Thursday, May 14, 2009

Chronicles of America Latina

Anyone paying attention to new literature can't help but be amazed by the wealth of gorgeous writing coming out of Latin America. Just looking at the last twelve months, Dominican novelist Junot Díaz won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for the Brief Wonderful Life of Oscar Wao, followed by the International Madrid Book Fair dedicated to the 19 countries of Latin America, after which was the explosive discovery of Roberto Bolaño in the United States and its global impact. Now, spring has brought a special edition of the magazine Zoetrope: All-Story dedicated to ten young Latin American story tellers. The collection features only literature - no interviews or statements from the authors, just stories in English and Spanish - along with a handful of illustrations by Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro.

The issue is not a list of the "best Latin American writers," such as Granta produces periodically for our northern hemisphere counterparts, but is rather a sampling of the wide literary diversity that populates the continent. The stories are just strange and beautiful, brutal and honest, a brave and fascinating selection of contemporary short-story writing. The excellent Latino Literature Blog La Bloga recently ran an interview with Daniel Alarcón who co-edited the issue with Diego Trelles Paz. Says Alarcón:

Latin America has changed a great deal in the four decades since the publication of One Hundred Years of Solitude...The demographic shifts that have transformed Latin America in the last forty years are stark, and art and literature reflect these massive changes. Economies have opened up, blossomed, and crashed. There is less ideology and a generalized fracturing of political parties. Meanwhile, the rise of a polarizing figure like Hugo Chávez has heightened tensions between some nations, and brought others closer together in unexpected alliances. The small town settings favored by García Márquez’s numerous imitators still exist, but you’re more likely to find young people there online, trading music files with their peers across the continent, than sitting around a tree listening to folk tales.

More about Zoetrope and the authors featured in the special Latin American issue here.

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