Editor's Note: August 2018
We are living in times of change and uncertainty. In recent months, the entire planet has appeared to be shaken by violent political and cultural transformations, not all of them positive, and some that are even showing themselves to be truly terrifying. Nicaragua is the best example today. Within this context, literature—like any genuinely human expression—is not foreign to this fragmented and changing world, in perpetual acceleration.
A change that is difficult to quantify today is the impact of the Internet and new digital technologies. In a world that rewards instant gratification, readers seem to have disappeared from public space. The delayed and meditative exercise demanded by reading a book can be excessive for those who are already accustomed to flicking through the world’s pages with no true curiosity. And, nonetheless, the quantity of books published annually doesn’t stop growing. Are there so many readers? We don’t know, but it is clear that more books are published now than ever before. And, even if they weren’t, it is already impossible to keep up with them. Books exceed us. But do readers exceed us? It is impossible to quantify this silent and secret group. We don’t know how many there are, but we know what keeps them going: an inexplicable passion for books. It is an aesthetic passion as well as an exercise of critical imagination: we interrogate the world at the same time as we discover what we read in books.
That is what Latin American Literature Today wants to be: a space for readers in this digital and unstable age. Latin America does not cease to produce writers; their creativity is incessant. In this issue, we build a bridge between the past and the present. In the first dossier, our associate editor, the writer Arturo Gutiérrez Plaza, has prepared a magnificent feature to revisit the work of Venezuelan poet and essayist Eugenio Montejo ten years after his death. In 2003, many readers—and even the poet himself—were amazed to hear Sean Penn, in the film 21 Grams by Alejandro González Iñárritu, reciting the poem “The Earth Turned to Bring Us Closer.” The poem emerged in the world of film like the tip of an iceberg, almost like an infiltrator, a bearer of an unusual beauty. Many remembered the poem and even sought to find out more about its author. This iceberg has not sunk, it remains afloat in the vast ocean of literature. In this feature, which is also an homage, we comb through the literary memory of Venezuela and Spanish America as well.
A second dossier, prepared by Professor Ana María Ferreira of the University of Indianapolis, opens the doors to a literature still little-known in Spanish America: Wayuu literature. We cannot stress enough the happiness it brings us to publish this dossier of indigenous literature, especially because literature and resistance converge in the work and thought of the three authors included: Vicenta Siosi, Estercilia Simanca, and Vito Apüshana. As in all parts of Latin America, each country has its own debts to its indigenous peoples, and Colombia is no exception; the Colombian government’s bill is still unpaid. We will see if their new president takes on this debt and brings his people up to date with their own history in a country where peace is not an easy issue to resolve. As Ana María says in her introduction: “Wayuu literature has a long and rich tradition, as long as the history of the people itself.” We hope that in this feature and the two articles that accompany it, LALT’s readers will learn something more of this extraordinary literary tradition.
There is no need to emphasize again that indigenous literature has a place of privilege in LALT. The evidence speaks for itself. Along with our dossier of Wayuu literature, this issue also includes the Zapotec poet Felipe H. Lopez in a feature for which we owe thanks to translator Brook Danielle Lillehaugen of Haverford College and Osiris Gómez of the University of California, Santa Barbara.
But, just as in LALT we scrutinize the past and interrogate memory so as not to forget the long road already traveled in order to arrive here, we also dare to think about, or perhaps we should say to watch over, the future through Latin American science fiction. This time, our permanent collaborator and friend, Chilean editor and writer Marcelo Novoa, has prepared an excellent dossier with what we might call a rarity: Andean science fiction. Three authors explore three different countries. Marcelo Novoa, Chile; Daniel Salvo, Peru; and Iván Rodrigo Mendizábal, Ecuador. It is enough to note the number of titles mentioned in these articles in order to understand the intricate and not-so-secret web of science fiction writings in this part of Latin America.
There are many novelties, surprises, and previews coming in this new issue of LALT. It would be unnecessary to go into more details; it’s enough to say how happy we are to continue being a space in the English-speaking world for Latin American literature and indigenous literature written on Latin American soil. Without speculation, we can say that half our readers are in the United States, a number that amazes us and makes us proud. Perhaps some reader from Oklahoma is already reading us in English, wondering at our cities and our stories. It needs to be said: the challenge of bringing Latin American literature to readers in the United States still fascinates us. We know that Latin American writers have always read the great writers of the English language—it would be useless to offer a list here to prove it. Perhaps, at some moment, the English-speaking world will discover its neighbors to the south through literature and see in these “others” (us) something that belongs to them and speaks to them. Like a cracked mirror that gives back an image that is imperfect, but no less real for it, our literature is no more than another story to be added to the wide space of the world of western culture.
Translated by Arthur Dixon
Marcelo Rioseco is a poet, fiction writer, essayist, and Editor in Chief of Latin American Literature Today. Since August of 2009, Marcelo has worked as a professor of Latin American literature in the Department of Modern Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics of the University of Oklahoma.
Arthur Dixon works as a translator and as Managing Editor of Latin American Literature Today. His translation of Andrés Felipe Solano’s “The Nameless Saints” (WLT, Sept. 2014) was nominated for a 2014 Pushcart Prize, and his most recent project is a book-length translation of Arturo Gutiérrez Plaza’s Cuidados intensivos (see WLT, Sept. 2016).
The seventh issue of Latin American Literature Today highlights indigenous voices with dossiers dedicated to three Wayuu writers from Colombia and Zapotec poetry and prose. We also pay homage to renowned Venezuelan poet Eugenio Montejo with a special dossier, as well as returning to the strange worlds of Latin American science fiction and opening a new space for Brazilian literature in Portuguese and English.