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Raiding the Anales of the Empire:

Sarduys Subversions of the Latin


American Boom
Carlos Riobo
The City College of New YorkCUNY

abstract In his novel Maitreya, Severo Sarduy sends up Gabriel


Garca Marquezs trope of archival origins in Cien anos de soledad and, in
so doing, subverts the phallogocentric discourse on which the Boom relies
for legitimacy. This essay analyzes the use of anal fisting in Sarduys work
as an alternative metaphor for accessing the archive and for writing, which
subverts Latin American literatures reliance on archival origins. Through
an examination of theories by Derrida, Foucault, and Gonzalez Echevarra,
I clarify the significance of the archive and its place in Latin American
literature. I also analyze Sarduys Neobaroque sonnet, Omtemela mas,
que lo omitido, to elucidate archival notions implicit in fisting. Lastly, I
demonstrate that Lady Tremendas anal baby (hijo caudal) in Maitreya is
a parody of the inbred birth of el caudal, the pig-tailed fulfillment of
rsulas much-feared predictionand a symbol of archival texts and phalU
lic writing in Cien anos de soledad.

The so-called Boom in Latin American literature characterized much of


the second half of the twentieth century and sparked a deep and abiding
interest among the globes readers in narrative from this developing part of
the world. The Booms best known and arguably most widely read writer is
undoubtedly Gabriel Garca Marquez, and its quintessential novel is his Cien

I would like to thank Paul Julian Smith for his insights into Tacituss Annals and his generous
reading of this essay.
Hispanic Review (summer 2013)
Copyright 2013 University of Pennsylvania Press. All rights reserved.

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anos de soledad (1967). Garca Marquez, like others of his literary ilk, penned
works that, guided by a phallogocentric imperative, delved into the origins
and history of Latin America.1 Severo Sarduy, one of the most recondite of
Latin American writers, published one of his least-studied works, Maitreya
(1978), in the waning trail of the Booms stardust. This novel sends up Cien
anos de soledads trope of archival origins and, in so doing, subverts the procreative prerogative of the phallus on which the Boom relies for legitimacy.
As Maitreya is an infrequently read novel by an abstruse writer, I should
briefly recount the relevant portions of its plot, in as linear a fashion as I can
for a work that revels in transmogrifications, doublings, metamorphoses, and
other such postmodern literary devices. Sarduys fourth novel opens in Tibet,
but the characters, in search of the Buddhasavior, travel to the false East
(Cuba) and the United States, then end up in Iran and Afghanistan. I will
focus on the novels second part because it is the most relevant to this essay.
Divided into two basic, alternating parts, El Doble and El Puno, each
of which repeats and each of which is further subdivided into sections I and
II, Maitreyas second part is made up of four distinct subsections. This second half of the novel opens with the birth and continues through the adolescence of twins of unknown parentage, Lady Tremenda and Lady Divina, in
Cuba. With the Cuban revolution, these one-time miracle workers flee to
Miami with a mural-painting dwarf called Pedacito. In Florida, Las Tremendas, as they are called, become fervent members of F.F.A., or the Fist Fuckers of America. They later go to New York, where they become even more
ardent adherents to the anal fisting sect, picking up all the latest jargon.
Lady Tremenda actually deflates Lady Divina, for good, out of jealousy. The
remaining twin then falls in love with an Iranian chauffeur and moves with
him and the dwarf to his native land during the petroleum boom. There,
they open a fisting massage parlor, frequented by newly rich emirs. Their
manejo de trastienda, or the anal fisting of an unsuspecting Omani potentate, also referred to in the novel as the [violacion de] los anales del imperio, gets them expelled, as does the revolution of the mullahs. The friends

1. The possessors of the phallus (a symbol of the penis or of power conceived in its stereotypically
male forms, or, for Jacques Lacan, a signifier that evokes that which would overcome the lack
felt by human subjects) and the logos (identity qua discourse, language, and logical argument)
privilege phallogocentrism. This latter term, coined by Jacques Derrida, denotes the privilege
accorded to the phallus as a mark of presence; phallogocentrism indicates a certain sexual scene
behind or beforebut always withinthe scene of philosophy (Kamuf, Derrida Reader 313).

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end up in the Gran Hotel de Francia somewhere in the Middle East, probably
in Afghanistan. There, they start a new cult and continue their avocation.
In Maitreya, Sarduy raids the archive of Latin American literature, not
with the procreative prerogative of the phallusstylusor pen(is), if you will
pardon the punbut with the devirilized pleasure of the fist instead. The
fist, used in Sarduys narrative alternately for sex and for writing, ultimately
gives rise to Lady Tremendas monstrosity of an anal baby. I argue in this
essay that Sarduy plunders the archive, so sacred to theorists such as Roberto
Gonzalez Echevarra and so beloved of Boom writers, while seeking the pleasure of the text (the Barthesian jouissance or bliss), but not in order to create
a self-authorizing narrative of origins as Garca Marquez and other Boom
writers did with their phallogocentric discourse. Furthermore, Lady Tremendas anal baby (hijo caudal) is a transparent parody of the inbred birth of
rsulas much-feared prediction
el caudal, the pig-tailed fulfillment of U
and a symbol of archival texts and phallic writing in Cien anos de soledad.
In the novel Maitreya, the prospect that the archive could be raided and
its laws subverted is posited as the violation of the anales del imperio,
annals of the empire. Anal fisting is not just a sexual act in this novel, but also
an archival exploration, where the fister wrests control of the archivethe
partners anusrepositoryfrom the archonits legitimate keeper who controls access to it. I will rehearse the relevant archival onomastics and concepts, as unfolded by Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault respectively, and
how archival notions have been used contextually within Latin American
literary studies by Gonzalez Echevarra, for greater clarity at this point, before
moving on.
Derrida defines and traces the origins of his terms, from which we may
derive some useful nomenclature. He starts with an analysis of the etymologies of archive s roots in Greek, separating two variants, arkheion and
arkhe. Through these etyma Derrida conveys the notions obtained from his
archival readings: a place where things are established (commencement)
and where regulations and societal order are implemented (commandment). Furthermore, there is a dwelling or habitation of the archons, or
head magistrates. These archons control both the files, as it were, and their
analyses. Therefore, the archive is kept by those sanctioned to construe it and
to enforce its laws.
Next, Derrida reflects on the topological meaning of arkheionthe
archives resting locus in addition to the archic, in truth, patriarchic, function of custody (3). This feature of the archive sheds light on the advantaged

