At this point in the recent development of contemporary Chilean literature, the name of Diego Muñoz Valenzuela has undoubtedly become a reference and essential author.
For quite some time we have followed his writing footprint and we can certainly say that the writer has been consolidating himself as one of the highlights of the so-called generation of the eighties. In his narrative production he has not only cultivated the novel -the major genre-, but also the story and the microcuento or microrrelato -or the multiple forms as this protein genre has been called.
In any of these various scriptural modulations, Diego Muñoz Valenzuela, shows himself as a solvent and imaginative writer who can venture into various themes, motifs and narrative topics. I have titled this chronicle as stories and micro-stories because I will mention the readings of two texts that travel along the paths of the story that bifurcate into two modalities, that is, the storytelling story in its classical sense, and in the meaning of minimal writing – which is none other than the genre of the next millennium, as Italo Calvino would say – and which is the one we are living in the midst of the pandemic.
The story can be defined as a brief verbal structure whose plot concentration indicates the specific difference from its older sister, the novel. Writing a story is not easy, as some distinguished names have indicated in their writing. A story should always be a real knockout on the reader.
In the story it is the first scriptural blow that gives the tone and lashes out -Cortázar in between. Diego Muñoz Valenzuela in his stories -stories and micro-stories- knows well where the meaning of imaginary and/or fictional textual argumentation goes. In this way, whoever enters the reading, falls irretrievably on the canvas.
The story -and I use the concept in its meaning of verbal structure- Cover photo has become a textual icon that unfolds beyond the borders to which it alludes in its thematicization. The symbolic character of the story has begun to expand taking on a consistency of its own that could well be outside the texts that contain it.
The reading of «Foto de portada y otros cuentos» (2020) by Muñoz Valenzuela, has aroused in me as a reader a kind of empathy with the story, probably because the referential context is common to the author and the receiver. When I venture into reading, the characters, the spaces, the motives – in general, the plot – are known to me.
To understand this, I must clarify that I do not always read or allow myself to be guided by what the back cover written by the editors says, or by a note or preamble. Following in my footsteps, I remember that I read the story eighteen years ago in a volume entitled «Déjalo ser» and, later, in «El tiempo del ogre» (2017), so that Vicente and Guatón Alvarado are known to me.
This story is a nomadic tale that now gives its name to a text where it acquires unsuspected meanings from the perspective of the history of the country and intrahistory. Cover photo alludes to or themed issues from a few decades ago, but is rearticulated in recent events. To be sure, few words, because the cover of the book reveals the new meaning of history and makes a scriptural nod to the story that saw its first being in the work of 2003.
All the stories in this volume have been relocated to the new book — I mean, if you look at the index of one and the other, they are not similar in their textual ordering and this one always carries a significance. In this sense, «Cover Photo and Other Tales» is a rewrite of those. That is, the stories when reordered acquire a thematic symbolization in their new structuring.
When I say rewrite I do not mean a scriptural intervention of each one, but their new ordering gives them a different consistency. In the volume all the stories are relevant and leave in evidence the handling of Diego Muñoz Valenzuela in his writing, but the title seems to give the relevance to the story that deserved a cover photo -the phrase, and other stories, gives us the reason-.
However, among those other stories there are anthology stories where we are revealed the inner demons -Vargas Llosa, dixit- of the creator. The themings give us an account of the imaginary paths through which muñoz Valenzuela’s narrative travels, among others the fantastic, neo-Gothic, dystopian, neorealist writing with glimpses of acerba social criticism -sin forgetting the neopolicial. Stories like Mirando los chicks, Yesterday, Adagio para un encuentro, El día en que el reloj se paraded are worthy of being in any anthology of recent Chilean storytelling.
If in the story in the classic way, Diego Muñoz Valenzuela wins the reader, it could not be less when he ventures into the micro-narrative. Without being benevolent, I believe that in this narrative form – as I have argued on other occasions – the writer is a teacher. In the microcuento what is characteristic of the story – the short verbal structure – is brought to its maximum power. One line is enough to give a complete meaning to a story that opens up to multiple resonances.
Narrativity – as David Lagmanovich said – is the sine qua non element of this genre that Diego Muñoz Valenzuela handles with precision. «Breaking Realities» (2021) is an excellent example of what I am saying. A text that in its own materiality leads us to a reading where we find the motives and topics that the author revisits once again and that we have pointed out above.
Diego Muñoz Valenzuela rearticulate his recurring motifs and gives them a new aesthetic perception for the comfort of the reader. The title of the work is very well chosen, because the gerund gives it the significance of the action that is forever being performed. The micro-narrative as a scriptural exercise ad infinitum.
On the other hand, the book in its format is a bibliographic jewel because it combines the writing of Muñoz Valenzuela with the images of Claudia Matute Barahona. The reader, when reviewing the index, will notice a textual hook in the titles of the stories. All of them – there are twenty – surprise us in their narrativity and in their significance that point to the axes in which the author’s work revolves.
A tale like Bullring does nothing but decontextualize what we understand by such a name, while Occupied Elevator thems an everyday situation, but with a surprising element: an elephant within this space, while the final micro-narrative is like a definitive closure of humanity, because the word Apocalypse has that connotation: «The last rabbit devours the last blade of grass while the last human being stalks it».
Diego Muñoz Valenzuela
Cover photo and other stories.
Santiago: Zuramérica. 2020. 161pág.
Illustrations by Claudia Matute.
Santiago: Zuramérica. 2021. 52 pp.