Peter A. Neissa. Dictatorship: The Imposition of U.S. Culture on Latin America Through Translation. ISBN: 978-1-888205-10-7. $24.95.

This book focuses on how a dictator or a culturally dominant power can use language to impose cultural values. As an instrument of power, language is used by a dictator to educate, induce, or manipulate a nation's citizens into acting in accordance with the ruling power's cultural values and beliefs. Jorge Zalamea's El Gran Burundún-Burundá ha muerto, Gabriel García Márquez's El otoño del patriarca, and Mario Vargas Llosa's La fiesta del Chivo draw attention to how the use of the vernacular can resist cultural imposition by employing specific words in order to represent its own culture and nature of reality. The original significance of these words is then altered in the translated text creating a new meaning determined by the dictator's or translator's ideology and usage. The new words that have substituted the original ones reveal how the construction of language defines relationships of power and resistance between a dictator and his nation, or between one culture and another, such as the relations of the United States over Latin America. The analysis of this relationship will provide an understanding of how language functions as an instrument for the imposition of power to gain or maintain cultural or political supremacy.

Peter A. Neissa was born in Bogota, Colombia, and received a Ph.D. in Hispanic Studies from Boston College and a Masters from Harvard University. At Boston College, he earned the Donald J. White Teaching Excellence Award. He also taught Spanish Language and Latin American Literature at Harvard University where he earned the Distinguished Teaching Award from the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning for eight consecutive semesters. Dr. Neissa has published articles and book reviews as well as two historical novels: The Druglord and Under False Colors, which trace the history of Colombian drug trafficking.

Dr. Neissa is currently the Chair of the Spanish Department at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. Cervantes observed that reading a text in translation is like looking at the back of a tapestry. Neissa wrestles with some of the issues implied in this statement in his scrutiny of the distortions, imperfections, and misrepresentations to which the transference of texts from Spanish to English inevitably lead in the case of three novels of dictatorship by Zalamea, Garcia Marquez, and Vargas Llosa. This is due not only to the paradox and power of the written word within specific cultural contexts, but also to the difficulties, dangers, and at times even abuses, that come from "passing off" a text from one language to another. The end result is that accuracy, authenticity, and truth are often sacrificed for the sake of ideological priorities, political correctness, and hegemonic control. Ironically, these are the same consequences of dictatorial tactics exercised at the expense of individuality and freedom that are portrayed in the very texts selected for this compelling comparative study that will appeal to scholars and lay readers alike. Harry L. Rosser, Latin American Literature & Area Studies, Associate Professor, Latin American Literature, Director, Latin American Studies, Boston College.

 

 


 

Other title by this author:

 

Neissa, Peter A. The Druglord. ISBN 091574526. $22.95.

It is the true life story of Gonzalo Rodríguez Gacha, the drug lord of the Bogota branch of the Colombian Drug Cartel, this historical novel offers a factual and knowledgeable Colombian perspective that well connected Colombians have known for years: the real Drug Cartel, a group consisting of over two-hundred drug traffickers, met for the first time in 1976, not to discuss drugs, but to devise a solution to the kidnapping and murders inflicted upon them by the Marxist guerrillas.