekly writer remarked that "this is an elliptical, Kafkaesque cry of utter terror."



Library Journal, November 15, 1997, Carolyn Ellis Gonzalez, review of E. Luminata, p. 76.

Publishers Weekly, November 13, 1995, review of Sacred Cow, p. 58; September 25, 1995, review of The Fourth World: El Cuarto Mundo, p. 54; April 10, 2006, review of Custody of the Eyes, p. 45.

Review of Contemporary Fiction, summer, 1996, Marisa Januzzi, review of The Fourth World, p. 158; summer, 1998, Jeffrey DeShell, review of E. Luminata, p. 254.

World Literature Today, fall, 1996, Naomi Lindstrom, review of Los vigilantes, p. 922.


Mukkula.org,http://www.mukkula.org/ (November 1, 2006), brief biography of Diamela Eltit.*