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locus where knowledge is held by a privileged archivist. The archivists legally


sanctioned right (the French droit and the Spanish derecho) to keep the
archive, and his attendant hermeneutic power, synecdochically transmit that
power to the contents of the archive such that these documents turn into the
law (also, droit in French and derecho in Spanish, in certain contexts); they
articulate or evoke the law. Location is thus a crucial archival feature, because
the archival memory is not living, but rather a place. This elucidates the
political authority and importance of the archons. Location connotes exteriority. The archive is born of the duality insideoutside.
Foucaults archival concepts supply a model for studying Latin American
literature. In Les mots et les choses, he ultimately asserts that historical periods
have a specific overarching episteme` that positions knowledge and its discourses, and thus signifies the circumstances of truth and of their likelihood.
Foucault maintains that these circumstances of discourse have changed all
through time, producing epistemic alterations. The shifts of awareness (episteme`s) that Foucault recognizes cause us to question the projection of our
knowledge groupings and the origins of our knowledge in our present day. In
succeeding works, he says that distinct periods of history could have several
episteme`s at once. His early assertions in Les mots et les choses will be key to
accepting Gonzalez Echevarras notions of master narratives that undergird
his archival theory, as we will analyze shortly.
Another way to understand the archive according to Foucault, and a way
to see the archive as a space, is through his notion of heterotopia, which he
expounded in Of Other Spaces, a lecture he gave in 1967 and published in
the 1980s. A heterotopia, according to Foucault, is a space parallel to the real
world. It is not itself the real world. He defines heterotopias as locations and
spaces that gain significance in conditions that are not hegemonic and that
share a beginning with that of society: There are also, probably in every
culture, in every civilization, real placesplaces that do exist and that are
formed in the very founding of societywhich are something like countersites (24). Foucault provides the case in point of the mirror image as a
heterotopia. Ones reflection in a mirror is a utopia, because it is not real but
only ideal. Nonetheless, Foucault explains the mirror also as a heterotopia:
in so far as the mirror does exist in reality, where it exerts a sort of counteraction on the position that [I occupy] . . . It makes [that] place that [I
occupy] at the moment when [I look] at [myself] in the glass at once

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absolutely real, connected with all the space that surrounds it, and absolutely unreal, since in order to be perceived it has to pass through this
virtual point which is over there. (24)

It is not difficult to comprehend the mirror metaphorit is a utopia since


the image one perceives in it is not real (actually, it is the converse of the
thing or human in front of it) and a heterotopia since the mirror is an existent object that shapes how one defines ones own likeness.
In an effort to define heterotopias further and to give concrete examples
of them, Foucault creates systematic descriptions that he terms a heterotopology, which has six principles. The prison and the archive are described
in two such remarkable ones. Both heterotopias, the prison and the archive,
are therefore similar in several ways. The prison collects all kinds of people
deemed objectionable to the general public for various reasonsdiverse
offenses and diverse punishments. Another sort of corpus, that of books or
other items, is housed as well in archives, or libraries or museums for that
matterthese are frequently desirable books, but can also be forbidden, suppressed, or otherwise objectionable books. In the case of either space, the
collection is sequestered and some of its members are threatened with being
disregarded. Archives house so many items that frequently it is not easy to
retrieve any single piece. Whatever is archivedeither in recollections or in
physical spacesis liable to be overlooked or damaged. In an archive, an
item is exposed to the possibility of being forgotten or even misplaced. For
instance, [a] persistent criticism of the Escorial was, precisely, that it
ingested books, swallowing texts whole, burying them in a paradoxically
remote center: magnificent sepulcher (magno sepulcro) of books where the
cadavers of manuscript codices are conserved and rotted [Magno sepulcro
de los libros donde se conservan y se pudren los cadaveres de los codices
manuscritos] (Dopico Black 106; Spanish appears in brackets in the original). People are also banished from society. They lose their social identities
inside the prison and are also in jeopardy of having their lives taken while
incarcerated.
The notion of empire is also a heterotopia then, because it depends on the
simultaneous presence of mother country and colony. These two places
cannot occupy the same space, yet the concept of empire hinges on that very
physical impossibility. One of the most powerful ways in which this imaginary community is created is through the archive, or rather, in the archive
itself. An archive is ultimately linked early on with the consolidation of

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Empire, with national definition, and with the acts of incorporation and
exclusion that canon formation . . . inevitably mobilizes (Dopico Black 96).
An empires archive is usually physically located in the mother country, of
course, and not in the colonies, yet may hold all sorts of cultural and historical knowledge of and about the colony. In this sense, the archive is only ever
parallel to the empire, which is defined as both the motherland and its
colonies. The archive is never really in the empirein the entire thing
because it is apart from the colonies. Ultimately, for Foucault, the archive
itself is therefore not just a collection of a cultures documents or the site of
their preservation.
It stands to reason, from this logic, that the anus is also a heterotopia. The
anus is obviously a real areait exists in realitybut it is also a utopia, an
unknown. As a cavity its interior cannot be seen, and as a taboo orifice its
exterior is not commonly observed. The interior of the anus constitutes the
unknown, yet society thinks it knows it all too wellthe anus is notorious,
one might say. It is the orifice that is off limits within the hegemonic social
order. It is not to be entered, but exited (as in during the elimination of
waste). What lies within the anus is also unknown, because its depth seemingly cannot be plumbed and known because of the phobias perpetuated in
society. Most people think they know what the anus is, because they have
been told both what it accomplishes and what it is not for. Of course, one is
not schooled in the untold pleasures it may provide. The anus is the repository for imagined pleasures and transgressions. It is the heterotopia and the
archive.
In Myth and Archive: A Theory of Latin American Narrative (1990), Gonzalez Echevarra assembles a new theoretical model for the study of Latin
American narrative: the archive (a physical, historical, and imaginary concept) is at the heart of the development of both the modern Western novel
and Latin American narrative. One of the models key ideas is that both the
Western novel and Latin American narrative emerge less from inherited literary traditions than from writers interactions with dominant nonliterary discourses specific to given historical epochs. Thus, writers construct a position
from which to legitimize their own stories by mimicking the rhetorical strategies of these hegemonic discourses. These writers borrow nonliterary discursive models from those templates contained in the archive.
In the case of Latin American narrative and history, the archive was a true,
physical, and political institution: As figures of cultural retentions (Myth
and Archive 29) and novelistic hoarding, archival fictions incorporate and

