Nota Bene: February 2019

 

Álvaro Enrigue: Ahora me rindo y eso es todo [Now I give up and that's it]

This novel starts with a vindication of writing and the construction of a landscape. The landscape is the border between Mexico and the United States, and in it will appear characters, past and present. "To Enrigue, history is the art of association, and what we decide to tell is less illuminating than the order in which we present the facts. He is prodigiously endowed to create narrative sequences that work as counterweights"(Alberto Manguel). A work of enormous ambition and a rare, dazzling perfection that confirms Álvaro Enrigue as one of the most outstanding writers in the Spanish language worldwide.

 

Andrés Neuman: Vivir de oído. [Living by Ear]

This is the twelfth book published by Neuman.  This excellent writer has more than twenty years of experience in which he has won prizes like the Antonio Carvajal prize for young poets and the Hiperión prize. After having published with some of the main publishers of poetry in Spain, such as Hiperión, Pre-Textos, Acantilado or Cuadernos del Vigía, Vivir de oído is the first collection of poems that Andrés Neuman brings to light at the hands of La Bella Varsovia. In this book, the author from Buenos Aires explores the perception of reality through the sense of hearing. Neuman tries to block all other receptors of stimuli: close your eyes, hold your breath, hide your hands and clench your teeth. Sound and imagination combine to overcome the use of the remaining four senses.

 

Braulio Fernández Biggs: Una novelita inglesa [A Little English Novel]

A crazy aunt becomes the link from which, first, a British landscape unfolds, and then a kind of genealogy that goes from reading some classics to the discovery of love, with all that implies. With a fair and measured tone, Fernandez Biggs impeccably constructs a voice that works as a mirror and, in an arc that does not ignore humor or tragedy, reflects from a lesser point of view the complete density of a family lineage. Aunt Liza, her dead husband, the doctor who visits her regularly, the nephew and the drift that the progress of the disease impose are the equidistant points that show the permanent tension that every family hides.

 

Clara Usón: El asesino tímido [The shy killer]

El asesino tímido is a novel set in the Spain of the Transition that tells a story based on the dark episode of the death of Sandra Mozarovski, an actress of the cinema of destape, who supposedly committed suicide. The daughter of a Russian diplomat, well-connected the highest spheres, her case was never solved and shocked the Spanish society of the seventies. This dramatic episode helps the narrator to account for her own unbridled youth during the eighties, the complex relationship with her mother, and the lives of three unexpected characters: Camus, Wittgenstein and Pavese. Great philosophical questions resonate in a plot full of intrigue in a story that is constructed as a means of survival, through two young people convinced that the future belongs to them.

 

Diamela Eltit: Sumar [Add]

Sumar is an extraordinary novel that ties together popular speech, the long and inconclusive battles of workers, and the phantasmagoria with which progress has flooded the streets: a powerful and urgent text that interferes in the darkest depths of an upstart and segregating national character. This usufruct of all human capacity intensifies when the subject is its own exploiter; such is the case of street vendors, who take the floor in Sumar to meet with other citizens harassed by a state order that seems divine, only to start marching. This is the great march of the postponed, who do not have permission to work in public space and did not agree to the dream of ownership.

 

Emiliano Monje: No contar todo [Don’t tell everything]

This is a story about the need to escape from others and from one's self. No contar todo is a nonfiction novel that presents the saga of the Monge family and tells the story of the country they inhabited. The grandfather, Carlos Monge McKey, of Irish heritage, fakes his own death, blowing up his brother-in-law's quarry. The father, Carlos Monge Sánchez, breaks with his family and with his own story to go to Guerrero, where, transformed into a guerrilla fighter, he fights alongside Genaro Vázquez. The son, Emiliano Monge García, will be born ill and will live his first years hospitalized, meaning he will be considered the weakling of his family, and for that reason he will erect a world of fictions that, over the years, will become more and more complex: a world from which he will no longer be able to escape, rather than escaping from everything.

