South American Fiction: 2019 National Book Festival

South American Fiction: 2019 National Book Festival


>>Suzanne Schadl:
Good afternoon. Thank you all for being here. You’re very important to
this process, and we’re going to make sure that you have
plenty of time to ask questions. I’d like to leave at least
15, maybe 20 minutes, so everyone in the audience will
have a chance to ask questions. I’d like to start by
thanking our interpreter. That is also a very
important job, and we’re very grateful
that you’re here. [ Applause ] My name is Suzanne Schadl. I have the great fortune
of being the chief in the Hispanic division
at the Library of Congress, and in that division, we
get to make recommendations for purchases in the Library. A lot of people don’t know
that we have the very books that we’re going to be talking
about today in our reading room, and that we serve those
books in our reading room. And I would invite all of you
to come and read those books, as well as a number of others that our authors here have
written, and in addition to the books, we have some very
accomplished writers sitting here on this stage. They are journalists. They are novelists. They are short-story writers. They are blog writers. They’ve done all kinds of
work, and we have other work in the Library of Congress, too. And I’d like to invite
you to enjoy their work in that context as well. So you can tell that
I’m very nervous. The lights are blinding,
and I’m sure that our authors
are also nervous. And one thing that I do so
that I don’t get too terribly nervous, or you can’t see
my hands shaking [laughter], is that — and you see, my
hands are shaking so hard that it isn’t working the way
it’s supposed to [laughter]. So I tend to take my notes
and put them on my telephone so I can clandestinely
look at it, and that’s not working
for us right now. So there you have it. It’s always good to say
you’re a little bit nervous, and then we can get
into the discussion. So I’d like to start
real quickly by introducing our
distinguished panelists. I know many of you in the audience already
know these women, and already know their work,
but some of you may not. And I want to say that it
is a real privilege for me to be here talking with them. As you know from the title of
this conversation, we’re talking to two South American authors,
and I hope we’ll get a chance to talk about that
classification. I’m a librarian. I love to talk about
classifications [laughter]. Liliana Corlanzi
is from Bolivia, and Melba Escobar
is from Colombia. They are incredibly
different authors, working in very different
contexts, and it is a privilege for all of us today to have the
opportunity to hear a little bit about — about their
work, but also to hear from them speaking their
work, and telling us why that work is important. So I’m going to facilitate
the conversation. My job is to get you all
excited about these authors and about these books so
you can ask questions. So let me just say a few words
about each of our writers. Liliana Colanzi,
here, is, of course, I just said, a Bolivian writer. She’s an editor, and a
journalist, and an educator at Cornell University. She also describes
herself on Twitter as a paranormal researcher, and
in 2015, she was the recipient of the Aura Estrada Prize, which
honors aspiring women writers under 35 writing in
Spanish and living in Mexico or the United States. Melba Escobar, as I said,
is a Colombian writer, also journalist,
book enthusiast, from her Twitter page, and her
crime, “Casa della bellezza,” which we’re going to be
talking about today — see, I’m already
tripping over my words — was chosen for the
Best Books of 2016 by the Colombian
National Novel Prize. So we are, as I said,
very privileged to have two writers
coming from South America who are not only
stars, but rising stars. We expect to see a
lot in the future, so this is a really
great opportunity to see some great writers
who are starting out, who are in the field, and doing
some wonderful work already. I often find these biographical
notes a little frustrating, because if you notice, they
end up getting repeated over and over and over. And if any of you have written
biographical notes — you too — you know sometimes it’s the
last thing that you really think about right before
you’re going somewhere. And after you’ve done
it, you think, oh, I wish I would’ve said this. So I’d like to start
with a question. Is there something
about yourself, or about your experiences — I
like to use the plural here — that you’d like to
share with the audience? We’ll start with Liliana. We’re just going to —
alphabetically, with Colanzi and Escobar [laughter].>>Liliana Corlanzi: Well,