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critique all prior historical engagements with official discourse and all narrative possibilities for telling Latin American stories (Unruh 77). The archive
is identified by Gonzalez Echevarra as the storehouse that holds the official
beginnings of Latin American literature and, in the end, of Latin America
itself. The beginnings of what would turn out to be Latin America were heralded by the written agreement between the Spanish Crown and Columbus
before October 1492, and subsequently in legal texts between imperial Spain
and its people in the New World.
The Escorial is among the greatest Hispanic archives, constructed for
Philip II in the environs of Madrid starting in 1563, by Juan Bautista de
Toledo and Juan de Herrera. This edifice was used as a palace by Philip II,
by the Habsburgs, and by the Bourbons; a Pantheon or Royal Crypt, a
necropolis for most of the Spanish kings of the last five hundred years (Habsburgs as well as Bourbons), in addition to other Spanish nobility; a convent;
a basilica; a school; a museum; a hospital; a royal library; a chemists laboratory; and a seminary, among other things. The Escorial ended up being an
archive of corpses and corpusesin reliquaries and tombsas well as of
documents.
Myth and Archive posits a causal connection between the archive and the
novel. More or less coeval, they are both seen as part of the modern states
originating discourse. Both the notion and the awareness of Latin America
were produced in the archive, just as the modern novel, which relied on the
printing press, was produced in and from archives. As a repository of the
narratives and chronicles of the conquest of the New World, the archive
purportedly always already contains all of the narrative possibilities for telling the story of the origins of Latin America.
The Latin American novel of the twentieth century, particularly the novel
of the Boom, is connected to these first American chronicles via its own
proclivity toward discursive imitation. Specifically, this imitation becomes
evident, as claimed by Gonzalez Echevarra, in the novels persistent disclaimer of literary origins and its imitation of other kinds of [nonliterary]
discourse (Myth and Archive ix). This nonliterary discourse mimicked by
the novel, though, is always one that turns out to be endowed with authority,
truth-value, or advantage at that point in time and by that culture.
Myth and Archive recognizes a trio of historical points in time and nonliterary discourses that contour Latin American narrative. The founding
moment starts during the period of the encounter between Europe and the
so-called New World. This is the era of the concurrent appearance of both

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Latin America and the novel. In this phase of the unification of the Spanish
state, the Habsburgs sustained and increased the pace of the bureaucratic
administration of authority that the Catholic Monarchs had startedpower
hinged on writing. The Monarchy acknowledged power and authority in
written form alone. Consequently, in Spain in the 1500s, legal discourse was
the discourse of legitimacy. Similarly, other discourses or master-stories,
as Gonzalez Echevarra refers to them, provide validity and legitimacy to
their users in the two other periods he namesa modern-science discourse
in the 1800s and an anthropological discourse in the early twentieth century.
Latin American narrative, and in particular literature of the Boom that
looked for the fundamental nature of Latin American distinctiveness, features the archive as an essential touchstone. Those novels turned to the
archive when they looked for literary templates to follow. In the archive, they
encountered molds that had previously been cast from prestigious nonliterary discourse, which was, nonetheless, enfranchising. The chief discursive
modalities previously used to narrate Latin America are collected in these
novels of the late twentieth century. Novels of the Boom foreground Latin
American narratives history as they attempt to create their very own contemporary myth of the origins of that narrative, by focusing on the legal
foundations of Latin America.2 Their undertaking returns them to the initial
narrative modalitythe Spanish Empires legal discourse throughout the
1500s as symbolized by the figure of the archive. In Gonzalez Echevarras
words, The law figures prominently in the first of the master-stories the
novel tells . . . When the Latin American novel returns to that origin, it does
so through the figure of the Archive, the legal repository of knowledge and
power from which it sprung (Myth and Archive 8).
Garca Marquez also rehearses for his readers the various modalities in
which Latin America has been narrated, in Cien anos de soledad. Although
the novel clearly includes the scientific discourse of travel writings of the

2. Several Boom writers insert the archival trope at their novels core. Some of the best known
are Alejo Carpentier, Carlos Fuentes, Gabriel Garca Marquez, and Augusto Roa Bastos. In Los
pasos perdidos, for example, Carpentier revisits the Latin American jungles heart, only to uncover
a foundational colonial city, Santa Monica de los Venados, the archival city, deserted and devoid
of its manuscripts. Carpentiers main character has to pen his own documents there, in the jungle,
in a gesture that inaugurates Latin American narrative once again. In the background of Fuentess
Terra nostra are Charles V and Philip II, and their archives at Simancas and the Escorial. In Cien
anos de soledad, the history of Macondo is predetermined in the parchments held in Melquadess
room. Lastly, Roa Bastos packs his Yo, el supremo with postindependence archives.

