11 junio, 2024

Contemporary literature: what it is, origin, characteristics, authors

We explain what contemporary literature is, its historical origin, characteristics, genres and prominent authors

What is contemporary literature?

The contemporary literature The contemporary movement includes all the literary manifestations that have occurred since postmodernity. It is defined by a period but also by its very particular style. Most scholars refer to all literary production after World War II, in the 1940s, as contemporary literature.

This period extends to the present. Contemporary literature is characterized by fragmentation, unreliable narrators, pastiche (imitation of styles and authors), shifting narration, non-linear presentation, and play and uncertainty in language.

In the same way, this literature is recognized by its historically postmodern content. This is related to the age of computers, robotics, mobile phones, globalization, among others. Now, some work or some writer could be considered contemporary if it shares stylistic, artistic or thematic qualities of today.

Under this concept, even some writers from other centuries seem contemporary. Much of contemporary literature comes from Western authors, although the term is not exclusive to European or American literatures.

In fact, globalization has made it possible to appreciate contemporary works written by many literary figures in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. In addition to novels and poetry, this literary style covers a wide variety of genres, such as traditional fiction and other forms adapted to the new reality (graphic novel or blog literature).

Origin of contemporary literature

from 1940 to 1990

In the course of this half century, humanity has witnessed numerous changes. The end of World War II, the fall of communism in Europe, and the end of the Cold War marked the beginning of a new society.

In addition, technological innovations such as the cell phone and the Internet, color televisions and digital discs (DVDs), among others, arose. It was also the era of new music, like hip hop, and the acceptance of new cultures.

Within all this wave of changes, literature was enriched with new genres. Many of these were a response to technological changes and the new social reality.

A feature of contemporary literature of this time was that many stories were based on reality and had a believable plot. During the first two decades, contemporary literature shared spaces with Modernism, retaining certain traits, such as focusing on the characters rather than the plot.

In its further development until the 1990s, the contemporary shifted towards the description of harsh realities. Likewise, he focused his attention on exposing psychological problems such as exclusion and loneliness.

From 1990 to the present

The period from the 1990s to the year 2000 was characterized by globalization, growing concern about global warming, and the war on Islamic terrorism.

Furthermore, it is a decade marked by wars, natural disasters and a growing population. The biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression, the 2008 recession, also occurred, and many people lost their jobs.

Thus, contemporary literature received all these influences and was fed by all these new contexts. In response to the communication needs of society, new genres appeared.

He cyberpunkhe postcyberpunkthe new fantasy novels and the return to meter and rhyme in poetry are indicative of the new time.

Characteristics of contemporary literature

personal point of view

Works of contemporary literature reflect the social and political views of their authors. These are shown through the characters, the connections to events, and the socioeconomic messages of his works.

Innovative narrative resources

There is a break with previous narrative techniques. Contemporary literature uses avant-garde narrative resources, such as the modification of time and the presentation of the inner world of the characters.

Magical realism

The development of magical realism as a narrative technique represents a great advance in contemporary literature of the 20th century. This revolutionary technique is marked by a deep social and political character.

pressing issues

Most of the themes in contemporary literature are related to the pressing problems of the world today, such as globalization, race and gender, inequality, climate and environment, wars and terrorism.

Likewise, in this extensive list you can find other topics, such as politics and economics, ethics and morality, mass culture and the media, international crime and others.

Influence of World War II

Works of contemporary literature tend to be influenced by the prosperous lifestyle that followed World War II. This literary style has its roots in the devastation that war brought to the world.

Fiction and nonfiction overlapping

In contemporary literature the distinction between fiction and nonfiction can be blurred; this is known as crosses. Fiction writers base stories on real life events and may even include authentic material.

On the other hand, nonfiction writers bring historical figures to life by incorporating dialogue and imaginary scenes.

genera of the contemporary literature

classic genre of fiction

This genre is made up of short stories, novels, plays, poems, and movies. Everything is imaginary and invented, but it is presented as a mirror that reflects life and human experience, in a concrete or abstract way.

