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literature, authority, authorship, Junot Diaz, Oscar Wao, writing


Comparative Literature | English Language and Literature | Technical and Professional Writing


“What is it with Dictators and Writers anyway?” Yunior asks in the eleventh footnote of Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. “Since before the infamous Caesar-Ovid war they’ve had beef…Rushdie claims that tyrants and scribblers are natural antagonists, but I think that’s too simple; it lets writers off pretty easy. Dictators, in my opinion, just know competition when they see it. Same with writers. Like, after all, recognizes like”. As the novel’s primary narrator and proclaimed author of Oscar’s story, Yunior is concerned with the association between “tyrants and scribblers” because it’s a relationship that also implicates him. But Yunior is not the only character in the novel drawn into this relationship. Oscar Wao is a book with many authors—from the eponymous Oscar himself, to his sister, Lola, his grandfather, Abelard, his biographer and off-and-on friend, Yunior, and of course, the real-life author of the entire novel itself, Junot Díaz. Crossing paths with the novel’s authors is a real-life historical figure and tyrant, whom Yunior hails (in his usual tongue-in-cheek fashion) as: “Our then dictator-for-life Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina”. Although deceased by the time Yunior “writes” his book, Trujillo features prominently throughout the novel, most notably in the Abelard chapters of Book II. In these chapters an answer to Yunior’s question becomes apparent, along with an answer to the inevitable follow up question of how writers and dictators are alike. Abelard’s story of persecution under the Trujillo regime unites three authors, Abelard, Yunior, and Díaz, all of whom use authorship to engage (in the meaning of both tying themselves to, and entering into combat) with Trujillo’s authoritarian power in contention over the “popular imagination” in which fictions are written, disseminated, and read as reality.

Department 1 Awarding Honors Status

English: Literature and Writing

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License