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1800s (Alexander von Humboldt is specifically discussed), the most tenuous


presence [in the novel] is that of the legal text, but one can infer it from the
allusions to the chronicles that were in fact relaciones, and particularly in the
founding of Macondo (22). Writers of the Boom, of whom Garca Marquez
is a well-known member, incorporated the preceding Latin American narrative vehicles in their own novels as part of a gesture both to subsume and to
surpass them.
Sarduy, too, inscribes his work within the tradition of the archive, but in
an ironic way so as to uncover its inner workings. As previously mentioned,
in Maitreya anal fisting becomes an archival exploration, and not just a sexual act; yet perhaps it is still too shocking or unpalatable a scene for some
scholars to have inspired serious analysis: literary critics have branded anal
fisting in Sarduys work as fist fucking y otras practicas sadomasoquistas
and perversion and sado-masochisminaccurate and moralizing terms,
respectively, when connected with Sarduys work; sterility, an irrelevant
association given that sexual encounters are not just for procreationand
this happens to be the case in all of Sarduys works, probably without exception; and sodomy, which, even in a less moralistic sense, is a legal term
for rape, and therefore a bizarre term for describing most of the scenes in
Maitreya.3
Scholars of sexuality would demur, reporting that fisting is an esoteric
sexual discipline that has been practiced around the world throughout history, informing us that people who engage in anal fisting . . . experience it
as almost a meditative union of mind and body, involving total relaxation
and receptivity, and referring to the same act as spoken of in almost spiritual terms by its practitioners (Winks and Semans 174). This is undoubtedly
what Sarduy intended, even down to the Zen-like ambiance and discourse
through which these authorities on sexuality depict anal fisting. Furthermore,
in many cultures or religions the hand has deep spiritual significance
(West 115). Sexual practices that might seem forbidden, unmentionable, or
even iniquitous to some in the Western worldsuch as those Tantric rituals
which embrace both the sacred and the profaneare judged by others as
a means of spiritual enlightenment (115). That said, there is, indeed, one

3. The first quotation, in the original Spanish, is from Gonzalez Echevarras La ruta de Severo
Sarduy (182), and the next three, quoted in English, are from Rene Prietos The Ambiviolent
Fiction of Severo Sarduy (57).

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scene in Maitreya that depicts violence involving fistingthe sheiks violationbut this is an image of archival raiding, a purposeful and mischievous
act in the novel, a perversion, if you will, of the fisting compact. For the most
part, we certainly are given the sense that anal fisting in Maitreya is portraying esoteric disciplines, describing spiritual practices, and achieving meditative unions of mind and body.
For Foucault, little-known sexual practices such as anal fisting are also
forms of disciplining the body to achieve new heights of pleasure, without
relying on the genitals. What connection does Sarduy make between fisting
and writing? Anal fisting, as we see in his novel, is a queer praxis, an ecriture
devirilisee, as I will define shortly. The anus is controlled strictly by hegemonic society in that access to and discussion of it are taboo, forbidden,
stigmatized, and censored. Fisting, as a private (perhaps underground) and
difficult sexual technique that requires patience, practice, and discipline,
wrests control of the anus from the public and legal spheres and empowers
the individual or the community.
Self-discipline is a requirement for anal fisting, much as it is in spiritual
exercises. Gayle Rubins essay on The Catacombs examines the sexual
history of fisting in the USA and demystifies its practice. One of the most
important distinctions she makes is between fisting and S/M. Although she
notes that there is a considerable overlap between fisters and sadomasochists, she concludes, they comprise separate groups with distinct social
patterns (129). She finds that fisting is a deeply intimate act, which
requires careful, ritualistic preparation, as well as practice. Not only is the
right paraphernalia necessary, but the right preparation, from the clipping
of fingernails close to the skin to a thorough washing via enema. These
rituals are not unlike religious rituals, requiring special preparations and
the performing of ablutions, and some [fisting] habitues [do report] having the kinds of transformational experiences more often associated with
spiritual disciplines. According to Rubin, good fisting . . . requires a
great deal of attention, intimacy, and trust. She further explores the link
between fisting and spiritual practices that allows practitioners to achieve
altered states of consciousness: Moreover, in many cultures the application of carefully chosen physical stress is a method for inducing transcendental mental and emotional states. [Fisters] do prodigious things to their
bodies and minds (128).
For Foucault, fisting represents a self-disciplining of the body that allows
for masculinity to be constituted not phallocentrically but symbolically, or

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performatively (Halperin 90). Foucaultwho once announced, I am for


the decentralization, the regionalization of all pleasures during an interview
entitled Down with the Dictatorship of Sex!4 searched for new pleasures
that neither involved the penis nor were results-orienteddriven toward a
teleological action aimed at achieving release of sexual tension through
orgasm (Halperin 91), as defined by male ejaculation:
Physical practices of the fist-fucking sort are practices that one can call
devirilized, that is desexed [i.e., degenitalized]. They are in effect extraordinary counterfeit pleasures which one achieves by means of various devices,
signs, symbols, or drugs . . . What these signs and symbols of masculinity
are for is not to go back to something that would be on the order of
phallocratism, of machismo, but rather to invent oneself, to make ones
body into the site of production of extraordinarily polymorphous pleasures, pleasures that at the same time are detached from the valorization
of the genitals and especially of the male genitals. After all, the point is to
detach oneself from this virile form of obligatory pleasurenamely
orgasm, orgasm in the ejaculatory sense, in the masculine sense of the
term. (Foucault, Le gai savoir [I] 34; qtd. in English in Halperin 8990)

Fisting, then, would allow men to experience pleasure that had not always
already been mediated by the peniss phallic semiotics, while detaching male
homosexuality from its phobic association with femininity (conceived in
phallocratic terms as passivity or as an absence of phallic aggressivity)
(Halperin 90). An art form that can sometimes go on for hours, according
to Rubin, fisting involves a gradual and lengthy process whose goal is
intensity and duration of feeling, not climax (Halperin 91). Discipline is
necessary for both partners: the inserting partner must be in control and the
fisted partner must trust and open himself to being entered.
We may now turn to the relationship between fisting and the archive.
Beginning with the very first time anal fisting is depicted in Maitreya, the
reader sees an archival implication: En ano meta primero las yemas unidas
de los dedos, como para cerrar una flor o acariciar el hocico de un tapir;
luego, ya entrada la mano hasta la muneca, la giraba lentamente, con precaucion, de un lado a otro, como si esperara el ruido leve que abre una caja
4. Madeleine Chapsal, Michel Foucault: a bas la dictature du sexe, LExpress, Jan. 24, 1977: 5657
(qtd. in Halperin 364).