thanks, Suzanne, Melba, and thanks everybody
for being here. Actually, you have started with the most difficult
question [laughter]. What can we say about
ourselves that we deem important for the others to know? I don’t know. Well, this is my first
time in Washington, and people advised
me to go yesterday to the National Air
and Space Museum. So I did. I was amazed by the
fact that it is free [laughter], because I come from New York. And you have to pay
there for all museums. Anyway, I was very interested
in seeing the recreation of the spaceship that
went to the moon, because I felt a
connection with what I do, which is science fiction. That is one of the things I’m
interested on, and actually, one of the short stories
that I wrote, actually, the one that gives the title
to my book, “Our Dead World,” is about a girl who
goes to Mars, actually, who is on an expedition to Mars, one of the first
colonizers to Mars. And I was drawn to writing this
story by a newspaper article about a Bolivian girl, some
years ago, who was selected to be on the first
expedition to Mars that apparently is
taking place in 10 years. The project was called Mars One. I don’t know if some of you have
heard about it, but apparently, it’s going to take 20 people to
Mars to build a colony there. And this girl was only 18
years old when she was chosen. She gave a number of interviews
in — for the Bolivian press, and I was amazed by the fact
that she said that, well, of course, she love her family. But she would give up all her
loved beings and all her life on Earth in order
to achieve something that was more important,
to discover another world, to be part of one of the
greatest adventures of humanity. So that radical idea appeal
so much to me for once, because I feel — well, I
live in a very tiny town in upstate New York which
is called Ithaca [laughter], which has incredibly
long winters. Winters are very harsh also, and
they can last for six months. So at some times,
I felt like this — I don’t know, this
person in another world, trying to survive this
incredibly hostile conditions [laughter]. So my idea was to imagine how or what a radically different
environment could do to the mind of someone, and that’s
what trigger the atmosphere of part of my short stories. But yeah, that’s something that
I wanted to share with you, because as I went in the
National Air and Space Museum, like, I was amazed by
basically all the collection. And, you know — and to think
that America was actually one of the first countries
to put, like, human beings outside our planet,
and that’s quite amazing.>>Suzanne Schadl: All right. So somebody — somebody
knew your work when they –>>Liliana Corlanzi:
[Laughter] Yeah.>>Suzanne Schadl:
— that’s great. Thank you. You made it look easy, didn’t look like a
difficult question at all. Melba?>>Melba Escobar:
Okay, hello, everyone. This is my first time in this
book fair, book festival. Okay, first of all, as you just
heard, my name is Melba Escobar, and I normally don’t have
to spell my last name. You probably know
why [laughter]. It is funny now. It wasn’t that funny
when I [laughter] — when I wanted to travel
somewhere, anywhere, with, like, Melba Escobar, born
in Cali, Colombia. It was like, really? Is this a joke [laughter]? And I don’t have the best
memories of traveling around Europe, and being
extremely — how you say that? Searched, exactly, by police. But I have to say that now,
it has a different symbolism for me, being here,
and having — feeling that I’m also
representing something of Colombia that is also
Escobar, but that has nothing to do with Pablo Escobar
[laughter] or with Narcos, or anything like that. It’s the only things
they talk to you about. Also, the famous old
joke, like — really? Was he your uncle [laughter]? And I would say,
really, no, I — probably, I would be
living a different life, and we’re [laughter] — wouldn’t
be so worried about trying to sell books [laughter]. But that’s one thing
I wanted to tell you, and the other thing is, I — when I arrived yesterday
from Bogota, Colombia to the Dulles Airport,
I — and I called for an Uber. And the man who picked
me up was called Mufasa, maybe — no, I don’t know. It was a difficult name for me,
and he said he was from Iraq. And what happened is that, in
Colombia, where it’s illegal — so we have to sit in the front,
because it’s a way of simulating that you are not a
passenger, but you are just with someone going
somewhere [laughter]. They are all like normal cars. They have nothing
different, and you just — I don’t know, act
like we’re friends. If the people stops you,
it’s like, we’re friends. What’s the matter [laughter]? So when the car got there, I
