Mapping the Amazon

BookMapping the Amazon

Mapping the Amazon

Literary Geography after the Rubber Boom

American Tropics: Towards a Literary Geography, 8


May 1st, 2021



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An analysis of the political and ecological consequences of charting the Amazon River basin in narrative fiction, Mapping the Amazon examines how widely read novels from twentieth-century South America attempted to map the region for readers. Authors such as José Eustasio Rivera, Rómulo Gallegos, Mario Vargas Llosa, César Calvo, Márcio Souza, and Mário de Andrade travelled to the Amazonian regions of their respective countries and encountered firsthand a forest divided and despoiled by the spatial logic of extractivism. Writing against that logic, they fill their novels with geographic, human, and ecological realities omitted from official accounts of the region. Though the plots unfold after the height of the Amazon rubber boom (1850–1920), the authors construct landscapes marked by that first large-scale exploitation of Amazonian biodiversity. The material practices of rubber extraction resurface in the stories told about the removal of other plants, seeds, and minerals from the forest as well as its conversion into farmland. Smith places the counter-discursive impulses of each novel in dialogue with various modernizing projects that carve Amazonia into cultural and economic spaces: border commissions, extractive infrastructure, school geography manuals, Indigenous education programs, and touristic propaganda. Even the “novel maps” studied, however, have blind spots, and Mapping the Amazon considers the legacy of such unintentional omissions today.

"Mapping the Amazon: Literary Geography After the Rubber Boom navigates the complexity of Amazonian literature with intelligence and deftness. With theoretical sophistication and an ethical commitment to contextualizing her material historically and geographically, Amanda Smith has produced lucid new readings of José Eustasio Rivera, Rómulo Gallegos, Mario Vargas Llosa, César Calvo, and Márcio Souza. The final discussion is a beautiful, unexpectedly affirming conclusion to a book full of sharp critical insights."
Jennifer L. French, Williams College

Author Information

Amanda M. Smith is an Assistant Professor of Latin American Literature in the Department of Literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Introduction : Mapping the Amazon after the Rubber Boom15
1. Reading Maps with La vorágine: Cartographic Illusion on the Río Negro37
2. Sensing Like a Shaman, Seeing Like a State: Guayana According to Rómulo Gallegos75
3. The Upper Marañón, the Summer Institute of Linguistics, and the Nobel Laureate115
4. Extractivism in Iquitos: From Rubber to Ayahuasca Literature155
5. The Remains of Modern(ista) Export Routes along the Madeira and the Mamoré185
Conclusions : Mapping the Amazon Today215