Now, the first way to distinguish contemporary fiction is that it will have universal truths and emotions that every human being can experience. Somehow, it gives expression to emotions.

Similarly, fiction in contemporary literature is realistic, which means that it has the following characteristics:

It contains characters that behave in the way that most readers would. The characters must be believable.
The story is set in the present.
The setting is a real place, or at least it looks like a real place.
Events are events that could happen in real life.
Dialogue is informal and conversational, and often includes regional dialects.

Ghostwriter Literature

A surprising number of successful books are written by ghostwriters. But there are also ghost novels.

By definition, these authors do not have names and are only known by their peers and the publishers who report to them.

graphic novels

The graphic novel is often interpreted as a comic with a long narrative for a mature audience, published in hardcover or paperback and sold in bookstores, with serious literary themes and sophisticated artwork.

children’s literature

The last 20 years have seen a blossoming of children’s writing. Among the greatest representatives of this literature are CS Lewis (Chronicles of Narnia) and JK Rowling (Harry Potter).

Science fiction

Science fiction is a very popular branch of contemporary literature. This is intertwined with the technological progress of the world.

However, science fiction works of literature do not necessarily imply a solid scientific basis. A writer may create a science fiction literary work to express an alternative point of view or concept.

blog literature

Blogs (individual or joint authored online magazine) have become a new medium for creating literary works. There are even cases in which these creations have become books.

Contemporary literature in Mexico


Until the mid-1940s, various narrative styles coexisted in Mexico. The realistic narrative inherited from the 1900s persisted, and the indigenous novel and reflections on national being and culture emerged.

From 1947 began contemporary Mexican literature. This received influences from American and European writers. Literary magazines that brought together contemporary writers and published their works appeared.

The groups took the name of the magazine that sponsored them and made this sponsorship a cultural trend.

The themes and narration techniques coincided with those of other contemporary writers from other latitudes.

representative authors

Juan Rulfo (1917-1986)

He was a writer, screenwriter and photographer born in the state of Jalisco. Two of his best works are Pedro Paramo and The Burning Plain. The first is a novel and the second is a collection of short stories.

Laura Esquivel (1950- )

She is recognized worldwide for her novel Like water for Chocolate, which was released in 1989. This novel became number one in sales in Mexico for three years. It was also the subject of a hit movie of the same name.

Octavio Paz (1914-1998)

He stood out as a great Mexican writer, poet and diplomat. Of his extensive production, the following stand out: wild moon, Between the stone and the flower, The Labyrinth of Solitude, sun stone and Parole.

Most of his works have been translated into many languages ​​around the world. After his death in 1998, Octavio Paz became the first Mexican writer to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Elena Poniatowska (1932)

the author of lily flower either The Night of Tlatelolco is one of the most prominent contemporary Mexican writers. This is demonstrated by distinctions such as the Cervantes Prize received in 2013.

Contemporary literature in Spain


From 1975 to the present, in contemporary Spanish literature there is a preeminence of the novel over other genres. The historical and adventure novels, among others, dominate the literary scene.

Likewise, topics prohibited in the past are discussed, such as sexual freedom and other related topics. This literary production is regulated by the publishing markets and the literature prizes.

In the same order of ideas, literature now has a strong link with film production. In the adaptations, the filmmakers try to insert touches of Spanish heritage and the peculiarities of this society.

representative authors

Javier Marias (1951- )

He is considered by some critics as the best living contemporary Spanish writer. Of his work, the following titles can be highlighted: heart so white and your face tomorrow.

Marías has received numerous awards, including the Rómulo Gallegos Prize in 1994, the IMPAC Dublin International Literary Prize in 1997, and the Austrian State Prize for European Literature in 2011.

Rosa Montero (1951- )

She has been acclaimed both as a journalist and as a novelist. his novels Delta function and The madman of the househave had overwhelming successes both literary and…

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