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fuerte (Sarduy, Maitreya 156). Caja fuerte is a strongbox or safe. As we


see above, the hand that is penetrating the anus is unlocking a safe or an
archive. This description is a gentle oneacariciar, lentamente, con
precaucion, leveand not rape or sadomasochism, as critics have automatically alleged.
Here are another few compelling passages that show the anus as archive.
The hand is depicted as dedillos enguantados y brillantes de balsamo en los
aflojados esfnteres in a proximate description (158). I have already reflected
on the Escorial as a mausoleumarchive, housing relics, among other things,
as well as the Spanish royaltys ossuary. Here, the fingers are analogous to
the embalmed and sheathed corpses found in a mausoleum. The sphincters
are clear references to entrance and egress controls, or gateways. Shortly after
this scene and at a different narrative moment, the dwarf painter segua
catalogando eses y emes para la proxima sesion while performing the act of
fisting in the Iranian massage parlor (159). It is obvious that cataloguing and
arranging letters are archival activities, as well as a reference to sadomasochism (S/M) in this case; however the allusion is not violent. Fisting suggests
special admittance to a concealed archiveto the Wests and, as we shall see,
to the Middle Easts most taboo orifice.
Admittance to the anal archive in the massage parlor ends when an inebriated potentate from Oman goes into the parlor, too drunk to be able to
assent to being, or to realize that he is about to be, fisted. The roguish dwarf
recognizes his opportunity to enter this forbidden archive and penetrates the
unsuspecting sheik suddenly. Stunned, hurt, and furious, the sheik ejects the
dwarf and his followers from the area, stating, Has abusado de la tolerancia
califal para liberarte a un manejo de trastienda y violar los anales del imperio (161).
Annals and the anus are connected, beyond an obvious play on words
(particularly in Spanish), which Sarduy exploits. Anales in Spanish,
though, signifies annals, historical records or chroniclesa limpid connection to the archive. As we shall see shortly, there is a historical connection
between annals/archive and empire, a concept already broached above in the
reference to the Habsburg Empire in Spain. First, however, I will examine
another work by Sarduy in which he also brings together anal fisting and the
archive.
Sarduys sonnet, Omtemela mas, que lo omitido, in Un testigo fugaz y
disfrazado (1985) also reveals anal fisting to be an archival endeavor. This
sonnet has attained a certain degree of notoriety, although critics cannot help

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but engage it, because it appears as the fourth entry in the above-mentioned
collection of poetry. It is considered one of the most successful of his erotic
Neobaroque sonnets, yet when it comes to direct analyses or studies of this
poem, be they in Spanish or in other languagessuch as Frenchinto which
the collection has been translated, the poem comes across as salace [salacious, lascivious] (Ancet 1575). This is not surprising, for we have already
seen the difficulties many critics have had with the anal fisting scenes in
Maitreya.
An analysis of this sonnet will help to elucidate archival notions implicit
in anal fisting for Sarduy:
Omtemela mas, que lo omitido
cuando alcanza y define su apora,
enciende en el reverso de su da
un planeta en la noche del sentido
A pulso no: que no disfruta herido,
por flecha berniniana o por mana
de brusquedad, el templo humedecido
(de Venus, el segundo). Ya algun da
lubricantes o medios naturales
pondras entre los bordes con taimada
prudencia, o con cautela ensalivada
que atenuen la quema de tu entrada:
pues de amor y de ardor en los anales
de la historia la nupcia esta cifrada. (201)

Structurally, the poem is a fairly typical example of a Spanish Golden Age


sonnet, divided into two quatrains followed by two tercets. Written in hendecasyllabic versean example of the ennobling arte mayorthe fourteenline Petrarchan-style sonnet follows the unusual rhyme scheme ABBA ABAB
CDD DCD. Its syntax is gongorizante, in the Culteranismo style of Gongora,
which is to say it is complex, and the sonnet itself very ornamental. Thus, it
uses ostentatious vocabulary and has a message that is complicated by a sea
of metaphors. All this is to say that Sarduy is using one of the most traditional and strictest of forms, at a time when poetry was known for being
more free-form and experimental. As we saw above, a strict adherence to
form and tradition of another sort is an implicit prerequisite to the experience of fisting.

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In this poem, not unlike in many Baroque Spanish poemsespecially


