Chilean author Carla Guelfenbein began her literary career in 2002 with the publication of her first novel, El revés del alma. Since then, she has become one of Chile’s most recognized contemporary authors, especially after her 2015 novel, Contigo en la distancia, was awarded the prestigious Premio Alfaguara. She continues her literary production to this day, with the publication of her newest novel, La naturaleza del deseo in 2022. This study will focus on Contigo en la distancia, which can be loosely identified as a crime novel in that it begins with the discovery of a body and narrates the investigation that follows. Nevertheless, the body is not dead, and the victim, Vera Sigall, a fictional author based loosely on the renowned Brazilian literary megastar Clarice Lispector, remains in a coma throughout the majority of the book. In this case, the criminal investigation takes on various new directions as the search for a possible criminal turns into a search for self-identity by all characters involved. Narrated by three different voices, Contigo en la distancia uses a combination of metafictional and investigative strategies to comment on the search for solutions, while also exploring the writing process and the state of literature, especially that written by women in a male-dominated writing culture. Furthermore, the novel also presents a personal side of literature, demonstrating how the search for answers in texts can often lead to revelations that are personal to one’s own purpose and identity in life.

In his 1984 study The Doomed Detective: The Contribution of the Detective Novel to Postmodern American and Italian Fiction, Stefano Tani seeks to “establish how recent serious novelists take advantage of detective fiction conventions to write something quite different from detective fiction” (xiii) and coins the term “anti-detective fiction” to describe this new trend. Among the various types of anti-detective fiction, Tani includes the metafictional anti-detective novel:

Metafictional anti-detective novels belong only in a general way to anti-detective fiction. … when we get to metafictional anti-detective novels, the conventional elements of detective fiction (the detective, the criminal, the corpse) are hardly there. By now the detective is the reader who has to make sense out of an unfinished fiction that has been distorted or cut short by a playful and perverse “criminal,” the writer. The detective, criminal, and detection are no longer within the fiction, but outside it. The detective is no longer a character but a function assigned to the reader as the criminal is no longer a murderer but the writer himself who “kills” (distorts and cuts) the text and thus compels the reader to become a “detective.” The fiction becomes an excuse for “literary detection” and if there is a killer in the fiction, he is a “literary killer,” a killer of texts … not of human beings, and this killer represents within the fiction the operation that the writer … performed on it. (113)

Patricia Merivale and Susan Elizabeth Sweeney observe a similar phenomenon but use the term “metaphysical detective story,” which they define as:

a text that parodies or subverts the traditional detective-story conventions – such as narrative closure and the detective’s role as surrogate reader – with the intention, or at least the effect, of asking questions about mysteries of being and knowing which transcend the mere machinations of the mystery plot. Metaphysical detective stories often emphasize this transcendence by becoming self-reflexive (that is, by representing allegorically the text’s own processes of composition). (2)

Although they differ slightly in terminology and approaches, Sweeney and Merivale agree with Tani that the traditional figures of criminal and detective and traditional formulas of crime, investigation, and solution become replaced with a type of metafictional self-reflection that serves to comment on the text itself as a literary artefact and delves into deeper questions regarding both literary production and the human condition. In her foundational text, Metafiction: The Theory and Practice of Self-Conscious Fiction, Patricia Waugh begins her definition of metafiction by examining several texts that fall under that category and pointing out their similarities:

a celebration of the power of the creative imagination together with an uncertainty about the validity of its representations; an extreme self-consciousness about language, literary form and the act of writing fictions; a pervasive insecurity about the relationship of fiction to reality; a parodic, playful, excessive or deceptively simple style of writing. … they all explore a theory of fiction through the practice of writing fiction. (2)

Waugh, Merivale and Sweeney, and Tani all connect the trends they describe to postmodernism. Metafiction, however, has been around long before postmodernism, starting as early as Cervantes’s Don Quijote, and continues to be a strong presence in both literary and audio-visual production today. As Samuel Amago affirms in Narrative Self-Consciousness in the Contemporary Spanish Novel, “metafiction is here to stay” (191). Furthermore, metaphysical/anti-detective crime fiction is now a common and established sub-genre of crime fiction.