 

Gabriela Jauregui: Tsunami

The authors Brenda Lozano, Cristina Rivera Garza, Daniela Rea, Diana J. Torres, Gabriela Jauregui, Jimena Gonzalez, Margo Glantz, Sara Uribe, Veronica Gerber, Vivian Abenshushan, Yasnaya Elena A. Gil and Yolanda Segura explore different facets of womanhood and all it can mean bodily, materially, and ideologically. At a time when visibility has become an obsession, we are even trying to talk about how being unseen can sometimes be the best way to be free. In a historical moment of denunciation of violence (with initiatives and movements such as #MiPrimerAcoso #MeToo and #TimesUp) it is also crucial to consider how to keep these movements from taking an essentialist turn. And, always in the middle, is the word as a political instrument.

 

Guadalupe Galván: Lumbre [Firewood]

Guadalupe Galván LumbreThrough a kind of private rhythm that seeks to transform "words into silences," the poetry of Guadalupe Galván tries to reorder day by day: a familiarity with the things of the environment that above all blot out any hint of legible meaning in the set of what she calls a «definitive song». For this reason, in Lumbre, she seeks to modulate her registers in an absolute present or, rather, to integrate all remembrance to the current of that present in which phenomena are ordered and harmonized. However, contrary to what one might think, the diction of these poems, despite the reason that seems to attenuate every memory drive, is sustained in a balance that participates and complements in the enunciation of the melancholic tones of the landscape.

 

Guillermo Parvex: La muerte acampa en Chorrillos [Death camps in Chorrillos]

José Miguel Varela Valencia was a lawyer by profession and a soldier at the rank of the second lieutenant who was part of the Chilean army in the Pacific War. In these memoirs, written like a newspaper, epic and at the same time extremely fascinating, he tells the story of the tri-national war from its declaration to its ranks to the resistance led by Andrés Avelino Cáceres, through the battles of Tarapacá, Arica, Chorrillos, and Miraflores, as well as the occupation of Lima. Guillermo Parvex rescued the manuscripts of this Chilean military officer, who also wrote of the Campaigns of Araucanía and the Chilean Civil War of 1891 and turned them into a bestseller of the historical chronicle. This edition has a prologue by Peruvian writer and soldier Carlos Enrique Freyre.

 

Gustavo Guerrero and Catalina Quesada: Cámara de Eco. Homenaje a Severo Sarduy [Echo Chamber. Tribute to Severo Sarduy]

Twenty years later, science, fictions, and beliefs remain present in the valuable work of this Cuban writer. Gustavo Guerrero, Catalina Quesada, Rubén Gallo, Georg Wink, François Wahl, Rolando Pérez, Eduardo Becerra, Juan Manuel Bonet, Alfonso Palacio, Anke Birkenmaier, Lina Meruane, Milagros Ezquerro, Pedro de Jesus, Silvia Hueso, Cira Romero, Nanne Timmer, Rafael Rojas, Gonzalo Celorio, Andrés Sánchez Robayna, and Christopher Domínguez Michael move through the different spaces where topics related to thought, art, science, rambling, the weather, and the historically tangible aesthetic are developed in the writing of the renowned narrator, poet, journalist, and critic of literature and art: Severo Sarduy.

 

Josefina Licitra: 38 estrellas [38 stars]

On July 30, 1971, thirty-eight political prisoners escaped from a Montevideo prison in an action known internally as Operación Estrella [Operation Star]. Almost all were Tupamara militants no more than twenty-five years old. Each of them helped to mark an international milestone that would end up falling into an unjust oblivion. Through thorough documentation and several interviews with many of its protagonists—including Lucía Topolansky, Pepe Mujica's partner—Josefina Licitra manages to reconstruct the details of a political event that has the necessary components to transform into an extraordinary crime story. In 38 estrellas, she not only researched a cinematographic history with remarkable skill, but she also wrote her most powerful text, with her typical elegance and warmth.

 

Juan Cárdenas: El diablo de las provincias [The devil of the provinces]

A man returns home (to Colombia), with several failures behind him. And there "He does not seek. He finds," following the Picasso quote. The spider's web of reality will catch him without giving him a chance to escape. Part of the best Latin American narrative of recent decades has been addressed "with return" to a Sicilian author who, somehow, knew how to blend Borges (one of his essential references) with the great French moralists: Leonardo Sciascia. From Rodrigo Rey Rosa to Juan Cárdenas, Sciascia's lesson has become increasingly relevant. So it goes in this exact and masterful novel, in which politics, religion and "industry" (three Sciascian themes) are as important as sex or nature. We are, then, faced with one of the best Latin American novels of this 21st century.

