In the years following the military dictatorship in Argentina many novels were published that spoke about the violence, terror, and traumas experienced during the Junta's rule. These texts deal with the theme of memory and retell the traumas of the past as a form of mourning. Such novels look back to the past in an effort to redeem it. In this essay I explore the use of the confessional mode in postdictatorial literature as a vehicle for the task of mourning. In two of his novels, Qué solos se quedan los muertos (1985) and Cuestiones interiores (2003), Argentine author Mempo Giardinelli employs the confessional mode to tell the stories of two guilt-ridden protagonists who resort to writing in search of redemption. Giardinelli's use of the confessional mode highlights two aspects of confession that in actuality deny its completion. While confession aims to alleviate the guilt felt by the confessant and to provide him with a sense of self-understanding in light of his sins, the confessional act subverts these very purposes. The confession requires one to speak of guilt in order to arrive at a state of innocence, which only engenders more guilt and perpetuates the confession. Moreover, in confession the subject that speaks is also the object that it creates in speech. Confession as an attempt to present oneself as a coherent object to be understood and in turn to validate ones notion of identity involves a doubling effect of the self-inherent in language that reveals the impossibility of attaining an unmediated access to the self. These two aspects of the confessional act constitute the failure of confession to allow the confessant to attain the redemption and absolution they seek. I argue that the confessional mode serves as an ideal vehicle for the task of mourning and that the inherent failure of confession is comparable to what Idelvar Avelar calls the “interminability of mourning” (5). These two processes constitute a tool of memory needed in post dictatorial Argentina as a way to conserve the past and redeem it from oblivion.



College and Department

Humanities; Spanish and Portuguese



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confession, Argentina, postdictatorial literature, Mempo Giardinelli, guilt, self-objectification