In her introduction to Spanish and Latin American Women’s Crime Fiction in the New Millenium: From Noir to Gris, Nancy Vosburg points out that “crime fiction, particularly that of Spanish and Latin American women writers, has moved beyond the classical conventions of the North American noir to offer up alternative models of criminality and detection” (xiii). Kate Quinn adds that “in Chile it was not until the nineties that a significant body of what could be termed anti-detective writing was produced in the work of writers like Sergio Gómez, Marcela Serrano and … Roberto Bolaño” (163). Marcela Serrano is also identified by Charlotte Lange and Alisa Peate as well as by Barbara Loach as a key figure in Chilean crime metafiction, whose novel Nuestra Señora de la Soledad (1999), is definitive of the genre. Guelfenbein continues in Serrano’s footsteps, replacing traditional detective formulas with a metafictional twist in which criminal detection turns into textual detection. Contigo en la distancia is just one of countless examples of crime metafiction continuing into the twenty-first century not only in Chile but also around Latin America and the rest of the world. In her novel, Guelfenbein presents us with several layers of metafictional reflections on writing, literature, and life. These reflections are only loosely structured around a criminal investigation, which eventually gives way to a literary investigation. The literary investigation exposes hidden literary and cultural crimes, including anti-Semitism, as well as secrets that change the lives of all involved, taking them on their own journeys of self-discovery and helping them establish new identities and take new life paths, which culminate in the writing of the novel whose text metafictionally comprises Guelfenbein’s novel, as we come to find out in the end when we realize the novel we are reading has been fictionally composed by one of the characters.

In a typical trope of crime fiction, Contigo en la distancia begins with a body. Glen S. Close affirms that “nearly all genres of modern crime fiction depend heavily for their compulsive appeal on the inaugural presentation of a cadaver as spectacle, enigma, and menace” (4). Daniel, the novel’s opening narrator, provides us with a detailed description of Vera’s body as he finds her unconscious on the floor when he enters her apartment for their morning get-together:

tu cuerpo, como un árbol derribado, yacía junto a la lámpara de pie. … Un charco de sangre rodeaba tu cabeza. Te habías también rasmillado un brazo y una senda rojiza corría desde tu muñeca hasta tu codo. Tu camisa de dormir se había recogido sobre tus caderas, y tu pubis, lampiño y blanco, se asomaba entre tus piernas abiertas y envejecidas. (13)

The detailed description of the position and state of the body mimics a crime scene description as Daniel focuses on each detail as if gathering forensic evidence at such a scene The focus on the exposed genitalia is a trope used in both traditional and contemporary crime fiction, especially that written by male authors, many of whom, according to Glen S. Close, are preoccupied with the sexualization of female corpses which he terms “necropornography:”

Modern crime fiction has been implicated from its very origin in the necropornography that now proliferates through the electronic mass media. This global trend in contemporary mass media culture relates to a centuries-long tradition of anatomical spectacles that exploited the prurient curiosity of exclusively male audiences about the inner workings, and especially the reproductive organs, and the female body. … In many cases, crime fiction provides exactly the same narrative scenarios relished by the tabloid press. (35)

Although Daniel’s description of Vera’s body appears to mimic necropornography, it actually repudiates it. Much like her compatriot, Roberto Bolaño, whom Close credits with providing a “monumental refutation of the necropornographic aesthetic” (31), Guelfenbein denounces misogynistic necropornography by having Daniel’s first action be to pull down Vera’s night gown and cover her up in an act of caring. In so doing, Guelfenbein joins what Close sees as “the most prominent practitioners of popular forensic crime fiction … who forcefully reassert female agency and corporal dignity against the often violent masculinism of the hard-boiled tradition” (203).