those of Gongorathe somatic and the semiotic come together.5 That is to
say, the body and its constituent parts display the signs that make up the
universe. However, the problem for Sarduy, and for Gongora for that matter,
is that the body and its parts are masks: their surfaces reflect mere signs; they
are plagued by preconceived notions; they are always already prefigured or
symbolically mediated by rules and norms. Sarduys challenge is to reach
beyond hackneyed symbols or cliches. He strives to reach beyond the cliches
of eroticism as well. This means he will have to find a way to elude the
phallus and its attendant discursive prerogative. He does this by shifting the
object of desire from the penis to the fist, by shifting the site of pleasure from
the penis to the anus, and by shifting the goal of sexual relations from that
of reaching orgasm and/or giving rise to progeny to that of generating and
prolonging pleasure, without issue.
Omtemela mas is clearly about anal fisting as a practice that requires
discipline, brings great pleasure, and has ties to the archive. The poetic voice
describes procedures that are necessary for a successful erotic encounter as
A pulso no: que no disfruta herido, / por flecha berniniana o por mana /
de brusquedad, el templo humedecido and . . . Ya algun da / lubricantes
o medios naturales / pondras entre los bordes con taimada / prudencia, o
con cautela ensalivada / que atenuen la quema de tu entrada. Evidently this
act is not for novices. It requires a disciplining of the body as well as trust
between the partners.
We see an intense sense of pleasure several times in the sonnet. It begins
with the poetic voice beseeching his lover, Omtemela mas. While at first
blush this seems to call for a stop to the sexual encounter, the reader will
also note that the sonnets first word, the imperative, sounds very close to
Oh, metemela mas. The poetic voice goes on to explain that Lo omitido /
cuando alcanza y define su apora, / enciende en el reverso de su da / un
planeta en la noche del sentido. Lo omitido is again a very close homophone to Lo metido, which would therefore mean its oppositethat
5. One of Gongoras most famous sonnets exemplifies the relationship between the semiotic and
the somatic: Mientras por competir con tu cabello, / oro brunido al sol relumbra en vano; /
mientras con menosprecio en medio el llano / mira tu blanca frente el lilio bello; mientras a cada
labio, por cogello, / siguen mas ojos que al clavel temprano; / y mientras triunfa con desden
lozano / del luciente cristal tu gentil cuello; goza cuello, cabello, labio y frente, / antes que lo que
fue en tu edad dorada / oro, lilio, clavel, cristal luciente, no solo en plata o vola troncada / se
vuelva, mas tu y ello juntamente / en tierra, en humo, en polvo, en sombra, en nada.

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which is put in. Sarduy manages to create an aporiaa paradox or impassein the sonnets first quatrain. Whichever way the aporia is resolved
that is, whether the partner is penetrated by the fist or notthe result is the
lighting up of a planet in the night: an image of intense sensation. Additionally, the mention of the seventeenth-century Baroque Italian artist, Bernini,
references both his sculpture Martyrdom of Saint Sebastiana homosexual
iconand his sculpture Ecstasy of Saint Teresa. Penetration by arrows seems
to inflict both intense pain in these religious figures, and also an acute pleasure that must be accompanied by pain. Lastly, in the sonnets final tercet,
Sarduys poetic voice mixes Amor y ardor [Love and burning, or ardor] in
his nuptials.
Anal fisting is tied to the archive in this sonnet, as it is in Maitreya. Sarduys novel references los anales del imperio, or the empires annals, to
describe anal fisting. His sonnet links anal fisting to the anales de la historia, or annals of history. In both the novel and the sonnet, yes, Sarduy is
taking advantage of an easy punanal/annalsbut there is clearly more to
it than a cheap laugh. In Western and some other cultures, the anus is such
a taboo orifice that is has not often appeared in literature. It does not suffer
from an overabundance of signs superimposed on ita semiotic field
plagued by empty signifiersas do other body parts. In these literary traditions, the fist entering the anus is a blank canvasan inconceivable act for
many. With this erotic scene, Sarduy defies the common understanding of
the anus and, therefore, leaves the reader without a unifying, univocal syntax
and grammar with which to comprehend it. In this case, both eroticism and
language serve to generate a form of pleasure that does not depend on the
penis, or the phallus, or phallogocentric meaning. Sarduys fisting scenes
allow us to enter the least explored cavity of the human body, to have access
to its folds, and, therefore, to discover the interior of the archive of pleasure
and language. We do not enter this cavity with the penis, read either as phallic prerogative in society or as the germinator of human life in other situations, but with the hand instead; the same hand that enters the archive,
collects its information, and generates writing as a result of its access. The
intense, yet nonorgasmic, pleasure resulting from fisting is born of the hand
and not of the penis; it is born of an erotic experience that is marked neither
by gender (the fist can be either male or female) nor by sexual orientation
(the anus can be that of a male or of a female). It follows, then, that the type
of writing Sarduy achieves is born of access to the archive and not of phallic
prerogative or phallogocentrism. In his sonnet Sarduy refers to the annals

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of history, but in Maitreya he invokes a more telling archivethat of the


empire.
There are several well-known historical connections between annals and
empires. Voltaires Annals of the Empire from the Reign of Charlemagne is a
mid-eighteenth-century French example. A remarkable model closer to the
Middle East, an area more relevant to Maitreya, is Mustafa Naimas Annals
of the Turkish Empire from 15911659, completed in the early eighteenth century. A much more relevant paradigm to Maitreyas combination of sexuality, empire, and the archive, however, is the Roman historian and senator
Tacituss Annals of Imperial Rome. In fact, when one scratches the surface of
this work from the first century of the Common Era, its relevance becomes
obvious.
Sarduys allusion to Tacituss Annals must be understood in the relative
context of his famous earlier work, The Histories (Historiae). Although both
works aim to chronicle imperial Roman history, the Histories has a conventional structure, somber tone, and often dry content. The Annals, on the
other hand, while partly a product of archival research, lays bare the hedonistic cruelty of certain emperors; it is a secret history (Mellor 22). Readers of
both works are likely to be bored by the Histories where they are riveted by
the Annals. Tacitus paints a picture of [Tiberiuss] moral depravity, for
example (25). This emperors later orgies at Capri set a standard for Messalina, Tigellinus, and Nero, and Tacitus soon turns to tales of Neros sexual
abandon (26).
Even with the sections on Caligulas reign missing, the Annalss sensational, verging on salacious, nature did not escape Sarduy. Tacitus links
sexual license with a general collapse of political [and public] morality
(Mellor 27). Other ancient sources are significantly more graphic, Suetonius
among them, and reference stories such as those about people being tied
down for the purpose of being anally fisted, while Nero attacked their groins
dressed up as a wild animal. Sarduy understands the intersection between
ancient imperial power and violation as sexual depravity, and he understands
that they come together in archival sources. This is what he is referencing in
his scene of the Omanis violation. The potentate, the keeper of the archive in
Maitreya, does not understand anal fistings teleology of pleasure. He enters a
massage parlor where pleasure is consensually provided, but ends up being
violated.
As noted above, the concepts of empire and annals together, as in the
Omani potentates quotation earlier, are an apparent allusion to historical

