In 1986 several U. S. and Soviet scholars held a symposium in Moscow at which both sides presented papers dealing with colonial Latin American letters. A second meeting took place in December 1987 at the University of Illinois, this time to deal with the impact of social factors on nineteenth-century Latin American literature. Contextos comprises the eight contributions read at the second symposium. All the articles are in Spanish.

The works prepared by the five members of the U.S. delegation are typical of the research proper to our milieu, methodically explicated and adequately supported by bibliography. Outstanding is the study by Ivan A. Schulman, which surveys the reaction of Latin American modernist poets to the power of the emerging bourgeoisie. The three Soviet contributions are just as efficiently presented, but their differences are evident. Judging from these papers, Soviet critics seem to attach greater importance to social factors than to literary content. They also apparently prefer to advance their own opinions rather than expand on the views of others. The three Soviet critics contributed papers totaling 20 pages in length, quoting, in all, 15 sources, while their five U.S. colleagues contributed a total of 78 pages and quoted 218 sources. Yuri Zubritzki’s examination of the social background to the rebellion of Juan Hualparimachi, the poet-hero of Bolivian independence, stands out among the Soviet entries. The other Soviet contributions, by Vera Kuteischikova and Valeri Zemskow, deal with the role of letters in the development of national consciousness.

Because this is the first document in the dialogue between U.S. and Soviet Latin Americanists, readers might naturally expect to see some background material on Soviet studies in Latin American literature. It is disappointing to find that even a brief introduction to this subject is missing. The editors have indicated, however, that more such meetings are planned, to deal with twentieth-century Latin American letters. One can only hope that at those future meetings the number of Soviet participants will greatly increase. Soviet critics have always excelled in interpreting the influence of socioeconomic forces on foreign literatures. And since twentieth-century Latin American literature is, as a whole, a socioeconomic document, the views of the Soviet experts promise to be radically different from what we are accustomed to. Meanwhile, let this hook stand as praiseworthy for what it contains and somewhat disappointing for what it leaves out.