Daniel’s act of care and kindness not only restores corporal dignity to Vera, but also helps establish the strong bond that exists between the two characters. Without realizing it, Daniel has already begun a self-identity search through his friendship with Vera, who has made him question all previous elements of his life. It is also significant that throughout his narration, Daniel uses the second person, addressing Vera at all times, even after her death. In an interview with Noticias 22, Guelfenbein admits that having Daniel use second person narration for his narrative parts of the novel occurred to her as a way to demonstrate the profound love Daniel has for Vera:

El caso de Daniel fue muy bonito porque cuando descubrí que Daniel iba a hablarle a Vera porque Daniel es el vecino … que descubre a Vera cuando se cae de la escalera y él es quien sospecha que no ha sido un accidente. Él es el confidente de Vera, es un chico más joven que tiene una relación muy profunda con ella y la quiere muchísimo y cuando descubrí que en el fondo la voz de él tenía que hablarle a Vera fue como Eureka. Porque eso realmente me permitió mostrar sin tener que decir el amor que Daniel tenía por Vera. (9:45-10:37)

Although Vera is not dead, but in a coma, we know from the opening paragraph that she will eventually die and that the search for the guilty party will lead Daniel to a self-realization:

En algún lugar del planeta alguien cargaba con tu muerte. Esta certeza creció con los días, las semanas, los meses, golpeó mi conciencia hasta volverse insoportable. Pero ¿quién?, ¿por qué? Nunca imaginé que la respuesta pudiera estar tan cerca que, al dar la vuelta, me encontraría conmigo mismo. (11)

The questions who and why represent the search for motive and perpetrator, placing Daniel in a type of detective role.

There is also an actual detective, Inspector Álvarez, who does appear on the scene after Daniel reports his suspicions to the police. The police investigation performed by Álvarez is marginal and fruitless: he appears from time to time, mostly to catch Daniel in lies he has told regarding his own whereabouts on the days preceding the incident and not so much to follow actual leads in the case. Daniel’s reluctance to tell the truth about his whereabouts, in spite of the truth being unrelated to Vera’s fall (he was having an affair), demonstrates the mistrust of the police typical of post-dictatorship societies, which has come to be part of the national identity in such societies. Patricia Varas speaks to this mistrust: “In a region of the world where corruption is part of everyday life and where people fear the police almost as much as, if not more than, the criminals, what is a detective to do?” (91). Varas is describing Argentina, but her words can be applied to any society recovering from a military dictatorship, including Chile. Meanwhile, Renée W. Craig-Odders speaks of a “gradual remission of a long-standing distrust for the official representatives of the law” (7) in such societies. The character of Inspector Álvarez is representative both of the distrust and of its remission. Daniel may not trust Álvarez, but he is neither corrupt nor dismissive. He does try his best to perform the investigation, but falls short in his focus on unimportant details and dismissal of important ones. In his preoccupation with how Daniel entered the house, what business he had there, and why he did not tell the truth regarding his whereabouts, Álvarez shows a lack of mental detection abilities traditionally associated with detectives in crime fiction. In the end, Álvarez’s character fades away as, unable to find a solution, he causes his superiors to Close the case due to lack of evidence. It is Daniel that continues the investigation, and eventually arrives at a solution. Nevertheless, by the time he resolves the case and figures out that it was his soon to be ex-wife, Gracia, who pushed Vera down the stairs, Daniel sees no point in reporting Gracia to the police. For Daniel, the investigation becomes much more than a search for the guilty party, especially when he joins forces with Emilia, the second of the novel’s three narrators.

Emilia is the one who performs the textual detection in the novel as she delves into Vera’s own writings in order to find a buried secret, a hidden mystery that only the most careful reader can unravel. Emilia’s narration begins in chapter two. She is a doctoral student of Latin American literature at a French University. Born and raised in France by a Chilean mother and French non-biological father, Emilia travels to Chile, encouraged by Horacio Infante, the last of the three narrators and another famous Chilean author, to study the works of Vera Sigall. What starts out as academic research becomes much more when Emilia becomes a reader-detective like the one Tani describes as an integral part of the metaphysical anti-detective novel (113), whose investigations lead to revelations about identity both regarding Vera Sigall and herself. Emilia is the fictional reader of Vera’s work, who starts acting as an investigator upon discovering similarities between Vera’s writings and those of Horacio Infante:

