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World Literature, Diplomacy, and War

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Henri Michaux at the First South American PEN Congress (1936)

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The Belgian poet Henri Michaux (1899–1984) visited Argentina in 1936 as guest of honor of the first South American PEN Club Congress. After publishing his impressions of the country in 1938 in an essay that the Argentinean officials considered utterly “undiplomatic” he was denied permission to return in 1939. This article explores the double function of diplomacy as institutional practice and rhetorical gesture by situating Michaux’s essay within a network of interwar textualities, namely, nationalist narratives of the South American landscape and emerging protocols of ethnographic discourse. This approach highlights international channels of circulation of literary texts and imaginaries beyond academia and the market that have not been significantly explored in debates on world literature in the Latin American context.

Affiliations: 1: Trinity College


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