Clara Obligado, ed.: Atlas de literatura latinoamericana
This is an itinerary of books: a cartography that reflects what today’s authors read, what they recommend, what texts from the old canon still last or should be added, and where we can find the communicating vessels between contemporaneity and tradition. Unstable, impassioned, and intergenerational, this Atlas represents a change in perspective, a new way to look at a body of literature at its boiling point. Writer Clara Obligado has coordinated a team of dozens of writers and experts who have written on the Latin American authors who they consider most important or who most changed their lives. Agustín Comotto is the artist behind the book’s graphic design, and, as you will see, the results are exceptional. (Nórdica Libros)
Braulio Fernández Biggs: La terca audacia de la mosca
“I say that we should all learn from jazz. Yes, all of us. From the joy of the beginning of performance. Or simpler: from the joy of performance. The reason matters, the ending matters, the group matters… but what matters most is when your turn comes. I mean, we should all learn this from jazz: the sheer joy you experience when your turn comes. Well, what you have to do there is play with the maximum perfection and maximum possible passion. Then there will be nothing left, the notes will vanish into thin air––in fact, they vanish as they are played, like a gerund that is, being, and then no more––but there will have been a few moments in your mind and in your heart. Shouldn’t good storytelling be the same way? A good story where what matters most is the ‘how’ and not the ‘what.’”
This is the attitude that permeates the twelve stories that Fernández Biggs gives us in his collection. Time, places, unusual situations, historical recreations, rewritings, parodies and tributes; unexpected characters and unorthodox ways of narrating make the whole thing a risky bet. Stories with different tones and different intensities, but that all respond to what has been “his turn” in this undertaking. (LOM Editions)
Wilson Pérez Uribe: Estudio de las pérdidas
In Estudio de las pérdidas, each note alludes to the evocation of the childhood land, the orchard, the field. This is a look at simple people, at their daily biographies, at their transparencies. The author has tried to be faithful, in this writing, to life as it is lived, to his ancestors, to life’s countless losses. A calm contemplation prevails, in harmony with the environment. The events are described under the conception of a stable world through which beings pass as part of an endless cycle. The book creates a journey between short prose and aphorism. Its meticulous work with the word is consistent with a fidelity to both seeing and listening.
Carmen Verde Arocha: Magdalena en Ginebra, la concubina y otras voces de fuego
“Carmen Verde Arocha’s poetic oeuvre has become one of the most substantive of her generation. She puts forth a theme that reconciles with her self, after unsettling and transcending immediacy. Her words possess the awareness that the path to beauty is full of muddy lands and blurred horizons. Therein, perhaps, lies her faith in the senses, her lucidity seeks other certainties, those of a voice that proclaims itself unique, and she fights the bewilderment of inner voices to cling to reality with unusual courage. Intense, risky, personal—such is this offering from Carmen Verde Arocha, who brings us her verses to share her inner confusion and the ever-burning fire of that light that dwells in longing, madness, memory and erotic play; essentially, strength sneaks through her words. She is naked of rhetoric, she envelopes us with her alchemy and her enlightened gestures.” – Gregory Zambrano
Francisco Véjar: Manuscrito encontrado en mi bolsillo
Manuscrito encontrado en mi bolsillo (Pequeño Dios Editores, 2022), is a collection of poetry I put together during the long pandemic period while residing in Quintay, a Chilean resort located in the south of Valparaíso. There, between a view of the sea waves and long walks through the forest, near the beaches, the outline of the book emerged. The poems are entirely autobiographical and are in conversation with Chilean poetry, and that of other latitudes. Although I start with a tribute to my father in “Arte poética,” the texts then take another direction. For example, there is the presence of the Metro in the city, but far from Pound’s imprint, when he says in his famous poem “In a Station of the Metro”: “The apparition of these faces in the crowd: / Petals on a wet, black bough.” I’m not saying mine is opposed to old Ezra’s poem, but rather that it makes its own proposition when it says in “El último metro”: “The train doors open, / the train doors close. / Some enter and others leave. / Such is life.” Along the same lines, there are allusions to jazz, love, the ocean, and the pandemic. The latter is seen as “an apocalypse in progress.”