 

Julia Navarro: Tú no matarás [You will not kill].

Tú no matarás is, in the words of Julia Navarro, "a novel of losers where I approach guilt, revenge, and the weight of conscience, which condition our decisions. It is also a tribute to the editors, to the bookstores and to the reader who we all carry inside". The novel recounts the friendship between Fernando, a young editor and son of a reprisal republican, Catalina and Eulogio, who decided to flee from a Spain devastated by the Civil War, escaping from their own circumstances. During their exile, they will tour settings such as the Alexandria of World War II, occupied Paris, Lisbon, Prague, Boston, and Santiago de Chile. This story contains many novels, since the love of books and literature is the engine driving many of his characters.

 

Karina Sainz Borgo: La hija de la española [The Spanish Woman's Daughter]

An unprecedented literary phenomenon in the Spanish-speaking world: sold in 22 languages before its publication. This story begins before an open grave: Adelaida Falcón, a teacher from Caracas, passes away after a long illness. Her daughter, Adelaida, 38 years old, is left with no one, living in a city where violence sets the daily rhythm of existence. La hija de la española transcends any portrait of Venezuela, or any story of uprooting: this is the portrait of a woman who escapes all stereotypes, confronting an extreme situation. With her first novel, the journalist Karina Sainz Borgo has become the big literary news of the year.

 

Kintto Lucas: Realidades y ficciones: Sobre libros, escritores y lectores [Realities and fictions: Books, writers and readers]

This book is linked to several moments of Spanish American literature, the traditions of authors, and the work of great writers. In eight chapters written as essays and articles, academic rigor and an attractive story are combined, with diverse sensibilities, poetic and narrative ruptures, styles and languages that revolutionized literary creation between reality and fiction. The journey and the literary sensibility proposed by Kintto Lucas adhere to a fascinating experience. Realidades y ficciones: Sobre libros, escritores y lectores, is an important contribution for students and teachers in the field of literature.

 

Leonardo Padura: Agua por todas partes [Water everywhere]

Padura's new book is a celebration of and a tribute to the genre of the novel, to which he feels so indebted; in its pages, he considers questions surrounding this invention that has been dealing with human issues for four centuries, serving as a tool for transforming society and reflecting upon it. It contains a brilliant account of how narrative material  begins as a dim light in the writer's mind. In the words of the author: "between an abstract obsession, almost philosophical, and the complicated process of writing a novel, there is a long stretch, full of obstacles and challenges." Padura gently takes the reader's hand and is responsible for illuminating that complicated path toward the door of the building of the novel.

 

Margo Glantz: Y por mirarlo todo, nada veía [In trying to see everything the soul sees nothing]

The most recent book by Margo Glantz takes its title from a verse of Sor Juana's. If youth is synonymous with risk, Glantz is undoubtedly young. This work is a collage, a patchwork, a montage where, following her love for fragmentary writing, and through hundreds of tweets, she makes an ethical and political reading of the current moment and the responsibility of social networks in our perception of reality. Using her sensitivity and her erudition as spearheads, Glantz gives us a collage of emotions, images, data, and reflections that, in its resounding echo, forces us to stop along the way to ponder the best way to continue in the increasingly arduous task of walking this world.

 

María Fernanda Ampuero: Pelea de gallos [Cockfight] 

Pelea de gallos narrates, from different voices, the home, that space that constructs—or destroys—people, addresses family ties and their secret codes, relationships of power, affection, silences, solidarity, abuse. All the horrors and wonders that are enclosed between the four walls of a house: the horror and the glory of our daily lives. María Fernanda Ampuero has gathered, in her first book of stories, a good number of innocent beings who become corrupt, people sick with love, loneliness, loss—people who fight, in their own way, against the clear cruelty of being alive—and she describe their experiences in a devastating book attached to Latin America, whose pages shed cultural, political and social elements that portray a continent in its complexity, in its radical differences and similarities.

