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Nation, country, homeland

“It is wide spread the assumption that nationalism, has ‘typically sprung from masculinized memory, masculinized humiliation and masculinized hope’ (Enloe, 1989, p.44 in McClintock, 1993, p. 62) or that it is a doctrine invented in Europe at the beginning of the nineteenth century (Kedourie in Leuossi, 2001, p. 230).? (Gutiérrez Chong 3)

It is interesting to read this “wide spread assumption? and think of Gioconda Belli’s novel, as it seems that the author is trying to give her nation a new meaning throughout The Inhabited Woman. Even though we are told the story of Faguas, we know she is talking about Nicaragua and we are aware of the socio-political moment that Belli chose as a setting for her story. It is not a simple coincidence that the author (a political committed woman) would want to expand her work into the literary realm. However, I think it’d be naïve to believe that she did it without thinking of her need to tell the story of her country, of her nation. It is significant that she decided to fight for her country’s liberation of a dictatorship and that she gave her main character the same gender, but then I can’t help thinking of two questions related to Gutiérrez Chong’s quote: Did Lavinia get involved in the organization because she wanted to or because of Felipe? (A question we have discussed in class many times) And, why did Belli felt the need to include Itzá in the story? Was Lavinia’s European background somehow problematic and the author felt she had to reach out to more “native? (autóctono) Nicaraguan roots?

So, what does “nation? mean? And, can a novel like The Inhabited Woman or Steps under Water help rebuild a nation that went through a painful fracture? According to Doris Sommer, romance novels did help build a sense of nation in the nineteenth century:

“It is possible that the pretty lies of national romance are similar strategies to contain the racial, regional, economic, and gender conflicts that threatened the development of new Latin American nations. After all, these novels were part of a general bourgeois project to hegemonize a culture in formation.? (Sommer 29)

In the twentieth century it is women like Belli and Kozameh that write the novels and tell the stories. But, even though they opened the field for a different kind of nation, we may have to think that they still belong to the “bourgeois project?: How did they create their authority to write? Who was/is their audience? Is there a difference between Alicia Kozameh and Rigoberta Menchú, as far as their socio-economic background and education and their ability to convey their experiences to their compatriots?

Building a nation is an ongoing project, even for “well-established? European countries which are now facing a big wave of immigration—according to this week’s Time magazine, Brigitte Bardot will go on trial on charges of discrimination and spreading racial hatred for writing an open letter to the French President accusing France’s Muslim population of destroying the country. So, what is literature’s role in this building or rebuilding of a nation (thinking of a country like Iraq)? Is it possible to represent all its inhabitants in today’s world (compared to what it meant the nineteenth century)?

Nancy Morejón writes: “Those leaves flying under the sky,/are singing the language of the homeland.? Can we talk about one language nowadays? Can we even talk about one homeland (patria)?