Dossier: Women Writers from Latin America


Works by and about Latin American women writers in LALT No. 4:


"A Room, a House, a City of One’s Own: Four Women Prose Writers from Latin America," an essay by Sebastián Diez

In almost all imaginable environments, there are specific spaces for each gender, as symbolic as they are geographic, mental, or bodily. What appeared as a truism in those days was expressed in the rigid strata of the public-man and the private-woman; those categories were beginning to dissolve, but they continued to delineate the domains of each gender. In that century and before, the order was: the woman must not publish, she cannot make herself public.


"Did Our Women Sci-Fi Writers Dream of Android Lullabies?" by Marcelo Novoa

They are starry insurgents, having challenged a masculine universe for eons. After all, we know that Science Fiction (SF) was always a "young man's" stomping ground. We recognize Mary Shelley as the first SF writer, with her famous work, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818); nevertheless, the fact remains that during the better part of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, women writers of this genre have been and continue to be the minority in Europe, the United States and in Latin America. Even in Shelley's case (and in those of her nineteenth century contemporaries), her protagonists were still men, and women, when they did appear, were relegated to supporting roles. Even though these early pioneers were unable to change the focus of centuries' worth of dominant literature, they did manage to insert a new, invisible strand into its DNA. Some women writers from the golden age of SF in the United States (1930-1960) addressed this enormous challenge by writing from a male perspective, dodging the prejudices of editors. They even wrote under masculine pseudonyms. This is significant per se; if SF authors seek to speculate about what changes the future might bring, they will do so as children of their times, reflecting their own respective presents. Since women have been relegated to a secondary social tier, giving them leading roles in their works is a task to which few authors have done justice.


"A Tattoo," a short story by Ana Clavel

As she enters the car she remembers Juan. His soft beard, his designer hands, the wood-scented lotion that he rubs on his chest and underarms, always fresh and clean-smelling no matter how much he sweats. They’ve been living together for a little over a year. In a few months, they’ll travel to Atlanta for a tattoo convention. Many of the designs that Aline tries on her customers, and have earned her a certain reputation among tattoo artists in the city’s center, are Juan’s. Scaled dragons, stylized fairies, flowers from an uncommon garden of delight.


"The Chicken Joint," a short story by Claudia Salazar Jímenez

A scratch awakens him. Piece of shit cat. His body is soaked in sweat, as if he had a fever. He dries his face with the back of his right hand, which luckily isn’t shaking today. A coughing fit catches him off guard. Something comes out. Better this way, get it all out so my lungs are empty. The clock pinpoints the time: almost three. His body moves slowly due to a hangover, but a little coffee will get him going. There’s a missed call waiting on his cellphone. It’s Juan, I’ll call him back later. The cat moves its tail timidly, standing at attention like a soldier next to its food bowl. Piece of shit cat. He pours himself a cup of coffee. He’s not in the mood for sugar; he’s discovered that it makes his hand shake. The cat starts to meow mid-cup. The scratch still burns, so he lets it meow. And meow. And keep meowing.


"Marilia Wakes Up," a short story by Natalia Borges

She wears her socks up to her knees, because even in the summer, her feet are cold. She sits on the edge of our bed and rolls down the socks: shin, calf, ankle and stops. She straightens up her back again. Her stomach doesn’t let her bend over. She takes a deep breath, stretches her arms tightly and finishes the job. She folds her socks and places them under the pillow. They're just for sleeping. Marilia is not sweet, but looking from the other side of our bed, I can’t not love her.


"Cyber-proletarian," a short story by Claudia Salazar Jiménez

It’s going on three years since I escaped from the lab where they created me. Yes, “create” can be a vulgar and rather pretentious word for what the human who worked on the most advanced Artificial Intelligence prototype and gave me self-awareness did. I don’t doubt that. In part, I escaped there because of the exasperating arrogance that totally consumed him. His great mistake was focusing too much on a single thing. He forgot that I was aware of myself.


Two Poems by Natalia Toledo

You sleep covered in red tulips, / your body numbed by honor. / You are a flower only just prized by a pinky finger, / a new aroma is baptized as night falls, / a rabbit drinks milk from the colorless moon, / a cornfield dances with the wind in your house. / Music will come and they will dance with your husband, / wrapped in your coverlet you hope the fesivities will end: / all virginity is ephemeral. / In the middle of your heart a desire expires, / you’ll never go back to playing with dolls / never run the streets in starched bloomers / when it’s hot outside.


"Betrayal," an extract from the novel Cherrufe by Mariela Fuentealba Millaguir

Her face, engraved with wrinkles, couldn’t hide the sadness that she carried in her heart, a pain so immense that with every breath she took she would have preferred to remain asleep forever and to never again feel the tight beating in her chest.

The whole community had come to the great Cacique Millaguir’s vigil and funeral. No one could believe what had happened to him. A man full of life, a friendly peñi ready to give everything for his people lie there, silently awaiting his farewell.

Lonkos and Mocetones from 5,000 leagues around came that day. Many horses surrounded the tomb; a large trunk made of hand-cut Patagonian oak protected his body and next to him his horse also rested. Jewelry and garments fit for a Toki adorned his eternal resting body.


“I don’t want my daughter to be ashamed to say Inché ta Mapuche”: A conversation with Mariela Fuentealba Millaguir by Sarah Booker

I don’t want Carolina to be ashamed to say Inché ta mapuche (I am Mapuche), I have this courageous blood, the blood that thousands have died for, to preserve what I have today. I want her to learn our language, to respect who we are, to understand our cosmovision, which, without a doubt, everyone should understand. I’m sure that if we were to all think of ourselves as Mapuche or as another indigenous groups, the world would be much better because, before everything, the Mapuche respects, and respects the words and the origins of every living being on the planet.


Sarah Booker: Translation is like "Trying to Remember a Dream": A Conversation with Denise Kripper

 I think that the ambiguity and sense of strangeness that is so inherent in The Iliac Crest along with the continual border-crossing—literal and metaphorical—are elements that persist in much of Rivera Garza’s writing. So, in that way, this novel was quite similar to her other works. But the obsessive focus on Amparo Dávila that drove a lot of the vocabulary choices and even required me to translate another writer’s words—Dávila’s stories are spliced into the novel—meant being constantly aware of this element. The longer form of this novel also made it a different experience from translating the short stories as I found that the extended narrative allowed the text to develop its own set of vocabulary and recurring set of images. I’m thinking, in particular, about the Spanish term “retroceder,” which I translated as “to turn back,” or the images of that highway that appear throughout the novel. I will say that I translated the short stories first and this was a really valuable opportunity to get used to Rivera Garza’s writing, with all of its twists and turns.


"Dossier: Five Women Writers in Translation," featuring works by Jazmina Barrera, Carmen Boullosa, Jeannette L. Clariond, Mariana Torres, and Luisa Valenzuela

The translators featured here are among the most exciting and respected translators working in Latin American literature today: Lisa Dillman, Christina MacSweeny, Lawrence Schimel, Samantha Schnee, and Grady Wray. Accompanying each translation are short conversations between translator and author (Dillman, MacSweeney, and Schnee), or, in the case of Schimel and Wray, more detailed accounts of the challenges each translator encountered and the strategies each one employed to resolve them. In every case, these texts provide a unique insight, to borrow a phrase from Benjamin, into the task of translator, without whose endeavor literature would remain forever foreign.