just opened the front door, and he was like,
okay [laughter]. And I sat next to him, and
he was kind of surprised. But he didn’t say anything. I just — later on, I realized
like, oh, maybe I should’ve sat in the back [laughter]. But then he started
talking a lot, and he was, like, happy, you know. And then, he said that
I was someone special. I guess he said that because
I sat in the front [laughter]. But then I said, okay,
and probably you say this to every single person
that comes here, and that’s why you have
a grade 4.9 [laughter]. And he said, no, it’s not funny. I really mean it. You’re someone special,
because here, everyone — and there are no — because he
said, “Why are you here for/” And I said, “I’m a writer.” And he said, “That’s
already something special.” I said, “But you don’t
know what I write. Maybe I write something
awful, or write very bad. What do you know?” He said, “No, no, no, the
only idea to write a book is, you have to have
something special.” And I said, “Okay, I’m glad now. I feel better now in my life,”
and in the end, what he said — I asked him that — I asked
him if he miss his country. And he said, “My country is
wherever my civil rights can be guaranteed. So right now, this is my
country,” and that’s the story.>>Suzanne Schadl: Wow. [ Applause ] Well, you get a very great
introduction of two people who are observing and thinking
through their experience of the world around
them in their writing, and you certainly get
that in the two books that we’re looking
at here today. “Nuestro Mundo Muerto,” which
has been translated by the — translated into “Our Dead
World” by Jessica Sequeira. That’s the — and “La Casa
della bellezza,” and “House of Beauty,” translated by –>>Melba Escobar:
Elizabeth Bryer.>>Suzanne Schadl:
— Elizabeth Bryer in London by Fourth Estate. I thought that it would be
very interesting to start with you hearing the authors’
voices from what they choose in their book, instead of me
kind of going through pieces that I find interesting. And part of that is me
meeting these two authors for the first time, and
thinking, wow, we have very — we have very different
texts here, and trying to find a thread
that isn’t South America, that isn’t two women writing, that isn’t about analyzing
the human experience in different ways would
be really difficult. So I would like to start by
asking them to do something we like to do in the
Hispanic division, and both of them have agreed
to do it for posterity’s sake. And that is read
from their works so that we can all hear those. I’ve suggested that they could
read in Spanish or English. I hope most of the audience
will not have any problem with Spanish. We’ll be asking questions
and delving a little bit more into those portions that
they read in English. I’m leaving it up to them,
though, because I would like for you to hear their
voices and their works. So –>>Liliana Corlanzi:
Should I start, or Melba?>>Suzanne Schadl:
— I don’t know. Should we go back and forth? What do you think?>>Melba Escobar:
Whatever you prefer. I start?>>Liliana Corlanzi:
Yeah, you can start.>>Melba Escobar: I
will read in English, because I have never read
it in English, I think. So [laughter] let’s try it now. “I hate artificial nails
and outlandish colors, fake blonde hair, cold silk
blouses, and diamond earrings at 4:00 in the afternoon. Never before have so many
women looked like transvestites or like prostitutes
dressing up as good wives. I hate the perfume they
drench themselves in, these women as powdered as
cockroaches in a bakery. What’s worse, it
makes me sneeze. And don’t get me started
on their accessories, those smartphones swaddled
in infantile cases, in — and covered with sequins,
imitation gemstones, and ridiculous designs. I hate everything
this waxed-eye browed, non-biodegradable
woman represent. I hate their shrill,
affected voices. They’re like dolls for four-year-old little drug
dealer — into plastic bodies, and stiff as the
muscles on a man. It’s very confusing. This macho girl-woman
disturb me, overwhelm me, force me to dwell on all that’s
broken and growing in a country like this, where a
woman’s worth is determined by how ample her
buttocks and breasts are, how slender her waist. I’d hate the stunted men, too,
reduced to primitive versions of themselves, always
looking for a female to mount, to exhibit like a trophy,
to trade in or show off as a status symbol among
fellow Neanderthals. But just as I hate this
mafioso world, which, for the past 20 years or so, has
dominated the taste and behavior of thugs, politicians,
businessmen, and almost anyone who has the slightest connection
