Weekly Dispatches from the Frontlines of World Literature

Your arts and culture update from Mexico, Ecuador, and Romania

It’s been a big week in literature around the world, with major awards, book fairs, and new publications vying for media attention in a particularly crowded news cycle. But the book world keeps turning even when it seems like everything else has come to a standstill. Blog Editor Madeline Jones reports from south of the border in Mexico, Editor-at Large MARGENTO gives us the update on Romania, and Contributor George Kirkum checks in from Ecuador.

Madeline Jones, Blog Editor, brings the literary update from Mexico:

Hundreds of Mexican artists have been mocking the President Elect of the United States, Donald Trump, by way of political cartoons. Now that he’s clinched the elections, the value of the peso has plummeted and Mexicans on both sides of the border are speaking out about their disapproval of Trump’s platform as well as their own fears for the future. Poet, novelist, and activist Javier Sicilia told El Universal, “This man unified fragments of fascism that were scattered throughout North America. And he’s creating proposals for destruction…it doesn’t matter if Trump wins, the theme is systemic.”* Well-known Mexican author and historian Enrique Krauze’s op-ed in The New York Times also captures the sentiments of many, in Hank Heifetz’s translation from the Spanish.

Eduardo Lizalde, who is recognized as one of the most important living poets in the Spanish-speaking world, was awarded the Premio Internacional Carlos Fuentes a la Creación Literaria en el Idioma Español this week. The judges said that his collection El tigre en la casa [The Tiger in the House] is “one of the most influential and poignant books in several generations.”*

2017 marks the 40th anniversary of the reopening of diplomatic relations between Mexico and Spain after the Franco regime ended. Last week, the organization la Cátedra México-España, which was founded with the purpose of studying and fomenting the historical, cultural, and linguistic links between the two nations, celebrated its tenth year. Attendants at the anniversary conference noted that the international relationship is still in its “honey moon” phase and the first ten years of the organization’s work have seen significant academic collaboration across the Atlantic.

Pedro Tabernero has edited a new collection of Octavio Paz’s poems written during the years he lived in India, illustrated by Vicente Rojo to “recreate the atmosphere of the feelings and sensations of Paz’s verses and pay homage to the Mexican Nobel winner,” according to Elías Camhaji of El País.* Tabernero wanted Ladera Este to be about Mexico, but chose to focus on the poetry of Paz because of the period he spent as an ambassador in Delhi, grounding the work in a specific geographic location. The book is the most recent in the series “Poets and Cities,” which also includes a collection of Lorca’s New York poems and Borges’s work in Buenos Aires, among others. While many of the poems from these collections have already been translated into English (and many other languages) in various collections and anthologies, we can hope such beautifully illustrated and immersive editions will make their way into English, as well.

And from November 28-30, don’t miss the Guadalajara International Book Festival! This will be its 30th year as one of the most important literary events in the world, but particularly for Latin America. The program includes professional workshops, book talks, award presentations, and even special events for science writing. Hopefully the event will prove to be a refreshing and inspiring getaway at the end of a tumultuous month.

*Madeline Jones’s translation from the Spanish

MARGENTO, Editor-at-Large for Romania & Moldova comes to us from Romania:

The third edition of the Performance Poetry Festival in Craiova on November 10–13 gives top billing these days to quite a number of established and emerging Romanian and international performers, poets, and musicians alike, while also offering a rich line-up of workshops. In a year that has been marked by countless publications and events celebrating the centennial anniversary of DADA and European avant-gardes in general—Tristan Tzara was Romanian, as was Gellu Naum—the festival combines dernier cri experimentation with Dadaist revisitings. Past Asymptote blog contributor Felix Nicolau, for instance, is giving both an improvisation workshop and a politically informed multimedia performance, after having recently published an article on DADA and syncretic performance in the journal Caietele avangardei—The Avant-garde Notebooks. Literary theorist, performer, and kinetic digital and visual poetry pioneer Iulia Militaru is doing a “White Screen” performance, and poet Peter Sragher is focusing both his workshop and performance on DADA and Tzara.

This is only days before the Gaudeamus Book Fair in Bucharest, which will bring about even more avant-garde and performance related releases, among them the legendary Romanian-French Surrealist Gherasim Luca’s Passive Vampire. The first Romanian edition of Ilarie Voronca’s suicidal journal will be launched, a text in which the surrealist poet has articulated the scenario of his own death, to become reality soon after the completion of the manuscript. Romanian-born French founder of Letterism Isidore Isou’s Youth Uprising comes out in Romanian translation, as well as a series of publications and events edited or curated by outstanding avant-garde critics, experts, or curators such as Ion Pop, Simona Popescu, Dan Gulea, Petre Răileanu, Nicolae Tzone, Petrisor Militaru, Igor Mocanu, and many others.  So stay tuned for more about what Ilya Kaminsky of Poetry International has recently named “the strongest poetic tradition in Eastern Europe”—the work of new Romanian poets and the contemporary Romanian literary scene.

George Kirkham, an alumnus of La Universidad San Francisco de Quito, covers Ecuador:

After hosting Habitat III, the UN conference on sustainable city development in October, Ecuador’s literature takes the global stage with the ninth annual Feria Internacional del Libro running from the November 11–19 in Quito. The fair will take place at La Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana, and although the Ministry of Culture has yet to announce the full list of speakers, Cuba has been confirmed as the guest nation of honour.

As part of the fair, Guayaquileño author Adolfo Macías will be presenting his latest novel, Las niñas, at the Fondo de Cultura Económica Ecuador on November 16 . Drawing from the author’s background in psychotherapy, Las niñas explores themes of memory and trauma through the perspectives of multiple characters. Recognised as one of Ecuador’s great living writers, Macías was awarded the Joaquín Gallegos Lara National Fiction Prize in 2010 for his collection El grito del hada.

Although Halloween may have passed, the Quito-based journal El Fakir has ensured that the horror can continue into November with the publication of the anthology Terror Ecuatoriano: Volumen I from Fakir Editions. Interestingly, the collection contains literary works alongside historical texts, challenging the conventions of the genre. Short stories from writers like Juan Montalvo and Laura Pérez de Oleas Zambrano as well as chilling texts from notable historical figures such as Father Juan de Velasco and Toribio de Ortiguera are included. There’s also an introduction from founding member of El Fakir, Álvaro Alemán, while the anthology’s macabre cover was designed by Ecuadorian artist Carlos Villarreal Kwasek.


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