Flavio Fiorani: Habitar la distancia: Ficciones latinoamericanas sobre el judaísmo
Moacyr Scliar, Cynthia Rimsky, Sergio Chejfec, Eduardo Halfon, and Santiago Amigorena make up a kaleidoscopic group of authors who explore Judaism from perspectives of dislocation and nomadism. Their (auto)exilic condition informs literary creation, and the work of writing and thought can reveal distance from the word itself as well as the difficulty of renewing received origins. In this way, the (auto)biographical fictions that try to shed light on a traumatic and silenced past combine family dissonance with genealogical attachment, with writing as an act of translation that combines the diasporic condition with linguistic and cultural contamination. For transnational authors who inhabit a space with diffuse borders, being Jewish is a problem that goes beyond one’s roots: it is a threshold that hybridizes the familiar with the strange, a field of tension between what is one’s own and what is others’, a way of belonging in unbelonging.
Martha Bátiz: No Stars in the Sky
The nineteen stories of No Stars in the Sky feature strong but damaged female characters in crisis. Tormented by personal conflicts and oppressive regimes that treat the female body like a trophy of war, the women in No Stars in the Sky face life-altering circumstances that either shatter or make them stronger, albeit at a very high price. Bátiz shines a light on the crises that concern her most: the plight of migrant children along the Mexico–U.S. border, the tragedy of the disappeared in Mexico and Argentina, and the generalized racial and domestic violence that has turned life into a constant struggle for survival. With an unflinching hand, Bátiz explores the breadth of the human condition to expose silent tragedies too often ignored.
Ethel Batista and David Álvarez: Mujer pájara
The bird woman is born, grows, and lives. She is full of fear, but sometimes she sings, while she spends her day in a cage. One day, the cat jumps on the cage and breaks it, and that is when the bird woman leaves her prison and flies; although they want to catch her, she flies to free herself while everything else falls apart. This picture book is a powerful feminist metaphor for women’s oppression and liberation; the universality of the illustrations, by Mexican artist David Álvarez, masterfully complements and interprets the text by Argentine author Ethel Batista.
Luciano Martínez, ed.: Pedro Lemebel, belleza indómita
The twenty essays gathered in this book are clearly anchored in Chile, in terms of both reading practice––the imperative need to read Lemebel within the social, cultural, and political contexts within which he developed his work––as well as in relation to the origin of many of its collaborators. As can be seen in the different ways of writing about and from Lemebel, or being in Lemebel, as Carmen Berenguer would say, the editor was interested in encouraging a diversity of views, creating a space for conversation that prevents Lemebel from falling into any “dominant pedagogy” that could generate an eccentric or exotic image of his figure and his work.
The participation of renowned writers and poets––Carmen Berenguer, Eduardo Espina, Juan Pablo Sutherland, and Alejandro Modarelli––gives this book a plural nature that removes the essentialism and monotony of the academic book, allowing it to be hybridized in a register akin to that of creative writing. In this sense, these texts themselves are nourished by Lemebel’s “neobarrocho,” as Soledad Bianchi would say, or “Lemebel’s popular baroque,” according to Juan Poblete.
Reynaldo Pérez Só: Redacción
“Any first person could be recovered from the second, from the imagination of memory, as long as they are committed to not letting it be articulated with longings due to helplessness, anguish, and the ruin of a sour adulthood that thinks too much, that does not ask but answers, dictates, uses adjectivally, and lectures, that is afflicted by finitude and thus overdetermines things, finishing off its own experience. If it is possible to wash away that return of sight with tears, if it is possible to approach that accumulation of impressions free of rhyme, mourning, and daydreaming, such an effort will be of no little benefit. Bodies, objects, and their forms will be the same: light and darkness, the sea, mountains and hills, uncovered land, animals, insects and plants, fire and cold, exposure to the stars and elements; then, one and in movement, they unfold into others, the singular becomes plural in men and women, young and old, their jobs and their days, the affections that awaken us: joy, sadness, and desire; and already among them, time, loneliness, and death. Such are the plots generously treated by Reynaldo Pérez Só in this Redacción.” – César Panza
Andrea Chapela: The Visible Unseen, tr. Kelsi Vanada
In powerful, formally inventive essays, The Visible Unseen disrupts the purported cultural divide between arts and science. As both a chemist and an award-winning author, Chapela zeros in on the literary metaphors buried in the facts and figures of her scientific observations. Through questioning scientific conundrums that lie beyond the limits of human perception, she winds up putting herself under the microscope as well.
While considering the technical definition of glass as a liquid or a solid, Chapela stumbles upon a framework for understanding the in-between-ness of her own life. Turning her focus toward mirrors, she finds metaphors for our cultural obsessions with self-image in the physics and chemistry of reflection. And as she compiles a history of the scientific study of light, she comes to her final conclusion: that the purpose of description—be it scientific or literary—can never be to define reality, only to confirm our perception of it. Lyrical, introspective, and methodical, The Visible Unseen constructs a startling new perspective from which to examine ourselves and the ways we create meaning.