to power in this country, I also hate the ladies
of Bogota, among whom I count myself, though I do all I
can to stand apart.” [ Applause ]>>Liliana Corlanzi: And I’m
going to read the first pages of my short story, “The Wave.” “The wave returned during one of the fiercest winters
on the east coast. That year, seven
students committed suicide between November and April. Four threw themselves
into the gorges from the bridges of Ithaca. The rest turned to the
blurry dreams of drugs. It was my second
year at Cornell, and there were still
three or four years to go, maybe five or six. What did it matter? In Ithaca, all dates
merge into the same day. The wave always arrive in the
same way — without warning. Couples fought. Psychopaths waited
in the alleyways. The youngest students
let themselves be dragged down by voices that whisper
spirals in their ears. What do they say? ‘You’ll never be good
enough for this place. You’ll be the shame of your
family,’ that kind of thing. The city was possessed
by a strange vibration. In the mornings, I would
put on astronaut boots to go shovel the snow pilling up
like one castle above another, so the mailman could
reach my door. From my porch, I could see
the wave embracing the city with its long, pale arms. The whiteness refracted all
visions, amplifying the voices of the dead and the tracks of deer migrating toward the
false safety of the forest. The old dream had returned to
visit me on several nights — images of hell I won’t
say a word more about. I cried every day. I couldn’t weep, couldn’t write. I could hardly get out of bed. The wave had arrived, and I, who had spent the last few
years going from one country to another fleeing from it,
as if it were possible to hide from its icy embrace,
stopped in front of the mirror to remind myself
for the last time that reality is a
reflection in the glass, and not what hides behind it. This is me, I told myself. I am still on this side of
things, refining my senses, only overwhelmed by the
imminent feeling of something that I’ve lived through
many times before. And I sat down to wait. ‘Do you feel anything
out of the ordinary?’ asked the doctor from the
university health system tasked with recording the
persistence of melancholy in the student population. ‘I don’t know what you’re
talking about,’ I say. That morning, the
shrillness of thousands of terrified birds
flying over the roof of my house had woken me. How they scream —
when I arrive — when I run outside
to look at them, shivering in my damp sleepers,
all that remained were fine, ash-gray spirals
mottling the snow. The wave had taken them, too. But how could I tell the
others about the wave? At Cornell, nobody
believes in anything. Many hours are wasted discussing
ideas, theorizing ethics and stethics, spit-walking to
avoid the flash of other looks, organizing symposiums
and colloquiums, but people wouldn’t recognize an
angel if it blew in their faces. That’s how things are. The wave arrives and come
to us at night, on tip-toe, and sweeps away seven students,
and all the doctors can think to do is fill your pockets with
trazodone, or give you a lamp with ultraviolet light.” Thank you. [ Applause ]>>Suzanne Schadl: Now I’m
going to ask questions, and maybe talk separately,
individually, and then try to bring us all together. So in Melba’s case, you
got the first couple of — you got the first couple of
pages, which, you might guess from the title, is set in a
beauty shop, where all kinds of wonderful services are
offered, ranging from hair, makeup, nails, massage,
so forth, to therapy. So I think you have
described this book elsewhere as a psychological thriller,
and I think that’s what it is. It is a psychological thriller, and from the beauty
shop, the story emerges. And we follow the lives of
many, many women who come into the beauty shop,
and who interact with perhaps the most
enigmatic staff member there, who gets embroiled in a
story with some of the — well, with one of the other
— two of the other customers, I guess, maybe several. So I wonder if — I wonder if
you could talk a little bit about why those first couple
of pages have impact for you. Why is it important to sort of
set up that narrator in response to the women that are –>>Melba Escobar: I think it is
very difficult to be Colombian, and I believe that, at the same
time, it’s kind of a passion that I have never been
able to escape from. My mother is from Spain,
and a lot of my family lives in Europe, and also my sisters. And I have moved into different
places in different moments of my life, but I always go
back to Bogota, Colombia. And somehow, I feel that
there’s a very strong — like adrenaline that you