 

María Gainza:  El nervio óptico [The optic nerve]

El nervio óptico is a unique and fascinating story, that has been called unclassifiable in the genre that it represents. In this piece, life and art intertwine. It contains eleven parts, which are eleven chapters of a novel that tells a personal and familiar story, but that can also be read like eleven stories, or like eleven incursions into the history of painting. Gainza, who has been a critic and curator of art, narrates a space of transit in between the museums of her native city, Buenos Aires, where the paintings are represented like the galleries of diverse lives. “In the distance there is something that you think is beautiful, something that charms you, everything goes in art, and the variables that modify this perception, can and often are the insignificant,” says the narrator, in the context of a novel where the artistic is bound together with fiction.

 

Pilar Quintana: La perra [The bitch]

La perra is a novel about the love of mothers, the betrayal, the loyalty, the guilt and the loneliness of human relationships. In a small Pacific town where the beauty and the violence of the region converge, and wealth, poverty, whites and blacks coexist apart, the story of Damaris takes place. Damaris, a black woman who lives on the Pacific and who is already mature, has been living with Rogelio for many years. Their turbulent relationship has been marked by their unsuccessful hope for a child: they try everything, and even then, Damaris cannot become pregnant. Without hope, Damaris finds new hope when presented with the opportunity to adopt a dog. This new and intense relationship with the animal will be, for Damaris, the experience that will force her to reflect on instinct and motherhood.

 

Rodrigo Arriagada-Zubieta: Hotel Sitges

Rodrigo Arriagada-Zubieta is a Chilean poet, literary critic and academic. His artistic activity focuses on themes typical of aesthetic modernity: the city, the flâneur, the gaze, the memory, the estrangement and the crisis of experience. He is a member of the editorial committee of the magazine and press Buenos Aires Poetry and he has contributed reviews of poetry to Latin American Literature Today. Arriagada-Zubieta thinks: "Poetry is a way to expunge resonances and live something lighter, with fewer obsessions in between." Hotel Sitges is a metapoetic work that comes from his experience in Catalonia. His poems have been translated into Italian and English.

 

Rosalía: El mal querer [Bad loving] 

As Jorge Carrión says in the New York Times, among many other things, El mal querer is a book. "Like artistic exhibitions, which are transformed into catalogs; or comics by installments, whose destiny is to be reunited in a single volume; albums have also found in the great format of human culture an ally in these times of Spotify and YouTube. Along with the CD, the work that consolidates Rosalía as a great artist includes a booklet with the lyrics of the songs, true poems, and with the art of Filip Custic”. This is the literature of musical fiction, also called expanded literature, inspired by Flamenca, a thirteenth-century novel.

 

Santiago Elordi: La Panamericana [The Pan American Highway]

Love is incapable of circumventing everyday traps. Four eccentric characters are in a Colombian port on the Amazon. They are strangers to themselves, who flee and seek something: a rebirth? Maybe one of them. Together they begin the trip by the Pan American Highway in an old Bugatti accompanied by a girl and an inflatable doll. A poetic, psychotropic journey or a narrative full of tenderness and humor. Perhaps a deep philosophical reflection, savage and sometimes stark, as if infinite tiredness slipped into eyes of confused blue, exaggeratedly made up of shadows.

 

Compiled and translated by Claudia Cavallín

Languages

LALT Number 9
Number 9

Latin American Literature Today begins its third year of publication with an issue that takes in Venezuelan poetry, the writing of indigenous women, and the strange worlds of fiction. We open the journal's second volume with a dossier dedicated to Samanta Schweblin, an Argentine writer whose work tests the limits between the fantastic and the real, and then we shift to the poetry of Venezuelan poet Rafael Cadenas, winner of the 2018 Premio Reina Sofía de Poesía Iberoamericana. We also pause over Mapuche poetry, with a special selection of four young women poets who write in Mapuzungun and in Spanish, and we also stay up to date with the present debates surrounding one of the central figures of twentieth-century Latin American literature, Pablo Neruda, with an exclusive interview of his biographer Mark Eisner.

Table of Contents

Editor's Note

Featured Author: Samanta Schweblin

Dossier: Chicanx Literature

Indigenous Literature

Fiction

Chronicle

Poetry

Essays

Interviews

Translation Previews and New Releases

Nota Bene