Había descubierto que los versos de él estaban con frecuencia presentes en la obra de ella. Sobre todo los primeros, los más poderosos, y los que habían catapultado a Infante como uno de los poetas de habla hispana más respetado de nuestro tiempo. … En unas ocasiones eran parte de la corriente de conciencia de alguno de ellos, ideas que sellaban largas reflexiones, otorgándoles, al final, la fuerza que requerían. En otras, surgían en los diálogos, una nota destemplada que mostraba el particular mundo de un personaje. En muchos de ellos, el sentido del poema era el origen de una escena, de un conflicto, de un tramo de la historia, y eran estos paralelos los que me intrigaban. (113)

Emilia realizes that the connection she has discovered between Vera and Horacio’s work has not been discussed by any other studies on Vera, and that she has found a clue overlooked by other textual investigators, including Vera’s biographer. Her initial conclusion is that Vera and Horacio were playing an intertextual game, “un juego que ambos habían acordado” (113) and that they must have been lovers at some point. While Emilia is correct in her suppositions, it is not until she meets Daniel and he takes her to Vera’s library, that a final clue appears. The clue is a short story written by Vera whose entire text is embedded in Emilia’s narration, a fictional story within a fictional novel. The story is about Gustavo and Helena, a married couple with two children. Both are mathematicians. Gustavo spends his entire time working and doing research, while Helena does the housework and takes care of the children. Gustavo struggles for years to solve a sequence formula, searching for “la llave maestra que abrirá el cerrojo del entendimiento” (260). One day, after taking his habitual walk, he comes home to find Helena making dinner and the equation solved in his study. The initial joy and exhilaration slowly give way to a type of jealousy: “¿Cómo llegó Helena a esta ecuación? ¿Cómo es posible que ella, siempre preocupada de los niños y de los asuntos más nimios de sus existencias, tuviera un pensamiento tan elaborado como para dar con esa definitoria representación? … Los sentimientos hacia su esposa se han vuelto confusos” (261). Meanwhile, Helena does her best to help Gustavo understand her mathematical reasoning, writing explanatory notes that will help him present her solution to the mathematical society. In the end, Gustavo flushes Helena’s notes down the toilet as he steps out to meet the representative of the mathematical society and takes full credit for the formula’s solution.

The characters in the story are fictionalizations of Vera and Horacio, and the theme of the male character taking credit for the female’s work leads Emilia to realize that, instead of an intertextual game between lovers, the story of Vera and Horacio involves a sort of plagiarism: that Vera is the real author of Horacio’s early poems. The suspicion is confirmed upon Vera’s death, when Daniel and Emilia go through the documents in her safe and find the original manuscripts. We as readers learn this from Horacio’s own narration, which immediately follows the story of Gustavo and Helena, and takes us back in time to when he and Vera were, indeed, lovers. Horacio explains how Vera took his poems and rewrote them before sending them to the canonical literary magazine Sur, where they were accepted with a personal letter from Victoria Ocampo and jump started his literary career. Horacio had the option to give credit to his lover, but instead took the glory for himself and accepted all the accolades that followed, performing a sort of identity theft. Vera kept the secret and did not publish the remaining poems, choosing to allow Horacio a career marked by “los incontables premios, los recitales a lo largo del mundo, las becas de las fundaciones americanas y europeas” (294) while she herself remained in the shadows, writing for the joy of writing, “siempre indagando en los bordes de la palabra” (294). Vera keeps Horacio’s secret and allows him to take credit for her work, thus taking over a part of her identity and simultaneously losing a part of his own. Technically, this sort of crime of plagiarism. Nancy Vosburg asserts that “crime fiction written by women in Spain and Latin America since the late 1980’s has been especially successful in shifting attention to crimes often overlooked by their male counterparts …. As the formulaic conventions of the crime genre continue to be challenged and disrupted by women writers, bringing gender concerns to the fore, the very boundaries of genre itself are becoming blurred” (1). Vosburg is referring to more violent crimes such as rape, incest, and child pornography, but the crime of plagiarism, especially in connection with male writers taking credit for women’s intellectual property, is also one that involves gender concerns. Gustavo is a fictional representation of Horacio, who serves as another fictional representation of a larger gender problem in literary circles in which male authors have been traditionally much more easily accepted and celebrated than female ones. Vera’s motives for allowing the identity theft are unclear, but they could be linked to her own self-doubts, especially as a Jewish woman in Chile and also as a woman in a world dominated by men, but also as a desire to please her partner and erase herself in the process.

