Tag Archives: Borges

Latin American Literature

post23_1Shortly after my coming-of-age I first read Jorge Luis Borges and was immediately beguiled by El Aleph. I’ve been since in love with Latin American literature. It is a fruitful love, since I am aware of the great deal of books and authors I haven’t read yet.

Every now and then I read or re-read a book by Borges. I devour his books cover to cover as soon as I start reading one. But I cannot judge Latin American literature by knowing a sole writer. In my opinion, another extremely talented Latin writer is Julio Cortázar. His short stories compete in quality with Borges’s, though I will always remember him due to the dazzling Rayuela.

I had also the occasion of reading some books by Alejo Carpentier. Sometimes tough, Carpentier deploys the richness of his language in order to crumble the Caribbean idiosyncrasy. I read just two books by him, entitled El siglo de las luces and El reino de este mundo. I can’t wait for reading more. The arguably best Mexican author Juan Rulfo also deserves a try. I didn’t enjoy Pedro Páramo as much as I expected, though I really liked some short stories of El llano en llamas. Gabriel García Márquez is well-known by English speaking readers because of his Cien años de soledad. I beg your pardon; I haven’t read this title yet. However, I can’t help recommending El coronel no tiene quien le escriba, a short though beautiful tale which depicts a hopeless retired soldier who longs for a never-paid salary. Mario Vargas Llosa is also author of stunning stories such as La ciudad y los perros. The Uruguayan Juan Carlos Onetti is also remarkable because of his particular style. O alquimista is a commendable novel by the Brazilian writer Paulo Cohelo. It is probably easier to read than all the others aforementioned, though it is not less worthwhile reading.

Latin American poetry draws to me as least as much as its prose. Borges outstands again with books such as El oro de los tigres or El otro, el mismo. I actually owe him the love for the poetry, which I used to hate. Nowadays I appreciate the poetry written by a great amount of Latin American poets including Rubén Darío, Vicente Huidobro, Alfonsina Storni and César Vallejo among many others. I am into a love-hate relationship with Pablo Neruda. I can read breathlessly some of his poems while chocking at others. Kind of the same happens to me with the also Chilean poets Gabriela Mistral and Nicanor Parra as well as with the Uruguayan Mario Benedetti. I recently discovered the poems by the Mexican José Emilio Pacheco and like them. I read a few  poems by the Ecuatorian Medardo Ángel Silva from time to time (‘Ah, no abras la ventana todavía, / ¡es tan vulgar el sol!… La luz incierta / conviene tanto a mi melancolía…). Surprisingly I don’t like too much the poetry by Xavier Villaurrutia nor Cortázar, though it’s surely due to my personal tastes since I discriminate more poetry than prose. Finally, I read around two years ago the anthology Poesía ante la incertumbre. This book showed me some more interesting young Latin American poets, i.e. Ana Wajszczuk.

Latin American literature has a sterling quality. As a whole, it is possibly the best literature I have ever read. I nevertheless realise that I know it better than other literatures apart from reading it in Spanish, which is the original language of most of its books.

I commend everyone to delve into its treasures. Do you like it? Are there other titles I should read as a must?

When the Translator Writes a Different (Great) Book

Two years ago I read Orlando, by Virginia Woolf. I thought I was prepared, because I had read before both To the Lighthouse and Mrs. Dalloway. I was not. Since the first page there were things which sounded familiar to me. Despite being aware of it, the style was slightly non-Woolf, regardless the first half of Orlando is noticeably easier to read than other Woolf’s books are. That was not the matter. I must clarify that I was reading the book in Spanish. So at some point I stopped reading and sought the translator. There he was, Jorge Luis Borges, an author whose work I knew. I acknowledged that reading would be challenging. I was about to read two different books.

Firstly, I was a bit angry. I had chosen to read a Woolf’s book after all, so why should I endure another writer’s text? While reading I used to think that a particular word was clearly a Borges fetish, although the next one was an evident Woolf’s expression… What a mess! I was more focused on the style than on the story. That was sinful, because I was really enjoying the story.

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Source: Commons (Public domain)

After a number of pages I started to think which Woolf’s expressions had influenced Borges’ style. That was even worse, because I interrupted my reading so that considering such trivia.

Afterwards, I understood that not only was I reading one book, but two. It was not I was reading two different books, but two insights around the same plot. I understood how a translator may convey his particular view of the book while still making a good work. Finally, I understood that all the translations are skewed. But do you know what? I didn’t mind. At least it doesn’t mind as long as the translation is good. Perhaps, there are translations which are better than the original.

I thereafter enjoyed Orlando to the fullest.