Blest Gana, Alberto (1831–1920)

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Blest Gana, Alberto (1831–1920)

Alberto Blest Gana was a Chilean writer and diplomat. Some of his more outstanding novels are La Aritmética en el amor (1860), Martín Rivas (1862), El Ideal de un calavera (1863), Durante la Reconquista (1897), Los Trasplantados (1904), and El Loco Estero (1909). He pursued military engineering studies in France from 1847 to 1851. On his return to Chile he was made a section chief in the Ministry of War and the Navy. In 1870 Blest Gana was elected as deputy to the National Congress. From 1871 until his retirement from diplomatic service in 1887 he served successively as minister plenipotentiary to Washington, London, and Paris.

Blest Gana belongs to a generation of nineteenth-century Latin American novelists who felt responsible for reflecting on and producing a genuine nationalization of literature as both a reading and writing practice. In Chile, this process was the result of decisive cultural changes. One of them was the emergence of a proto-mass audience of readers of printed material. Blest Gana posited the new national novel (i.e., a novel capable of representing the national for a national reading public) as a cultural mediation between two mid-nineteenth century poles affecting the status of the novel as a genre and of reading as a cultural practice. On the one hand, magazine and journalistic reading for pleasure was socially perceived as feminine and unproductive while on the other, the reading of classic (Greek and Latin) and serious literature was seen as masculine and productive. One was viewed as an easy waste of time and energies while the other was seen as involving hard work and a sure cultural return on the investment. In this context, Blest Gana's key contribution was his proposal of the national novel and its reading as legitimate forms of mediating between those oppositions. Located between the open space of the reading and publishing marketplace where he always sought his success, and the cultural discourse of nation-building which he produced from his university and state positions, Blest Gana allows us to see the participation of new reading publics in the formation of national cultures whose control was by then disputed between the state and the Catholic church—the two other actors of nation-building in the Latin American nineteenth century.

See alsoLiterature: Spanish America .


Kaempfer, Alvaro. "De Nueva York al Niágara (1867) de Alberto Blest Gana: A todo vapor fuera de Occidente." Ciberletras 4 (January 2001).

Kaempfer, Alvaro. "Alberto Blest Gana's Durante la Reconquista (1897): Subalternity and the Legibility of the Popular." Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies 13, no. 1 (March 2004): 2-34.

Poblete, Juan. "La construccion social de la Lectura y la novella nacional: El caso chileno." Latin American Research Review 34 (1999).

                                        Juan Poblete

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Blest Gana, Alberto (1831–1920)

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