Horacio’s confession resembles that of the criminal admitting his guilt after years of hiding. What we find out at the novel’s conclusion is that Horacio’s interspersed narrations are parts of a long letter he has sent to Emilia in which he not only confesses to denying Vera credit for her rewriting of his unpublishable poetry, but also tells the story of his relationship with Vera, uncovering another secret that deepens the connection between Vera and Emilia, transforming it from textual to personal. The textual connection of doctoral student to author of interest may be strong, but Horacio’s confession brings Emilia much closer to the author whose works she dissects daily searching for hidden meaning. The true hidden meaning has to do with family identity: Emilia is Vera’s biological granddaughter, fathered by Vera’s son, Julián, shortly before his untimely death, when he had an affair with Emilia’s mother. Horacio was sworn to secrecy by Julián, and never revealed the truth to Vera, much like he hid Vera’s work on his own poetry. As a result, Vera only met her granddaughter once at a lunch in Horacio’s house in honor of his latest literary award. The lunch represents both Horacio’s silence on Vera’s literary influence and also his silence on her personal past. Horacio may be guilty of a crime, but he is also, ironically, the one who guides Emilia towards its resolution. He is the one who encourages Emilia to study Vera Sigall’s literature, sending her to Chile to further research the author. When Sigall dies before the truth can be uncovered, Horacio writes a confession, revealing not only his crimes of plagiarism, but also the secret he has kept for decades: “Cuando Vera cayó por esas escaleras, supe que ya no volvería a nosotros, y que nuestra historia, de no reconstruirla entonces, quedaría enterrada junto con nuestros viejos huesos para siempre. Por eso, los últimos meses me he abocado a esa tarea. Por Vera, por nosotros” (308). The reader/detective may find the clues, but it is with the help of the criminal that the truth comes to light and Emilia discovers a part of her identity.

The search for identity is a key theme in Guelfenbein’s novel, buried in the detective plot. Both Daniel and Emilia discover something about their own identity during the investigation, and both are aware that they are going on a path of self-discovery early on. Daniel, upon learning that Gracia had been in Vera’s apartment the morning of the accident, reflects: “Me pregunté si todas las investigaciones sufrían el mismo destino que la mía, si al final, en alguna parte de la búsqueda emprendida, el investigador se da cuenta de que ha estado indagando sobre su ser y su historia, sobre su lugar en el mundo” (233). Daniel divorces Gracia, freeing himself from a marriage that had lost its passion as the two had outgrown each other. Gracia’s motive for pushing Vera was, in fact, jealousy, as the friendship between Daniel and Vera had allowed him to reevaluate his priorities. Instead of working on designing a museum for which he won an architectural contest, pushed by Gracia every step of the way, Daniel wants to open a restaurant on a cliff overlooking the sea. His dreams no longer coincide with the plans Gracia has for him. It is Vera’s fall and the encounter with Emilia in the hospital that pushes Daniel to begin working on his own dream. He and Emilia organize a dinner in her apartment and call it “Transatlántico.” As the novel concludes, Daniel and Emilia are in a relationship. He is working on making his restaurant “Transatlántico” a reality, having abandoned the museum and all other expectations imposed on him by Gracia.

