Over the course of our first five years, I am proud to say that LALT has published a prodigious quantity of content. With a small but passionate editorial team, we have published the work of more than 500 writers and 300 translators, spanning continents, genres, and over a dozen languages.
For this special edition of LALT, which marks the close of our fifth year of publication, our editors have cast a glance back and recalled some of the pieces they feel best represent our editorial line. This selection of five texts is stylistically, geographically, and thematically diverse—like the journal itself—and speaks to both our central commitments and our goals for the years to come.
“The Craft of Suspicion: The Essay in the Social Sciences” by Ricardo Forster, translated by Brendan Riley (LALT No. 16, November 2020)
Marcelo Rioseco, our Editor-in-Chief, selected a text that illustrates LALT’s interest in prioritizing the literary essay: a “craft of suspicion,” in Forster’s words, that has “claimed inquietude and suspicion for its own by trying to place its inquiry outside the established canons and beyond current grammars in use.” As the Argentine philosopher observes, the essay, for all its historical and aesthetic value, tends to be excluded from the “productivist logic” dominant in contemporary scholarship. LALT seeks to reverse this trend by providing a space for the “expression of a bottomless, open form of writing” that the essay represents.
Marcelo commented on his selection: “Ricardo Forster is one of those philosophers who call writers’ attention as soon as they start thinking. And his essay we published in LALT No. 16 is about precisely that: thinking more poetically, starting from correspondences and analogies, exploring, feeling things out; seeing the essay as an exercise of freedom, not as a prefabricated format upon which to build an academic track. Forster presents the essay as a form of intellectual responsibility in the face of barbarity and the irrational—an answer that never ceases to amaze us in its tremendous capacity to illuminate the complexities of our contemporary life.”
Four Poems by Elena Garro, translated by Adele Lonas, Olatz Pascariu, Silvia Soler Gallego, and Francisco Leal (LALT No. 8, November 2018)
Associate Editor Arturo Gutiérrez Plaza chose a set of texts that reflects another key component of LALT’s editorial line: recognizing indispensable Latin American authors who, despite their undeniable talent and literary merit, run the risk of falling into obscurity. Elena Garro is one such author—an essential poet and prosist of her generation of Mexican writers who has been unjustly underread outside Mexico and in languages other than English. The combined effort of translators Adele Lonas, Olatz Pascariu, Silvia Soler Gallego, and Francisco Leal, under the direction of Professor Patricia Rosas Lopátegui of the University of New Mexico, seeks to remedy this omission, presenting four poems from Garro’s Cristales de Tiempo that “highlight the conflicted relationships that Garro had with writers of her time.”
“Re-Enchanting the World with Indigenous Literature” by Aline Ngrenhtabare Lopes Kayapó and Edson Bepkro Kayapó, translated into Spanish by Christian Elguera and into English by Arthur Malcolm Dixon (LALT No. 18, May 2021)
My own choice for a representative text from our first five years is one that serves as a manifesto for one the fundamental pillars of LALT: our permanent section dedicated to Indigenous literature, where we have published the work of more than forty Indigenous writers working in more than a dozen languages. LALT is committed to affirming the linguistic and cultural diversity of Latin America, always including space for the peoples and literatures that have existed in these lands long before it was either “Latin” or “America.” We are also committed to presenting contemporary Indigenous literature as the dynamic, innovative field it really is, avoiding the historicization and romanticization often imposed upon Indigenous creativity, which, as this essay says, have “distorted our historical memories and transformed our peoples into passive subjects to the violence of colonization.”
I appreciate Aline and Edson’s essay—as well as their generously giving me the chance to translate it, working from Christian Elguera’s excellent translation from Portuguese to Spanish—because of its reflection on both the immemorial permanence and the pressing relevance of Indigenous letters. As they tell us: “We are living at a moment of speech. Before, we had to stay discreet and keep quiet in order to live. Today, in order to move forward with our ancestrality, we must make known our social projects, for the soul cries out and echoes. Indigenous literature has been the sounding board along this path, and what we write is a reflection of our collective memories.”
“Of the Samovar and the Teapot” by Esther Cross, translated by Frances Riddle (LALT No. 11, August 2019)
Denise Kripper, LALT’s Translation Editor, selected a text that captures another of our core concerns: the recognition of translators as major players in the game of literature, and the need to reflect on translation just as we reflect on writing. Esther Cross’s essay—itself beautifully translated by Frances Riddle—encourages readers to consider the complexities, frustrations, and pleasures of literary translation, which, as Cross tells us, is “much more than an issue of metric equivalence… Translators often state that in order to translate what the words and sentences are trying to say, they have to capture the spirit of the original text’s language. And what is the spirit of a language?”
Denise situates this text—the first she solicited for the journal after starting as Translation Editor in 2019—in the wider context of LALT’s mission to put a spotlight on translation: “LALT exists thanks to translation—it is in translation. That’s why I’m interested in texts, like Esther’s, that delve into the translation process, which, as we know, doesn’t happen by magic. Her essay reviews readings, confesses to conflicts, and shares strategies. She generously gives us a glimpse behind the scenes, revealing the artifice of the practice of translation while still thinking about it and representing it as something intriguing and mysterious, as the art it truly is.”
An Extract from Lluvia by Victoria de Stefano, translated by Christina MacSweeney (LALT No. 5, February 2018)
Last but by no means least, Book Reviews Editor Néstor Mendoza selected a prose sample that serves to illustrate another central point of LALT’s editorial line: our practice of publishing in-depth dossiers dedicated to individual authors, as we did in the case of acclaimed Venezuelan writer Victoria de Stefano in our fifth issue. This excerpt from the novel Lluvia forms just one part of the full feature, along with an introductory text by Arturo Gutiérrez Plaza, two separate interviews with the author, and an essay on her work by Argentine writer Sergio Chejfec. Through such dossiers, LALT hopes to give unfamiliar readers thorough introductions to essential Latin American writers—whether in their original language or in translation to English—and to help those who already know these authors delve deeper into their bodies of work.
Néstor said the following about Victoria de Stefano’s writing: “The prose of the great Victoria de Stefano is a return to language, and to the everyday expressed with beauty and rhythm. Reading her implies coming face to face with her characters and with the narrative texture of her novels—it is Lluvia in this case, but it could just as well be any of her other publications. She never writes a gratuitous sentence. We can always pick out some passage, some paragraph that becomes definitive to us.”
These five texts represent just a tiny fraction of the broad-ranging, multifaceted literary production LALT has published over the past five years. We encourage our readers to return to these writings—and their corresponding translations—and to consider with us the tenets we hold dear as a journal: intellectual responsibility, redeeming undervalued creators, holding space for linguistic diversity, centering translation, and diving deep into noteworthy bodies of work.
And, with gratitude, we invite you to stay with us in 2022 and beyond as we continue our mission of bringing Latin American literature to the world.
Arthur Malcolm Dixon
Managing Editor, LALT