Weekly Dispatches from the Frontlines of World Literature

Our weekly roundup of the world's literary news brings us to Central America and Hong Kong.

You know the drill—time for another weekly update on literary happenings the world over. This week, we learn of the passing of several cherished Central American poets, as well as some recent developments in Hong Kong. 

José García Escobar, Editor-at-Large, reporting from Central America

Claribel Alegría, one of Central America’s most beloved poets, recently passed away at age ninety-three. Mere months after Alegría became the second Nicaraguan to receive the Reina Sofía Prize for Iberoamerican Poetry, only after Ernesto Cardenal, Claribel died last Thursday, January 25. Claribel is one of the cornerstones of Nicaraguan poetry and was the author of dozens of books of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction.

Moving on to Guatemala, the work of the award-winning Garífuna poet, Wingston González, will be featured in Heart of the Scarecrow, a performance by fellow Guatemalan artist Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa in Simon Fraser University’s Audain Gallery in Vancouver, Canada. Wingston’s long poem lugar de consuelo will serve as the poetic voice behind Naufus’ performance, which is an exploration of the historical effects of Hugo Carrillo’s script El corazón del espantapájaros. Carillo’s play, premiered in 1962, was a satirical portrayal of Guatemalan society during the early stages of its armed conflict.

Wingston is arguably the most important Garífuna poet in Guatemala. His work has been published in Guatemala, throughout Central America, Mexico, Argentina, and Germany. In 2015 he won the prestigious Luis Cardoza y Aragón Mesoamerican Poetry Prize.

Guatemala recently also bid farewell to one of its most important intellectuals: René Acuña, poet, researcher, and essayist, who passed away January 20. Born in 1929, René was a respected cultural researcher who took a special interest in studying the Mayans and other Pre-Columbian civilizations. René received two Guggenheim Fellowships for Anthropology and Cultural Studies, one in 1974 and again in 1983. In 2017 Editorial Cultura (Guatemala) released a collection of his poetry. He was eighty-eigh years old.

On a final note, many Central American poets celebrated the life and recognized the work of Nicanor Parra, who passed away January 23 at age 103—many cite Parra as one of their biggest influences and an essential poet of the Spanish language.

Christopher Chan, Chinese Social Media Manager

This month sees the exhibition of after the deluge, an art work prepared by the world-renowned media artist Kingsley Ng. A production of the Jockey Club New Arts Power, the show has been open to the public at the Tai Hang Tung Stormwater Storage Tank since January 6, and will be closed at the end of this month. Centered on the theme of climate change and the inquiry into humans’ response to natural environment under extreme weather conditions, the project draws the eyes of the public to the unsung heroes incessantly working to manage the issue of flood control in Hong Kong. The storage tank is not usually open to public, but accommodations have been made to allow for a wide audience—as many as ten thousand visitors. Guided tours are available, as well as a brand-new simulated experience of underwater immersion.

This month also sees the publication of a book by Chow Ka Ying, Right at the BookstoresRecords of the Visits to the Unique Bookstores in Hong Kong (《書店現場──香港個性書店訪談札記》). A sequel to the writer’s previous book The Daily Lives of Bookstores (《書店日常》), the work seeks to raise’s people’s awareness of the independent bookstores that, despite their remoteness in locations, are of wonderfully individual characteristics. A total of twelve bookstores, dispersed in various corners of Hong Kong, are introduced, with an appendix detailing the fascinating role of the shopkeepers of bookstores. It is a must-read for any book-lover or anyone who wants to learn more about bookstore culture in Hong Kong.

Looking ahead, the end of this year will witness the 100th birthday of Liu Yichang, one of the most important writers of Hong Kong and the founder of Hong Kong Literature (《香港文學》). Among his most famous writings are Tête-bêche (《對倒》) and The Drunkard (《酒徒》).


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