live in the everyday life. It’s like a strong drug that
you get addicted to, and also, there are many things
that I love of my country. I believe that most of the everyday-life
things are difficult to do, even to get into a bus, and
not to get robbed in the bus, and arrive to the other
side of the city in less than two hours or three. So everything is a
challenge, is so challenging, that you can get
somehow addicted to that. At the same time, when
I lived in Barcelona, and when I came back to
Colombia, and to Bogota, I felt so alienated, and
somehow, I believe “House of Beauty” was my own therapy,
my own way of trying to work out all this hate that
is in the first pages, and how it made me feel a
strong conflict about it. I think that, in order to have
such strong feelings to a place, you have to love it, of course. Because otherwise, it would
just be indifferent to you. So I guess if there is so much
hate, it’s because there’s a lot of love, of course,
in this case. I wanted to process all
that, and so, I was looking for a story where I could try
to process all the rage I felt for corruption, and
the mafioso culture, and also this strong
patriarchal — I don’t know how you say in
English — yes, machismo. And somehow, this world of
woman that happens in “House of Beauty” let me
— let me do that, because when I was
little, I grew up in Cali. And I grew up in
a world of woman. My father had four sisters, and
we were all day in the house. No one of them was married. No one of them worked. They did nothing. They just told stories the whole
day long, and amazing stories. So it was paradise for me, because I was there
always listening to the most absurd
things you can imagine. Because they were extremely
religious, but at the same time, they could be, like, satanic
or something [laughter]. So it was — all day, I was
there, and capturing all this. And when I was eight,
we moved to Bogota, and it was very tough, because
I left this world of this woman that gave me everything,
that feed me somehow. So I have always felt that woman and stories for me
are one thing. It’s like a privacy,
also intimacy. I feel that for us women
is here to get to a private and intimate level
in a conversation, and I feel that’s really strong,
and something that I appreciate and love a lot of — so
in “House of Beauty,” what you find is a lot of women
that are dealing with a lot of stuff in their
lives, and somehow, that is also very Colombian. If I’m not wrong,
Colombia is the place with more beauty salons by
meter, or something like that. It’s crazy. You will find — I don’t know
how many, but every two blocks, there is a beauty salon. And I think it’s also because
women go there to talk, especially to talk, while
they’re having some excuse. Like, I’m going to
make my nails, but that’s really
not about that.>>Suzanne Schadl: — thank you. Liliana? So that’s a piece
of several short stories, and in that particular
piece, I — one of the things that’s
very interesting to me is that you sort of
play a little bit with the perception
of the reader. So even in the title,
“The Wave,” maybe some of our readers here
are expecting that they’re reading
a Bolivian writer, so they’re associating the
wave with South America. And they’re not going to
think of a wave of suicides, or the oppressive
cold of Ithaca, or the way that a medical system
is dealing with depression and pressure in a university. They’re maybe looking
for something else. So there’s always
this sort of — you play with these kind
of tensions of the writer, and the expectation, I think. And I wonder if you could —
if you could talk a little bit about how you develop that kind
of tension in a short story, which happens that fast.>>Liliana Corlanzi:
Well, as you know, Bolivia is a landlocked
country, so, like, when you talk about the wave, you think
about the sea, right? So it can also be a
little bit misguiding. But I don’t know — even though “Our Dead World” has short
stories that are set, for instance, on Mars,
or in upstate New York, I feel like my — of course, all the stories have a very deep
connection to certain things that go back to Latin America,
like the idea of colonization. Like, most of the stories deal
with this topic, but also, all the short stories are
mediated by my experience as an immigrant in
the United States. And of course, all my
experience — it is also — it comes from upstate New York,
and from Cornell University, and when I arrived
to Ithaca in 2010, as I read from the short story, it had just happened
— a wave of suicides. I don’t know if you remember,
or you read that on the news, but five or six students had