Meanwhile Emilia, studying Vera’s books has a premonition: “Tenía la intuición de que había algo oculto en las estrellas de Vera Sigall. Algo que traspasaba las narraciones, los personajes y sus historias. Incluso las palabras. Intuía también que, hallándolo, encontraría algo de mí misma” (39). Beyond finding out the truth about her paternal family, Emilia is able to discover herself and establish her own identity rather than defining herself in relation to others. When the book opens, Emilia is only able to define herself in relation to her fiancé, Jerôme. As the two say goodbye at the Paris airport, Jerôme tells Emilia “No lo olvides nunca, yo soy tú” (15). Emilia ponders the words and affirms to herself “Yo era él y él era yo” (15). She is unable to see herself outside of Jerôme, and even her reality in the distant land of Chile only makes sense through the act of writing letters to Jerôme in France: “recién cuando lo puse en palabras para él, todo lo vivido desde mi partida se asentó en mi conciencia y se hizo real” (29). It is Vera’s accident and meeting Daniel in the hospital that begins Emilia’s journey to self-discovery. In learning about Vera’s life and secrets, Emilia becomes more conscious of her own purpose and sense of self. Although it is Jerôme who breaks up with her, the freedom of being alone allows her to find a purpose. Yes, she does form a relationship with Daniel, but it is a healthy one, where each party retains their individual self and purpose, something neither of them did in their previous relationships.

Having found their own inner selves, Emilia and Daniel help each other celebrate their new-found identities, rather than relying on the other for definition. As Emilia flies back to France on a transatlantic flight to tie up loose ends before returning to Chile to rejoin Daniel in their new life, she has a realization: “Fue entonces cuando supe que escribiría nuestra historia. La de Vera y Horacio, la de Daniel y la mía, y cómo estas se fueron entrelazando hasta llegar a ese momento. Podría también incluir el texto de Horacio. … Sería una manera de unirme a Vera, de traer a la luz lo que había permanecido en la oscuridad” (351). As the novel ends, we realize that the fictional author-narrator has been Emilia the entire time and that we have traced her transformation from reader to author. It is she who, having found her voice, has self-consciously been speaking on behalf of Daniel in his narrations to Vera, interspersing them with her own self-reflections and with parts of Horacio’s letter, creating a new mystery novel whose resolution brings to light the numerous secrets and crimes. Although there is no justice for Vera in that neither Gracia nor Horacio has to face consequences for the crimes committed, there is a solution in the form of a new metafictional crime novel in which the truth is exposed.

Vera is the only one who is not given a voice in the novel. She may be present as only a body, but her character is central to the novel and to its mystery. It is through her that all others connect. In a way, Vera’s silence gives a voice to her readers. Her death becomes a necessity in order for her secrets to come out and for her readers/detectives to find their own voices. Roland Barthes speaks of “the death of the Author,” which will give rise to “the birth of the reader” (148). In this case, it is the birth of the reader, but also the birth of a new author, who, in turn, will have new readers and create future authors in a never-ending game of influence.

Guelfenbein has been forthcoming that Vera Sigall is loosely based on Brazilian author Clarice Lispector, with whom she admits to feeling a biographical connection:

Yo como escritora construí a Vera Sigall en base a Clarice Lispector que es una escritora brasilera de origen ukraniano … y cuando leí su biografía un poco antes de empezar a escribir Contigo en la distancia, descubrí que muchos aspectos de su vida tenían que ver con mi familia, ¿no? La familia de ella huye de Ukrania, de los pogromos, de la misma forma que mi familia, mis abuelos, vinieron de Ukrania. … Y luego habían muchos aspectos que coincidían. Y en este instante supe que tenía que construir un personaje que es Vera Sigall. (Interview 1:30- 2:25)

Throughout the novel, Guelfenbein takes statements straight out of Benjamin Moser's biography of Lispector and attributes them to Vera, whose fictional biographer in the text is also named Benjamin Moser: “My mystery … is that I have no mystery” (Moser 4)/ “Mi gran misterio es que no tengo misterio” (Guelfenbein, Contigo en la distancia 40) This statement is, of course, ironic, given the fact that the entire novel is a mystery constructed around Vera’s mystery. The connection between Vera and Lispector allows Guelfenbein to insert an element of herself in the novel, giving it an autofictional dimension, and thus allowing her to explore her own identity through Vera. Ana Casas defines autofiction as being descriptive of “textos de muy diversa índole, que tienen en común la presencia del autor proyectado ficcionalmente en la obra” (11). Guelfenbein inserts a biographical element of herself into the novel, but she does so through the intermediary of Clarice Lispector who is in turn represented through Vera Sigall. In so doing, Guelfenbein simultaneously connects to and distances herself from Vera’s character. By creating the connection Guelfenbein-Lispector-Sigall, the author opens up the mystery to herself and to her own readers who might find a personal connection to her writing that will send them on a journey to self-discovery and point them to new horizons.

