Some believe no good writer will go eternally unpublished. They are probably right. Sooner or later, the readers of the future will end up discovering such writers. The circumstances that come together to make this happen are often mysterious, hard to explain. Why, when, and how do we return to an author? These questions have no easy answer. It is tempting to think that, in literature, there is no such thing as absolute forgetting. That which has been written forms part of our history, and perhaps for this reason nothing can be completely forgotten. Literature is the archive of memory and imagination. And such is the case of Colombian writer Albalucía Ángel, whom we present in this issue’s cover feature. This rigorous initiative to put Albalucía Ángel back in the contemporary pages of Colombian literature belongs to our friends and LALT correspondents, Alejandra Jaramillo and Óscar Campo. LALT’s readers will be among the first witnesses to a body of work that is just beginning to cross the borders of Colombia—and of the Spanish language—anew. We are happy that LALT is the chosen platform through which readers can return to the mythical author of Estaba la pájara pinta sentada en el verde limón. I suspect that all those who contributed their writing to this feature (Jineth Ardila Ariza, Manuel Briceño, and Aleyda Gutiérrez) will now be seen as the very readers of the future I mentioned above.
Another important dossier in this issue—for it is also an homage and a struggle against forgetting—was organized by our Content Editor, Arturo Gutiérrez Plaza, and commemorates the five-year anniversary of the passing of Peruvian poet Eduardo Chirinos (1960-2016). We extend our thanks to Ecuadorian poet Edwin Madrid, who took the initiative to offer us a testimonial crónica on his friendship with Chirinos as part of this commemoration, precisely in this month of February, and to G.J. Racz for sending us, almost coincidentally, his translations of an as-yet unpublished book by Chirinos. These simple facts triggered our enthusiasm at the possibility of dedicating a complete dossier to the extraordinary poet Eduardo Chirinos was. We are likewise indebted to Jannine Montauban, the poet’s literary inheritor and widow, whose help was essential in putting together this homage, which is also a way of saying Latin American poetry is still alive.
Speaking of homages, tributes, recognitions, and rereadings is a way to speak of something that is a consubstantial part of the very nature of literature itself; those who write, read, translate, and critique are united in siblinghood by a deep love of literature. These terms may seem exaggerated, but no literary endeavor can reach its ends if unmediated by a loving relationship between the text and the one who reads or writes it. This was the case of Octavio Paz, the third Latin American writer to win the Neustadt Prize in 1982, and the second Latin American author we present in our “Neustadt series,” which began in our last issue with Gabriel García Márquez.
An obsessive reader, a poet, an intellectual, a translator, an essayist, and master of a prose matchless in the Spanish language, Paz has been the object of harsh controversy and passionate attachment. In this issue, we have the privilege of distance (Paz died in 1998). This dossier brings together voices from the past and present, guiding the reader through four articles that start by taking stock of Paz as a translator (Daisy Saravia and Christian Elguera). Anthony Stanton looks back at Paz’s literary legacy, and we agree with him when he says, “It is easier to assess writers after they are dead. In life, there are too many obstacles in the way of fair appreciation. Even prestige can muddle a work’s reception.” We would be remiss not to mention the visits Octavio Paz paid to the University of Oklahoma. Paz came to Oklahoma twice, and remarked often upon the warmth with which he was received in the city of Norman. He expressed it thusly: “From the day we arrived in Oklahoma, Marie-José and I have felt surrounded by a lucid cordiality which seemed a kind of spiritual correspondence to the brightness of these autumn days.” And so it was, thanks to World Literature Today—and in keeping with the long tradition of Neustadt Prizes foreseeing Nobel Prizes in Literature—that Octavio Paz won the Neustadt eight years before the Nobel.
We are living in times of crisis, and more long months will yet pass before we can return to what normality we had before the pandemic. Over the course of the past months, Argentine photographer Alejandro Meter has been taking photographic portraits of writers secluded in their homes, or in the places where they write. These Latin American writers have been captured by Alejandro’s lens by means of an elaborate technological system with which he has crept into these writers’ lives in order to make record of their experiences of lockdown. In this issue, we present a series of his photographs accompanied by a text written by critic Pablo Brescia: “Alejandro Meter’s ‘Pandemic Postcards’ try to capture and to rapture. They replicate Boccaccio’s gesture, that ‘law of humanity,’ which, in this case, is contact.” Lockdown, incommunication, and COVID all in one, but this time through images that, in silence, speak for themselves.
I’ll conclude by mentioning a novelty and a commitment. Our readers know we tirelessly promote translation as an ineluctable protagonist of literature. In this issue, along with essays on translation and interviews with translators, we seek to reinforce the reading of literary texts in translation (see our “On Translation” section). LALT hopes this section will serve as a bridge to publishers seeking to share translated literature with their own readers. Or, more than a bridge, a shop window in which to place translation projects that are as-yet unpublished, and that might catch the eye of publishers and agents interested in publishing Latin American literature in English translation.
This is the new issue of LALT, with interviews, fiction, and poetry, as well as indigenous literature, reviews, and previews, plus a host of new surprises. As we read, we continue waiting to get back to the lives we lost last year. We hope it will all be a matter of time.
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 2020-2021 Tulsa Artist Fellow.