just jumped from the bridges into the gorges that — those magnificent gorges
that surround Ithaca. So when my situation as a grad
student there was influenced by this kind of atmosphere
of gloom, that was part of the environment there. And it was interesting,
because at the same time, the university was
doing a lot of things to cheer us up [laughter]. Like those year, we
got lots of free gigs and concerts, for instance. Bob Dylan was there giving
a gig for free, also MIA, and a lot of other
artists, but we all knew that something very tragic
had just happened, you know. And that paired up with a
long winter can do to — something to your
feelings, also. At that time, I was
undergoing a period of insomnia also triggered by
some personal circumstances, and by the intensity of
the graduate program. So when I went to the health
service at the university, I was prescribed anxiolytics, and I was hooked to
them for a while. So to me, what was also part of my graduate student
experience was the medicalization of, for instance,
sadness or anxiety, you know, as a part of coping
with competitiveness. So then, I had to,
like, basically detox from anxiolytics, which gave me
this proximity to the experience of madness, you know [laughter],
which, at the same time, was the atmosphere that it
is into my short stories. I consider this book, “Our
Dead World,” a book on ghosts, you know, all sort of
ghosts — ghosts of history, and also ghosts of
traumatic experiences. So that — all that is linked
to my first years in Ithaca, and as you well mentioned,
there is also a kind of medication about, you
know, how, in this society, we deal with more structural
problems in ways that, in a way, are blamed on the
individual, right? Because probably, there is
something a bit sick on how, like, we try to overexert
ourselves to achieve an idea of success. And if you cannot achieve
that, then you need medication in order to be good
enough for that.>>Suzanne Schadl:
Thank you so much. Time goes way too fast. I’m going to yield my
strange librarian questions, because we have a little time. And I’d like to open it
up to this huge audience. You’ll see that there
are microphones sort of on either side. If you have questions
for both of our authors, or either of our authors,
please take a microphone.>>I have a question
for Liliana. I’ve been to La Paz
a couple of times. I really like it. It’s an absolutely
fascinating city. My question is, I’d like
to hear a little bit more about your interest in
paranormal investigation.>>Liliana Corlanzi: Thank you. Well, I’m not from La Paz. I’m from Santa Cruz, but I love
La Paz, because I think of it as a very Martian city,
actually [laughter]. If you have been
to La Paz you know that there is this very arid
landscape, but at the same time, you have the [foreign
language] — I don’t know how to
say that in English. But you get this amazing view
of the city, this brown city, you know, from —
basically from the air. I have always been interested on
the ways in which our experience of reality starts
disintegrating, right? So that’s where my paranormal
researcher thing comes from. That’s also why I’m into science
fiction, and that’s also why I like the Latin-American
fantastic. Because we all live, like, in
a consensus of what reality is, but that consensus is something
that we fabricate in order to be able to survive. But that also is very fragile. In my experience, a period of
insomnia, a period of stress, taking any kind of drug, even
getting too much into religions, you know, having a mystical
experience or something like that, can alter the way
in which we experience reality. And that’s what I was interested in exploring in my
short stories. Also how we deal with
the idea of death, which can be something very
— I wouldn’t say paranormal, but very fantastic in — at one
moment, you are in the world, and in another — in another
moment, you don’t exist. And the same with all
the people you love, and with all the
people you know. So to me, there is nothing
more mysterious than that, the idea of death,
and I was interested in exploring how we
deal with that idea, which can be overwhelming, and
also we relate with a whole lot of things that we don’t know. Including the fact that there
can be life in another planet in ways in which we
cannot even conceive, because we don’t have the
senses to apprehend that. And the relationship
with time and the stars, the way in which we are so tiny
that our lifespan means nothing to the history of the
universe, for instance.>>Suzanne Schadl: Do one of
you have a question of Melba?>>Yeah, I — well,
for both, but –>>Suzanne Schadl: Okay, okay.>>– so I never heard of
you guys until I walked into the room just now
