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Intimate FrontiersA Literary Geography of the Amazon$
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Felipe Martínez-Pinzón and Javier Uriarte

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781786941831

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781786941831.001.0001

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The Politics of Vegetating in Arturo Burga Freitas’s Mal de gente

The Politics of Vegetating in Arturo Burga Freitas’s Mal de gente

Chapter:
(p.177) The Politics of Vegetating in Arturo Burga Freitas’s Mal de gente
Source:
Intimate Frontiers
Author(s):

Lesley Wylie

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.3828/liverpool/9781786941831.003.0009

This essay examines the persistent trope of ‘tropical degeneration’ in Arturo Burga Freitas’s Mal de gente (1943). Set in the Peruvian Amazon, the novel is the story of a young European, Edmund Rice, who, like a number of protagonists of the contemporaneous Spanish American novela de la selva, travels to the region for the purposes of work and ends up settling permanently in the jungle. The natural world depicted in Burga Freitas’s book is a zone of exploitation, characterised by the European plundering of tropical products, chiefly rubber. Yet countering this assessment of nature is the native Amazonian view of the jungle as an animate force, capable of enchanting outsiders and reducing them to a kind of vegetable state. This article explores how the idea of ‘going native’ is redefined and redeployed in Mal de gente to counter discourses of nature as an economic resource. Drawing on the work of Philippe Descola and Eduardo Vivieros de Castro, among others, this essay shows that, far from being a negative condition, the ‘degeneration’ of Burga Frieta’s protagonist is a corrective to the over-exploitation of the Amazon and a recognition of the profound interconnectedness of man and the natural world.

Keywords:   Arturo Burga Frietas, Tropical degeneration, Amazonia, Peruvian 20th Century Fiction, “Novelas de la selva” [Jungle novels], “Novela de la tierra”

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