Difficult, inscrutable, fragile, unhandy at public life, a writer both secret and famous at once and unreachably original, Clarice Lispector’s light still shines from the firmament where the works of certain writers lose neither currency nor power with time. On the contrary, her literary work keeps coming back: a complex legacy, but one of undeniable relevance. Brazilian through and through, and nonetheless born in Ukraine, Jewish and Latin American, Lispector is a sun that shines in Portuguese but reaches all our countries to fertilize the seeds of many writers and writings in Spanish. In this issue of LALT, four women writers detail their lived and literary relationship with Clarice Lispector. These writers are Katya Adaui of Peru, Victoria de Stefano of Venezuela, Sylvia Georgina Estrada of Mexico, and Fernanda García Lao of Argentina. With this cover feature, not only do we revisit the work of an exceptional writer; we also come into encounter with Brazilian literature, which has an ever-greater presence in LALT despite the innumerable linguistic and cultural barriers that, unjustifiably, keep us separated from it.
Another author, highlighted here in our Neustadt series, is Colombia’s Álvaro Mutis. Departed in 2013, Mutis was one of the great prose stylists of Colombian and Latin American literature. In this dossier, Carlos Torres, Mario Barrero, and Zulfikar Ghose recall certain aspects of this writer who gave us one of the best-loved characters of our letters: Maqroll the Gaviero. My generation is the children of Los elementos del desastre, and we traveled through the farthest-flung corners of the world in the company of this marvellous vagabond, who upheld in every novel, in every poem, the right to travel, to remember, and to feel that melancholy proper to those losers who fade away in dark rooms in lost villages in the middle of the jungle. The Gaviero—the Lookout—was the impossible utopia, ever in search of the goldmine that refuses to exist, of the perfect deal whose failure was inevitable from the start. Mutis, in a beautiful poem titled “Los trabajos perdidos,” or “Lost Works,” reminds us of something we should never forget: “It matters not that the poet says it… the poem has been there forever. Solitary wind. Desiccated, brittle talon of a mighty, tranquil bird, old in age and valiant in its trance.”
The university—of yesteryear, perhaps—is present in this issue through a dossier dedicated to the Ramos Sucre Lecture Series on Venezuelan Literature, in honor (as should be remembered) of Venezuelan writer José Antonio Ramos Sucre. This lecture series, which has been a sort of modern agora, was founded in 1993 at the University of Salamanca and has promoted Venezuelan literature in and from Spain. LALT recalls this unique, little-known initiative in this issue with the testimonies of María José Bruña, Gustavo Guerrero, Ioannis Ramos, and José Balza. This is an exercise of memory, recovery, and indubitable relevance.
Another initiative we highlight in this issue comes through a dossier dedicated to Spanish-language creative writing programs throughout America, organized by our friends and correspondents from LALT Colombia, writers Óscar Campo and Alejandra Jaramillo. This first portion of the dossier includes writing by Ana Merino of the University of Iowa, Isaías Peña of the Universidad Central (Bogotá), and José de Piérola of the University of Texas at El Paso. These programs—still incipient in English-speaking America—are ever more common in Latin America, attracting dozens of budding writers looking for ways to shape themselves, to be guided, to exist in a space where literature can be a permanent obsession. Writing programs are unique spaces (strange, if you like, in a university) where emerging writers stumble upon many things: books, conversations, writers, ideas, friends. To stumble and to walk on are the very actions writing requires. Everything can be a surprise. Sometimes, to write, you have to fall face-flat on the floor, since what you were looking for was the size of an ant, not a mountain.
This issue includes three exclusive previews from upcoming works in translation by three prominent Latin American writers: Fabio Morábito, translated by Curtis Bauer; Claudia Piñeiro, translated by Frances Riddle; and Sergio Pitol, translated by George Henson. These names lead us to reflect on translation as an act of friendship between one language and another, as Argentina researcher Violeta Percia has suggested; a practice that renews not only the words of the tribe, but also “the tribe itself in the words of one language to another.” Translation is, as LALT makes clear, “a desire for reading, for access to thought, a thinking with,” as Percia states. And, I would add, a way to renew this tribe of words that, once translated, seem distinct, shiny, devised anew.
I conclude this note highlighting our Indigenous Literature section, which continues to incorporate the work of new collaborators. This time, we have expanded to include, in our Interviews section, a conversation with Ch’ol poet Juana Peñate Montejo (formerly published as Juana Karen) of Chiapas. The interview was carried out by Carol Rose Little in the Ch’ol language, and Little along with Charlotte M. Friedman also contribute translations of Peñate Montejo’s poems, straight from Ch’ol to English. LALT’s readers will also find work by Mapuche-Huiliche poet Roxana Miranda Rupailaf, Wayuu writer Estercilia Simanca, and Quechua short story writers Yovana Gabriel and Ramiro Vega.
There is, of course, much more in this new issue of Latin American Literature Today. We hope our readers will find, in this labyrinthine mirror we call literature, some surprise, some light, some voice in the midst of the pandemic.
Editor-in-Chief, Latin American Literature Today
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.