[laughter], so — but I’m — and my formative
years, as far as — especially with Latin-American
literature — I was a Spanish major,
was Cortesar, Garcia-Marcus [assumed
spellings]. And I’m listening to you,
and, you know, you’re growing up in Macondo [assumed
spelling], pretty much, and you’re sort of talking about
Casa Tomata [assumed spelling], or some — you know, a —
Marv Cortesar short stories, the fantastic that
you just alluded to. So I guess, part observation,
part question, is — so here’s the thread, you know,
from the previous generation to you guys, coming out of Latin-American
experience and literature. How do you see that connection
applying to your work, and to your development
as writers? [Laughter] Piece of
cake, I know [laughter].>>Melba Escobar: I
don’t know [laughter]. Yes, I guess a lot of
things have happened since that generation of the
boom of Latin-American authors, and I think that because many
of these authors were so huge — are still, of course,
huge, my generation tried to make distance with them,
take a distance and say, ‘”Okay, no one ever — will ever
try to repeat anything like Garcia-Marcus did. It’s impossible.” That’s why he is who he is, because it’s impossible
to imitate. So it’s like a chapter he — on his own is a chapter
in literature. It’s the end of that. So it’s difficult, because it’s
like trying to kill your father, and sometimes you would like
to be like him, but you have to accept that you cannot. And so, I think, in my case,
I speak only for myself, because I don’t have an
academic history like Liliana. I haven’t been studying
in universities, and not in such good
universities as she has studied
and worked on. So I have been more eating from
everywhere, and I read a lot of American literature,
actually, in my ’90s. And then, I came back to
Latin-American literature, but I tried to find myself
in a much more diverse and multicultural
world, also drinking from TV, movies, series. I think to be a writer
today means also to have — to nourish yourself from plenty
of different waters and food.>>Liliana Corlanzi: And in
my case, I feel very at-home with the Latin-American
fantastic from countries such as Argentina and Uruguay. For instance, Latin America is
a continent in which realism — it is not the main thing. In that respect, it is very
different from the U.S., in which literary genres are
sort of a bit more marginal. But in Latin America,
no one really speak — modes such as magic realism, or the Latin-American
fantastic have been at the core of tradition. So to me, that’s quite
liberating, and I feel close to authors such as the one
that was mentioned, Cortesar, and also Sedinia Ocampo [assumed
spelling], and other authors who have done amazing
works at — working with the
limits of reality, such as Uruguayan
Harmonia Summers, or also British-Mexican Leonora
Carrington [assumed spellings]. So my relationship with
Latin-American authors, especially the ones who
deviate from realism — it is quite healthy, and I
keep a conversation either with authors who are already
dead, and also with authors who are right now
renovating our tradition, such as Samantha Shuevelin or Marian Enriquez [assumed
spellings], who work with horror and the fantastic, for instance, and who are doing
innovative things.>>Suzanne Schadl: Sir, I wonder
if I could ask you to come and ask the question
after I wrap it up, because I’m being instructed
that we are out of time. One thing that I do want to say
— thank you for being patient. One thing that I want to say,
as we are wrapping it up, is, you know, sometimes we classify
and group things together, particularly in libraries. We love to do that, and in
festivals, we love to do that, because it’s well-organized,
and it makes sense. But hopefully, you’ve
had an opportunity to see that these two authors,
whether they’re women or whether they’re people, are sort of writing very
interesting interventions with the human experience, and that human experience isn’t
confined to South America, or Bolivia, or Colombia. It is exists everywhere, anywhere that you might think
of, and as we try to sort of wrap our heads around
places that we don’t know, trying to sort of wrestle with that human experience
is a very important part of the process of writing. There’s a strong tradition
in Latin America, of course, and there are strong
traditions elsewhere. And we’re just really fortunate
to have Liliana and Melba with us today to share
their work, to share some of their ideas, to
share their experiences. So I hope you’ll join
me in thanking them for being with us today. [ Applause ]

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