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annals and their relationship to the archive. We may also establish a significant link to Spanish archives and their direct relation to the Spanish Habsburg Empirethe worlds of Charles V and, especially, Philip II. As I
mentioned earlier, the institution of the archive and the consolidation of the
Spanish Empire in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries go hand-in-glove. It
is well known that Philip II was fixated on death and its memorialization.
Therefore, the annals of the Empire are the anuses of the Empire too. And we
know what anuses frequently hold, what they collect or archiveexcrement.
Actually, Sarduy brings up feces several times in Maitreya; and significantly,
just prior to describing the first anal fisting moment, he notes, Jugaban con
excrementos y monedas (156). The desecrated sheiks imperial archive is
raided contrary to his desires. Anal fisting, an extraordinary and even
unthinkable act for many, in this book is equivalent to the breach of the state
archive, to illegal entry into a sanctum sanctorum. We will remember as well
that, as noted above, the anus often holds excrement. We must read this
association of Sarduys as a parallel between books and feces, or the characteristic holdings of the archive. Sarduy destabilizes the conventional archive.
Instead of being a storehouse for master narratives and hegemonic culture,
the annals of Sarduys Empire hold shit, as it were. These archives (the
annals/anus) are a locus of pleasure and not just a repository for cultural
data. Here, the archon is not who is anticipatedthe sheik from Oman, but
the active or inserting partner, the fister, instead. As such, the dwarf has
power over pleasure in addition to knowledge; or maybe the interloping
archon controls pleasure as a predicate of, or en route to, knowledge.6
According to Foucault, a productive aspect of power induces pleasure and
forms knowledge, instead of merely being a law that says no (Truth and
Power 120). The models enclosed inside Sarduys archives, the models he
offers future writers of the Latin American novel, do not cleave to the molds
fashioned by Boom novelists. The anus, as well as regularly containing excrement, is additionally the locus of pleasurea pleasure that, as in the case of
fisting, could obviate the penis entirely. Sarduys narrative models appear to
draw more closely from the pleasure of the text.
Maitreya also clearly alludes to Cien anos de soledad, the most identifiable
novel of the Boom, as a send-up of this type of narrative. Furthermore, at

6. Far Eastern rituals, like those of Tantrism and the Kama Sutra, are known for mixing pleasure
with the search for divine knowledge.

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the end of his novel, Sarduy confirms his archive-cum-pleasure. As the trio
of Lady Tremenda, the dwarf, and the Iranian chauffeur reemerges in the
novels final segmentEl Puno IIin the Gran Hotel de Francia, their
hotel room is transformed into an archival temple of sorts. There is a mihrab,
or archival recess in a mosques wall. The reader is informed that the trio is
reunidos bajo la boveda and the space is depicted as a museo de cera
(172). The dwarf creates the spiritual atmosphere for the chauffeur to have
sexual relations with Lady Tremenda. He fists her, as per their cults strict
conventions, and she turns out to be with child. La Obesa, one of her sobriquets, births anally an engendro tramado por el enano (181). The grotesque
infant in Maitreya seems to have severe birth defects:
Su craneo presentaba una protuberancia. El pelo, trenzado a la derecha,
era azulado. El lobulo de la oreja tres veces mas largo que lo normal. Cuarenta dientes solidos y parejos protegan una lengua larga y afilada: excelente sentido del gusto. Mandbula fuerte, como tallo de yaro; amplio de torso,
pecho de toro, hombros redondos, muslos llenos, piernas de gacela. Una
fina membrana le una los dedos de las manos y pies. (181)

The monstrous babys birth in Maitreya, el hijo caudal (186), clearly


alludes to the inbred birth of el caudal, as he is also dubbed at the conclu rsulas
sion of Cien anos de soledad (553).7 This child is the realization of U
dreaded prophecy: La comadrona se puso a quitarle con un trapo el
unguento azul que le cubra el cuerpo . . . Solo cuando lo voltearon boca
abajo se dieron cuenta de que tena . . . una cola de cerdo (55253).8 The
infant, who is connected to the color blue in both novels, is depicted in Cien
anos as el animal mitologico que haba de poner termino a la estirpe (558)
and his cadaver is described as a parchment:
Y entonces vio al nino. Era un pellejo hinchado y reseco, que todas las
hormigas del mundo iban arrastrando trabajosamente hacia sus madrigueras por el sendero de piedras del jardn. Aureliano no pudo moverse. No

7. Caudal, the same word in English and Spanish, means of or near the tailan obvious
allusion to the grotesque infant of the same description in both novels and to his porcine appendage in Garca Marquezs novel.
8. Prieto sees the birth of Lady Tremendas baby in Maitreya as proleptic of the last historical
Buddhas birthhe also did not have a normal birth. Little textual or other proof is offered by

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porque lo hubiera paralizado el estupor, sino porque en aquel instante


prodigioso se le revelaron las claves definitivas de Melquades, y vio el
epgrafe de los pergaminos perfectamente ordenado en el tiempo y el espacio de los hombres. El primero de la estirpe esta amarrado en un arbol y al
ultimo se lo estan comiendo las hormigas. (556; emphasis in the original)

The malformed infants dead body in Cien anos turns out to be a parchment
containing the key to comprehending the cache of information in Melquadess roomthe emblem of the archive in the novel. This novel by
Garca Marquez, arguably the most recognizable archetype of Boom fiction,
consequently also supports the link between the archive and the infants
warped cadaver.
Clearly, Sarduy is subverting the archival fixations and associations of the
Boom novel, and he is doing so through the antics of la secta naciente del
templete a mano: f.f.a. Fist Fucking of America (110) in Miami, whose
proposito . . . : el caos total (113).9 Analogously, Sarduys objective in Latin
American writing is to frustrate the Booms archival paradigm. Here he sets
up a correlation between the generative power of the hand and the Nexus
between this extremity and the phallus (Prieto 58). The hand of the archives
user, the fisting hand, has powers of procreationit is also able to pen novels
as a result of its having probed the archive, just as the penis can germinate
life after delving into another archive. If Boom novels foreground male prerogatives and the voice of the master, if they are phallogocentricand that
is just what I have been arguing in this essaythen Sarduy is supplying a
substitute literary medium or discourse to that prerogative, what I will dub
here an ecriture desexuee or ecriture devirilisee.10 I have elaborated this idea
from a combination of the French feminists take on Barthesian ecriture and
Foucaults concept of sexual practices that do not defer to the preeminence
of the penis or to defining sexual pleasure or satisfaction via male orgasm.

