Trash and the Toxic City: Guillermo Fadanelli and Mexican literatura basura

Alice Rose Whitmore

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


This paper examines the Latin American trash aesthetic via the work of Guillermo Fadanelli: Mexico City's resident poète maudit and self-designated author of literatura basura [trash literature].

Put simply, the concept of literatura basura signifies "a hypothetical relinquishment of the idea of longevity, of good literary manners and academicization." Fadanelli describes his invention of the term as "the belly laugh of a man on death row." This irreverence, however, belies a more sobering message. Trash is an affliction; it clogs our landfills and our airwaves, failing to nourish our minds or our bodies. Like death, it is forced underground, confined to the periphery of our societies. By virtue of its ubiquity, however, it tells us a great deal about the sensibilities of postmodern culture. Beyond being a parody of the vicious consumer lifestyle, the cavalier spirit of literatura basura also implies a rejection of mainstream Latin American literature, contradicting both the fanciful tropes of realismo mágico and the enduring resonance of the elitist Boom. With this literary self-exile, Fadanelli enacts the very ephemerality and alienation he seeks to expose.

In examining the origins of literatura basura, this paper also analyses the ways in which it intersects with, and departs from, other cultural output, from visual art to cult cinema to dirty realism. The role of translation as a form of reappropriation (or re-recycling) is also considered.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 20 Mar 2016
EventAmerican Comparative Literature Association (ACLA) Annual Meeting: Seminar: Recycling Culture: An Aesthetics of Waste. - Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, United States of America
Duration: 17 Mar 201620 Mar 2016


ConferenceAmerican Comparative Literature Association (ACLA) Annual Meeting
Abbreviated titleACLA Annual Meeting
Country/TerritoryUnited States of America
CityCambridge, MA

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