Weekly Dispatches from the Frontlines of World Literature

Your weekly ride around the literary universe!

This week we will bring you up to speed on what’s happening in Central America, Morocco, and Spain. José brings us the latest news from the world of independent bookstores and publishing houses that are a treat for bibliophiles in Central America. Layla too has updates about exciting literary festivals and meets in Spain which bring book lovers together. Jessie shares some sad news from Morocco which however, on an optimistic note, reminds us of the universal reach of literature. 

José García, a cultural journalist from Guatemala, covers Central America for us this week:

On June 20 in San José, Costa Rica, Uruk Editores released Bernabé Berrocal’s second novel Archosaurio (Archosaur). Fellow Costa Rican writers like Aquileo J. Echeverría Prize winner Warren Ulloa and philologist Manuela Álvarez Escobar have called Archosaurio disturbing and captivating.

In late 2016 los tres editores publishing house announced its creation in Costa Rica. On June 21 they revealed their first title, Vamos a tocar el agua (Let’s Go Touch the Water) by Luis Chaves, a celebrated author of eleven books, whose work has been translated into German and is considered one of the leading figures of contemporary in Costa Rican poetry. los tres editores is yet to announced the publication date of Chaves’s book.

Additionally, the renowned Guatemalan writer Eduardo Halfon and Guggenheim fellow—whose work has been translated into several language including English, French, and Italian—on June 22  presented his novels Pan y Cerveza (Bread and Beer) and Saturno (Saturn). These novels were originally published by Alfaguara in 2003 as a single book titled Esto no es una pipa, Saturno (This is not a pipe, Saturno), and are now separate, as the author originally intended them to be. Pan y Cerveza and Saturno were published thanks to the work of Guatemalan bookstore SOPHOS and Spanish publishing house Jekyll & Jill. Eduardo has also a new book entitled Duelo (Duel) coming out later this year.

Finally, in mid-July Antigua, Guatemala will host otra miradathe third gathering of Ibero-American independent bookstores and publishing houses. For three days writers, editors, and booksellers from Spain, Central, and South America will gather in the colonial city of Antigua. There will be readings, presentations, conferences, and many books on sale. This is a great opportunity to meet well-known authors such as Sergio Ramírez of Nicaragua, and the aforementioned Eduardo Halfon, as well as to interact with exciting independent projects like Guaymuras bookstore of Honduras and Catafixia Editores of Guatemala. This is the first time that Central America hosts otra mirada. The past editions were celebrated in Spain and Mexico.

Jessie Stoolman, Editor-at-Large, reports from Morocco:

Literary communities in Spain and Morocco were saddened to learn of Juan Goytísolo’s passing at his home in Marrakesh earlier this month.  He was laid to rest next to his fellow expatriate writer Jean Genet in Larache, Morocco.

In his most prolific phase after fleeing Franco’s dictatorship in 1956, Goytísolo published 19 novels, two books of stories, five travel books, and several essay collections. He frequently borrowed themes from the shared history of Morocco and Spain to criticize racism and Islamophobic tendencies in his home country, as is the case in Reivindicación del Conde Don Julián (1970) and Juan Sin Tierra (1975.)  Similarly, Goytísolo did not adhere to the stereotypical and problematic lifestyles of many expatriates in Morocco, as noted in the Guardian’s obituary: “He learned the demotic Arabic of the city, stood alongside its poor against the Europeanised bourgeoisie and campaigned successfully for the square to be declared a Unesco masterpiece of oral heritage.”

Continuing in the spirit of identity politics and aesthetics, the call for applications to the Youmein Festival, which will be held in Tangier from July 27-29, is still open.  Eight teams of artists (specializing in theater, music, film, visual arts, and creative writing) will be formed to produce new work dealing with the theme of “imitation” (تقليد). After a series of public “open studios” and panel discussions at locations around Tangier, the festival will culminate with “a presentation of wholly original pieces created over the course of a 48-hour period.”  This is the third edition of the festival, which is hosted by the Borderline Theatre Project and the American Language Center of Tangier, in association with DABATEATR, the Tangier-American Legation for Maghrebi Studies and ThinkTanger.

Layla Benitez-James, Podcast Editor, has the latest from Spain:

Thousands of poets and novelists braved the mid-June heat in Madrid to descend upon Retiro Park for the Feria del Libro, a huge book fair with hundreds of booths lined up along the park grounds. A literary tradition dating from 1933, the festival brings together publishing houses and writers for readings and signings with Portugal holding the honor of featured country this year. Posters, t-shirts, and tote bags sporting a little red cat with an open book for a nose were ubiquitous throughout the city and book lovers from across the country braved the crush of crowds for a chance to meet their favorite authors.

A new and exciting literary festival with Americana flavor is also in Madrid’s future. Plans are still underway, but the Unamuno Author Series, begun almost a decade ago by US poet Spencer Reese, is set to unfold into a full-fledged week-long international festival celebrating American poetry. The aim is to forge a stronger connection with Spain and its capital as they have inspired countless poets from the United States. Sights are set on 2019 or 2020 for the inaugural festival but a series of poetry readings has already been in progress and will continue up until the big kick-off. Named after Spanish poet Miguel de Unamuno, the readings take place at the Desperate Literature bookshop and the Catedral del Redentor.


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