Introduction: 100 Years of Jaime Saenz
October 8, 2021 marked the centennial of the birth of Jaime Saenz (La Paz, 1921-1986), a poet and prosist recognized as one of the fundamental writers of Latin American literature. Saenz has influenced generations with his way of writing. He produced unforgettable characters, mythical places, searchers, rescatiris and researchers of his work, who go between fiction and reality. Between the membranes that divide one from the other—fiction from reality—they sink into the oblivion of beings and protagonists, spaces both fictional and existent, humor, drink and food, music, the night…
These celebratory rituals are accompanied by this dossier, coordinated by Víctor Vimos. It includes a germane comparative reading, by Vimos himself, of liminality in the language of Jaime Saenz, Juan Ramírez Ruiz (Chiclayo, 1946-2007), and César Dávila Andrade (Cuenca, 1981-1967). Much has been said of the “insularity” of Bolivian poetry, as well as our Mediterranean condition; but also, as Ignacio Echevarría would call the literatures of Ecuador, Bolivia, and Peru (the Andean axis), of “peripheral literatures.” In this context, one of Vimos’s most pertinent findings is that of marginalized characters within the coordinates of progress, the notion of the nation and of reason. In Saenz we find the aparapita, in Ramírez Ruiz the golondrino, and in Dávila Andrade the indio. Are these beings of renewal, future individuals, projections? What is the connection, the intersection between these beings incubated in shadows?
Also included is an in-depth interview of Forrest Gander (b. 1956, winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize), who translated Saenz’s poetry, along with Kent Johnson, from 2002 to 2004. The interview focuses on the “membrane” between life and death, the synesthesia and radical language of the author of La noche. Gander comments on Saenz’s influence on his own work, as well as comparisons between Saenz’s reach and those of certain North American authors.
The feature closes with Spanish and English versions of a few poems from La noche, translated by Forrest Gander.
This dossier is a collective homage to the centennial of Jaime Saenz, including the efforts of Emma Ortquist, Mauricio Espinoza, Forrest Gander, and Víctor Vimos, as well as a series of readers, booksellers, poets, artists, and researchers who, one way or another, have contributed their own pursuits to the reflections put forth in these materials. Let us carry on with the “anniversary of a vision.” Let us celebrate.
Jessica Freudenthal Ovando
Translated by Arthur Malcolm Dixon
Arthur Malcolm Dixon is co-founder, lead translator, and Managing Editor of Latin American Literature Today. He has translated the novels Immigration: The Contest by Carlos Gámez Pérez and There Are Not So Many Stars by Isaí Moreno (Katakana Editores), as well as the verse collection Intensive Care by Arturo Gutiérrez Plaza (Alliteratïon). He also works as a community interpreter in Tulsa, Oklahoma and is a Tulsa Artist Fellow.
Jessica Freudenthal Ovando (Madrid, Spain, 1978) is a Bolivian writer. She works in poetry, essays, film, and art. She has published the poetry collections hardware (Plural, 2004; second edition, 2009), Poemas Ocultos (Yerba Mala Cartonera, 2006), Demo (Catafixia, 2009), and El filo de las hojas (3600, 2015). Along with Claudia Vaca, she is co-founder of Colectivo LEE, which manages projects to promote reading and design methodologies for education and social development.
With our twentieth issue, we celebrate the close of five years of publication. The cover feature reflects on LALT’s achievements thus far and on our goals for the years to come. Other dossiers highlight Bolivian poet Jaime Saenz on the centennial of his birth, 2006 Neustadt Prize winner Claribel Alegría, Spanish-language creative writing programs, and poetry and prose in translation from Quechua.