One of the autofictional elements explored through the Sigall-Lispector-Guelfenbein connection is the question of national and ethnic identity. Vera arrived in Chile with her family who were fleeing their homeland in the Ukraine to escape the pogroms, the same way Lispector arrived in Brazil and Guelfenbein’s grandparens arrived in Chile. Despite the fact that she was a young child when she arrived, Vera is frequently treated like a foreigner due to her Jewish roots. The antisemitism in Chile is strong, and initially prevents Vera from fully being accepted into society, as we learn from Horacio when he describes his friend’s description of Vera upon seeing his interest in her:

María Soledad reparó en mi interés por la mujer y en su rostro se instaló una mueca de disgusto.
- Es judía.
El desdén de sus palabras me impresionó ….
- Se llama Vera Sigall – continuó -. Dicen que su madre murió de sífilis después de que un batallón completo de soviéticos la violara en el pueblo donde vivía. Yo no lo creo. Es como mucho, ¿verdad? Tú sabes, los judíos suelen inventarse unas historias terribles con las que se pasean por el mundo en calidad de víctimas. No entiendo por qué no pueden dar vuelta la página y ser como todos los demás. (89)

María Soledad’s antisemitism is blatant and representative of many of her compatriots. In the end, Vera does find success and acceptance in Chile as her novels acquire international fame and recognition. She refuses to play victim, but she does turn the page, inventing stories and writing novels which give her global recognition. In the end, she is able to fully integrate herself into Chilean culture and society while retaining her Jewish roots and reconciling the two cultures.

Emilia’s voyage to Chile is geographically similar to that of her grandmother. Nevertheless, Emilia’s migration is voluntary and not driven by political and social issues. As she discovers her Chilean roots, however, she is able to build a cultural bridge for herself and combine her Chilean and French identities to form a new, transatlantic character, represented by the fact that she is on a transatlantic flight when she begins writing the novel. While Daniel is fully Chilean, his acceptance of transnationalism is evident in the name of his restaurant, “Transatlántico,” perhaps reminiscent of the fact that Chilean culture itself is transatlantic, consisting of indigenous people, conquerors, and immigrants. In making the transatlantic connection, the novel can be seen as a transnational detective novel, which Nels Pearson and Marc Singer see as defined by “the vexed relationship between detection and statehood, which alternatively creates and vitiates legal and ethical frameworks, and between detection and national, cultural, ethnic, or racial identity, factors which demand that investigators cross borders both external and internal, figurative and literal” (10-11). While Contigo en la distancia does not delve as deeply into Chilean statehood and other political issues as some of Guelfenbein’s other novels,[1] the transnationalist theme is clear as the characters travel back and forth both figuratively and literally between continents, looking beyond statehood to a more global identity for all.

In conclusion, using the framework of a detective novel, Guelfenbein creates a metafictional text that delves into issues of literary creation and personal identity. As the whodunit gives way to deeper secrets of “who wrote it?” the issue of gender discrepancies in literary circles comes to light. While Vera may be a physical victim of her fall, she has been a victim of other crimes such as plagiarism in her adulthood and antisemitism her entire life. It is Daniel and Emilia, with the help of Horacio’s letters and Vera’s texts, who uncover Vera’s secrets and bring them to light. As the investigation turns the textual into the personal, the characters/readers become creators, inspired by Vera’s story to seek their own identities and create their own works, both textual and otherwise, while expanding their horizons to include a more global, transatlantic perspective. The novel ends with a new beginning which is the start of the writing process, metafictionally looking back on itself as the product of the detection process, and thus a type of solution through literary creation, which is the epitome of metafiction.

  1. For a detailed study of Guelfenbein’s political and social writing see Juan De Castro.