Towards a genre of return in the contemporary Central American novel
This dissertation examines exile in four contemporary Central American novels and focuses on the return of each protagonist after an extended absence. The works establish homecoming as a critical feature of Central American literature and include El asco by Horacio Castellanos Moya, Cruz de olvido by Carlos Cortés, El retorno de los mayas by Gaspar Pedro González, and Con pasión absoluta by Carol Zardetto. The aim of this dissertation is to demonstrate that return represents a significant yet often underappreciated aspect of displacement in literature and criticism. The motivations for each character’s flight and eventual trip home are unique, and the distinctiveness of each path is mirrored in the various responses to the experience. The novels also approach return from differences of class, race, and gender that inform the perspectives and outcomes of each journey. Return is a dynamic process that contrasts memories of origins with the sudden encounter with an altered home. An important factor is the underlying tension between what was left behind and the people or places that appear unfamiliar after an extended absence. These journeys and their aftermaths spark difficult encounters and myriad obstacles. This dissertation establishes that exile and its repercussions do not cease once displacement comes to an end. The protagonists defy the assumption that exiles will seamlessly reengage with long-absent communities. In each novel, return is only the first step in a succession of trials and self-discoveries that reflect the tumultuous postwar era in Central America.