Prieto, however, save for Maitreyas purported birth from somebodys side. Prieto likens this birth
to the caudal sons extraordinary one. Clearly the link is of interest and is in keeping with the
novels Buddhistic subject matter, although there is slim and attenuated textual proof of it.
9. These portions of Sarduys Maitreya are also quoted by Peter Hallward in his synopsis of this
piece of the novel (295).
10. I base my neologisms on Hele`ne Cixouss idea of ecriture feminine in her paper, The Laugh
of the Medusa (1976). Her notions, as well as their subsequent expansions by Luce Irigaray, Julia
Kristeva, Elaine Showalter, and others on both sides of the Atlantic, imagine writing by women
that cannot be contained by patriarchal logics binary oppositions.

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Foucaults term desexue refers to the French sexe, or, in this case, specifically male genitaliapenisand not to a desexualization. That is why
devirilization might make more immediate sense to an Anglophone audience. As we saw earlier in Foucaults long quotation, anal fisting is for him
an example of an intense sexual experience that does not involve the penis.
The shift away from the penis in sex equates to the shift away from the
phallus in literature. For Foucault and for Sarduy, then, anal fisting separates
the phallus from the logos, and frees discourse from penile tyranny. Anal
fisting does an end run around the traditional archons control of the
archive.
As a result, fisting in Maitreya permits the novel to decenter the need for
the penis, as a representation of phallic authority of discourse as well as of
plot. Let us remember that Foucaults term desexualizing refers to the
French meaning of sexe or sexual member. The archiveanus is thus penetrated by the hand and its metonymic ability to produce writing. It is not
entered by the penis and its own germinative, patriarchal possibilities. In
light of this view, the archive is, for Sarduy, a locus of intense pleasure, and
not an archive that is intended to generate the phallogocentric Boom models.
Alan West amplifies the understanding of the corporeal feelings connected
to fisting:
The intensity of the act is so great that it shatters the selfs notion of itself
in sexuality. If one is on the receiving end it is an act of total abandonment,
of releasing any control of your body and your pleasure. (Many testimonies
clearly state, for men at least, that during fisting they get neither hard nor
aroused in any usual way.) It is as feminized as a man can get; the rectum
is the only canal or source of mens fantasies of child birth. In the case
of Lady Tremendous, fisted by the Iranian chauffeur, it is a devirilizing
gesture that is also germinative, since she gives anal birth to a creature,
albeit somewhat deformed . . . After the miraculous birth, the Iranian disappears, his paternity vanishing with him . . . Is it a trick [in Sarduys
novel] to turn the void into a mirror . . . ? (122)

Wests observations do highlight the source of sex-as-pleasure, which fisting


represents over sex-for-reproduction. Fisting shifts the focus of the societally
sanctioned locus of pleasure from the penis, also because, as West tells us,
fisting participants achieve neither an erection nor arousal in any usual way.
The birth of Lady Tremendas extraordinary child results from a devirilizing

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gesture and consequently embodies a caricature of the Boom novel, particularly as this novels paternity, to paraphrase West, is uncertain. The fleeing
Iranian chauffeur leaves a paternal lack. This is Sarduys way of ridiculing
the Booms search for authority (or even for paternity) for the literary history
of Latin America.
The final question posed by West in the above passage can be answered
straightforwardly: Sarduy does indeed turn the void into a mirror (the horror
vacui, the anus, the annals, and, finally, the archive). Maitreya is not the first
novel in which Sarduy uses this notion. Let us remember the scene near the
beginning of his De donde son los cantantes, where Socorro is at the Domus
Dei. When she arrives, a maid opens the door wide and, Sarduy writes,
como si abriera las piernas, su cajita hialina (94). Here also, the horror
vacui, the void, the vagina, is represented by a tiny mirrored box, or a succession of reflections. The meaning of this passage is corroborated by Gonzalez
Echevarra in his editors note to the novels Catedra edition, [e]s decir, el
ser, la esencia misma, es una serie de reflexiones (94 n11). Ultimately, Sarduy
foregrounds the pleasure of the void, the Baroque rejoinder to the horror
vacui. The void of the archive is where Boom novelists looked for origins,
being, and essence. Sarduy, on the other hand, neglecting the phallus as the
only locus of pleasure or solely as a germinator of life, finds pleasure and
simulacra in the void.
The archival link is strengthened in the closing scene in Maitreya, which
describes the burial of the young freak of nature and the dwarf. They are
depicted as embalsamados twins whose pies [estan] cifrados de letras de
oro. The mummy-like entombment, bajo minaretas (186), and the feet
ciphered in letters, bring to mind the archival character of the Escorial, both
an ossuarymausoleum and a more conventional archive. Moreover, Lady
Tremendas baby is born of her anus, or rump. In accordance with the connection made previously between annal and anal, the expression therefore refers to an annal son, or to a son of the annals. According to
Sarduy, the conventional archival trope of Latin American literature is miscarried. The Boom is an aberration, which, instead of confirming the legitimate foundations of the literary history of Latin America, [demuestra] la
impermanencia y vacuidad de todo (187).

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