One of Mexico’s greatest 19th century poets, Agustín F. Cuenca (1850-1884) was born in Mexico City. In 1868 he founded the Netzahualcoyotl Literary Society (named after the legendary Aztec philosopher king), together with other intellectuals like Manuel Acuña. As a journalist he contributed to the major Mexican publications of his day. He was a writer who was politically associated with the progressive liberal movement of his time, as is reflected not only in his writings as a journalist but also in his literary works. In 1881 he wrote the play “La Cadena de Hierro”, which was staged several times at the Teatro Nacional de México, and is now considered one of the greatest works of Mexican drama. Today Cuenca is considered a poet of the transition from the Romantic to the Modernist period, with a style that was both multi-faceted and experimental.
So here you are, sloughing off the cold in the warmth of this sidewalk cafe where great bar radiators blaze like fires from on high, in each upper corner, the heat raging, insane, flushing the stiff flesh of your face red, and your fingers, too stiff to clasp onto anything, as if millions of years of evolution have been undone, and here you are, Neanderthal Man, or something earlier, some creature without opposable thumbs, without the ability to grasp, prodding awkwardly at the coins in the palm of your hand…
If you want to get under the skin of a country before you visit, its literature is a great place to start. Literary texts can reveal a vast array of insights into a country, from its politics and history to its religion and morals. They can also provide unusual takes on its popular culture and system of values. The literature of Mexico is a good example of this. Literary translation is enabling non-Spanish speaking readers to lift the lid on Mexican culture and understand the country and its past. If you want to discover this fascinating country from all angles, then read on!
Alejandro Rossi (1932-2009) was one of Mexico’s most outstanding writers and philosophers of the twentieth century. Born in Italy to an Italian father and a Venezuelan mother, in the 1950s he arrived in Mexico, where he is remembered best today for his work as a philosopher and for his collaboration with Octavio Paz in the latter’s various cultural initiatives. As a writer, he is best known for his book Manual del distraído (“Manual of the Absent-Minded” 1978), a collection of essays and short stories that combine the thoughtful perspective of the philosopher with the aesthetic concern of the litterateur. Another example of this combination is El cielo de Sotero (“Sotero’s Heaven”, 1987), a short story that explores the universal and at the same time particularly Latin American themes of colonialism, social inequality, and revolution. It appears here now in its first published English translation, by Janice Goveas.
Beatriz Hausner is the author of several poetry collections, including Enter the Raccoon and Sew Him Up. Her work has been translated into several languages, including Spanish, her mother tongue: La costurera y el muñeco viviente (trans. Julio César Aguilar: Mantis Editores, Mexico, 2012). Hausner’s career as a literary translator has focused on the poetry of César Moro, Olga Orozco, Rosamel del Valle, the poets of the Chilean group Mandrágora, and many others associated with Spanish American surrealism. She has also translated the early fiction of Alvaro Mutis, and most recently, the poetry of Abigael Bohórquez. She has been President of the Literary Translators’ Association of Canada and was one of the founders of the Banff Literary Translation Centre. For several years she was one of the publishers of Quattro Books, where she oversaw the publication of many works of literature in translation. Her poem “Poetic Twin Man” appeared originally in her collection Sew Him Up, and appears now in Diálogos for the first time in a Spanish translation by Marta Rota Nuñez.
The world of literary translation lost one of its most important figures last month with the death of US translator Gregory Rabassa. When the so-called “Latin American boom” brought writers like Gabriel García Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa and Julio Cortázar to international fame in the 1960s, it was Rabassa whose well-crafted translations brought many of their masterpieces alive in the English language. For Hopscotch, his translation of Cortázar’s Rayuela, one of the first Latin American novels to receive international attention, Rabassa won the US National Book Award for Translation in 1967. However, of all of his translations the most widely read is without doubt One Hundred Years of Solitude, one of the most important literary works of the twentieth century, whose author García Márquez described Rabassa as “the best Latin American writer in the English language.”
Editorial Nuestra Palabra publishers, AMPO, and the Consulates of Spain and Peru in Toronto are pleased to announce and invite the Hispanic community in Canada, and the Hispanic-Canadian community around the world, to participate in the thirteenth annual edition of the “Nuestra Palabra” short story competition, dedicated to promoting the reading and writing of literature in Spanish and the promotion of Spanish-speaking values.
María Enriqueta Camarillo was a Mexican poet, short story writer, novelist and Translator who became one of the most important figures of Spanish-American modernism. In the years after the Mexican Revolution, her children’s books became extremely important as school text books in the context of the educational reforms of José Vasconcelos, and her importance in Mexican culture is reflected in the various libraries and schools that bear her name. She was also recognized outside Mexico, as in 1923 her novel El secreto (“The Secret”) won the Academie Francaise literary prize for best Hispanic female novel.
Today marks the 400th anniversary of the death of Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616), whose masterpiece, The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha (1605), is recognized as the first modern novel in Spanish, and a kind of bridge between the medieval and the modern in the evolution of the language. In a recent interview with the journalist Virginia Bautista, the prominent Mexican author Ignacio Padilla, himself a specialist in Cervantes’s work, describes Don Quixote as “the catalyst for the birth of modern Spanish.”
Chilean-Canadian poet Jorge Etcheverry, one of the most important figures in Hispanic Canadian literature, turned 70 this year. On the occasion of his 70th birthday, fellow Chilean-Canadian writer Claudio Durán offered him the following tribute.