Weekly Dispatches from the Frontlines of World Literature

Your weekly report on the latest in the world of literature.

We’re back for another exciting week of prizes, festivals and news about authors and events happening in the world of literature. Editors-at-Large on the ground in Nicaragua, Brazil and Egypt give us a run-down of the most important literary announcements from their regions. Watch this space for more news every Friday! 

José García Escobar, Editor-at-Large, reporting from Nicaragua:

Nicaragua hasn’t stopped celebrating its writers this week.

In perhaps the most important literary news from around the world, Nicaraguan writer, journalist, and politician Sergio Ramirez was announced as the latest recipient of the Miguel de Cervantes Prize, awarded annually to honor the lifetime achievement of a writer in the Spanish language. Awarded since 1976, previous recipients include Alejo Carpentier, Jorge Luis Borges, María Zambrano, Adolfo Bioy Casares, and Elena Poniatowska. Sergio became the first Central American writer to receive this distinction.

While the Cervantes Prize was still yet to be announced, the Nicaraguan poet Claribel Alegría got the prestigious Reina Sofía Prize for Iberoamerican Poetry. During the ceremony, Claribel received $49,000 and the publication of an anthology of her life’s work entitled Aunque dure un instante. 93-year old Claribel follows Sophia de Mello Breyner, Nicanor Parra, Antonio Gamoneda, and Ernesto Cardenal.

In Guatemala, F&G Editores just reissued and presented one of the most important poetry books in Guatemalan history, Vamos patria a caminar by the revolutionary poet Otto René Castillo. The book was originally published in 1965. One year later, in the early years of the Guatemalan armed conflict, Otto René returned to Guatemala after years of exile to join the guerrilla forces. In 1967 Otto René was captured, interrogated, tortured, and burned alive. To this day, Otto René Castillo remains one of the most important poets of Guatemala. His work has been praised by Luis Cardoza y Aragón, Roque Dalton, up to the newest generations of Central American poets. You can read some of his poems here.

On a final note, the Guatemalan children’s book publishing house Amanuense has released its new website after completing their move to South America. Amanuense is also finalizing the details of their participation in this year’s FIL (the Guadalajara International Book Fair), and they are days away from releasing Balam, Lluvia y la casa, the latest book of one of their champion writers, Julio Serrano Echeverría.

Lara Norgaard, Editor-at-Large, reporting from Brazil:

If October 2017 was a month for literary festivals in Brazil, November and December are award months. The ceremony for the much-awaited Jabuti Prize took place on November 24th. The prize has nearly thirty categories, ranging from standard poetry and fiction to literary criticism, translation, and reported nonfiction.

All the Jabuti results are available online, but here are some highlights that everyone should put on their reading list: Simone Brantes received the first-place poetry award, Veronica Stigger won in the short story category, and Silviano Santiago, a huge name in Brazilian fiction, won the prize for best novel with his book Machado. For readers looking for texts translated into English, Raduan Nassar’s A Cup of Rage and João Almino’s Enigmas of Spring were two winners of the award for best books published abroad.

Brazil also celebrated Black Awareness Day on November 20th. A range of Afro-Brazilian cultural events that combined music, theater, film, and literature took place during November in São Paulo, Bahia, and throughout Brazil. Especially notable was the organization Quilombhoje’s commemoration of the 40th edition of Cadernos Negros, an anthology for black Brazilian writers. The anthology, which began as a self-published pamphlet in 1978 with limited distribution, has since gained readership and notoriety as one of the only Brazilian anthologies that consistently publishes majority Afro-Brazilian writers. The event, hosted in São Paulo on November 20th, involved a panel discussion and a reading from the unique publication.

Moving into December, we have still more prizes to look forward to. The Oceanos Prize for Portuguese-Language Literature will announce winners on December 7th. This year is especially significant for the Prêmio Oceanos: for the first time, books published in any Portuguese-speaking country will be considered for the award. Among the Brazilian finalists are big names like Bernardo Carvalho and Sérgio Sant’Anna as well as emerging voices like Victor Heringer. For a more local literary prize, keep an eye out for the Paraná Prize for Literature awarded to the best authors in the southern state of Paraná. Those results will also be announced in early December 2017.

Omar El Adl, Editor-at-Large, reporting from Egypt: 

Based on Fred Moten and Stefano Harney’s book The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study, SOMA art is holding an event that draws on black radical tradition and invites six authors to take on a “marginal” position in creatively imagining Egypt after January 25th. The event will launch a publication with texts by Aya Nabih, Youssef Rakha, Mohamed Rabie, Mahmoud Atef, and Heba Sherif, and will feature a performative lecture by Mohamed Abdel Kereem. It will take place from 7 P.M. to 9:30 P.M. on November 25th. The publication is only available in Arabic. To get a copy, participants need to sign up here, due to limited numbers of copies.

A three-day seminar hosted by Idéo – Dominican Institute for Oriental Studies is going to discuss the “emergence of the Hadith as an authority of knowledge” between the 4th and 8th centuries Hijri. The seminar will run from January 11th to 13th, 2018.

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) is hosting a lecture and discussion by Omar Gamal on Nasr Hamid Abu Zeid, an Egyptian author known for his critique of religious discourse. The discussion is moderated by EIPR researcher Amr Ezzat. The event will take place on November 21st at 6 P.M.  and is open to the public.

A writing workshop in Alexandria, hosted by the Gudran Association for Art and Development, is open to those who wish to take part. The workshop is open and free to all. Its organisers stress that there is no lecturer or leader to the workshop. Each month, an established writer will be hosted as well as the screening of a film with ties to participants’ literary work. The only condition is attendance and the workshop will take place each Tuesday from 5 P.M. to 9 P.M. Interested individuals may sign up here.


Read More News: