A Comparative Study of Autofiction and Humour in the Works of Enrique Vila-Matas and Roberto Bolano

  • Kristina Pla Fernandez

Student thesis: Phd


Novels by Vila-Matas and Bolano are comparable in terms of their autofiction and their humour but the rationale and particularities of these similarities had until now been understudied. Part of the reason for that lack of scholarly attention was the discordance between the function of those devices in Vila-Matas and Bolano's novels and in those of their contemporaries. Furthermore, the overall dissimilarities between their texts and other novels of 1990s and early 2000 in Spain and Chile, respectively, made them look as strangers to their own traditions. This thesis contends that approach and explores autofiction and humour as metacritical tools used by Vila-Matas and Bolano to comment on the relevance given to first person narrators, historiographic metafiction and committed literature in transition and post-transition literature in their countries. Autofiction will be exposed as a tool through which Vila-Matas and Bolano create a reading experience where the reader is gradually introduced to the composition techniques involved in truth / fiction complexities of writings based on personal experience and memories. Humour will be related to parody and studied as tool to problematize passive reading processes, simplistic discourses and the role of intellectuals in post-dictatorship societies, as perceived by Vila-Matas and Bolano. By exploring the subversive devices Vila-Matas and Bolano embedded within their narratives, this thesis has traced back the context which these authors aimed to challenge and how they perceived it. Consequently, this has resulted in a better understanding of the way Cultura de la Transicion (CT) materialised in literature and also the similarities between this phenomenon and the Chilean literary panorama of the 1990s, in particular regarding Nueva Narrativa Chilena. Therefore, this thesis proves the tight connexion Vila-Matas and Bolano had with the literary scene of their countries during the 1990s and early 2000s and also explores how they fit in these literary panoramas. Moreover, this thesis explains their relevance as literary critics, as well as the way in which the metacriticism of their fictions evidences alternative conceptions of the notions of past, present and aftermath in which to frame cultural production in democratic Spain and Chile.
Date of Award1 Aug 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorChris Perriam (Supervisor) & Karl Posso (Supervisor)


  • Chilean Literature
  • Spanish Literature
  • Historiographic Metafiction
  • Metacriticism
  • Metafiction
  • Cultura de la Transicion
  • Humour
  • Autofiction
  • Roberto Bolano
  • Enrique Vila-Matas
  • CT

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