“The book as world and the world as book” at the Warburg Institute

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Alberto Manguel, picture by Fronteiras do Pensamento [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D via Wikimedia Commons

Last Friday 20th April the Warburg Institute in London organised an event that focused on books and readers in the Spanish speaking world, entitled The book as world and the world as book. The keynote of the event was a delightful -to say the least- conversation between the Warburg’s director, Bill Sherman, and Alberto Manguel, writer and Director of the National Library of Argentina. Coincidentally, Manguel’s book Packing my Library featured as “Book of the week” on BBC Radio 4 at the beginning of the month (the UL copy stands at C205.d.5241). Their discussion, of course, was all about books, writing, reading and libraries and also about Manguel’s experiences as a young man when he read aloud to an old and blind Borges. The book With Borges (a copy is held at Jesus College’s Quincentenary Library) offers memories of the encounter and of Borges’ life beyond his writings. The  Spanish edition of the work, translated by Eduardo Berti can be found at C202.c.5582. Alberto Manguel’s holdings at the University Library are reasonably complete, both in Spanish and English, and demonstrate his flair as a writer, editor and translator (click here to see all 62 titles). Continue reading

Sara Gallardo, recently rediscovered Argentine writer

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Sara Gallardo (1931-1988). Image from Wikimedia Commons

This is a guest post by Jordana Blejmar (University of Liverpool) and Joanna Page (University of Cambridge). 

Sara Gallardo was born in Buenos Aires in 1931 to an aristocratic Catholic family, with illustrious antecedents such as General Bartolomé Mitre, the writer Miguel Cané, the politician and biologist Ángel Gallardo, all key figures in the constitution of the Argentine nation. Her striking and eclectic fiction has been recently ‘rediscovered’, and the University Library has acquired many of her most important works (see here).

Gallardo travelled extensively in Latin America, Europe and Asia, published five novels, one book of short stories, several chronicles and four books for children. Her love for literature started in childhood. She was constantly ill and spent several days in bed reading books that would later influence her writing, including adventure stories, animal fables and classic works by Walter Scott, Rudyard Kipling and others. In 1950 she became a journalist; in 1958, she published her first novel, Enero (UL classmark: 2016.7.388), the story of a humble maid working on an estancia (a ranch), who falls pregnant following a rape and considers having an abortion. Gallardo presents a portrait of the relationship between patrones and employees without sentimentalism or a patronising gaze, and deals sensitively with issues of prejudice and guilt. Continue reading

Carnival in Uruguay

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From Montevideo, Capital Iberoamericana del Carnaval (classmark: 2010.11.1880)

Carnival traditions in Latin America are immensely rich. For millions of people, February is linked to heat, music, water fights and a feast of colours. From Oruro’s celebrations in Bolivia to the most internationally renowned parades of Rio de Janeiro, their counterpart in Montevideo (Uruguay) is just as compelling and certainly more enduring, lasting for 40 days. Montevideo’s carnival not only traditionally allows for a general reversal of everyday norms, but also brings together the very diverse pot of cultures that shape Uruguayan society (see: El carnaval de Montevideo: folklore, historia, sociología, classmark: UR.18, at the Seeley Library’s Latin American studies collection; and at the University Library: Identidad y globalización en el carnaval, at 676:85.c.200.83). Continue reading

Manuel Puig and La traición de Rita Hayworth

2018 marks 50 years since La traición de Rita Hayworth, the debut novel by the Argentinian author Manuel Puig, was first published. Puig (1932–1990) is best-known outside the Spanish-speaking world for his fourth novel, 1976’s El beso de la mujer araña (Kiss of the Spider Woman) and its successful film, theatre and musical adaptations. However, his debut (Betrayed by Rita Hayworth in its English translation) remains his most directly personal novel, and introduces many of the themes and ideas that run throughout his work.

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1st edition of La traición de Rita Hayworth, with a picture of the author on the cover

Most authors’ first novels represent, in some way, a culmination of their life up to that point, but this is particularly true of La traición de Rita Hayworth. In fact, the book is almost as purely autobiographical as a work of fiction can be.

The book’s setting, Coronel Vallejos is a thinly veiled version of Puig’s hometown General Villegas. Boquitas Pintadas (Heartbreak Tango), his second novel – and first big commercial success – is also set there. His mother Malé had moved to Villegas, a dusty pampas backwater in Buenos Aires Province, from the state capital of La Plata, and met and married Manuel’s father Baldo there. Both the physical landscape of Manuel’s childhood and the people around him were clearly mirrored in his early work. His parents, a somewhat ill-matched couple, are represented in La traición de Rita Hayworth by Berto, a typical small-town Argentinian macho with matinée idol looks, and Mita, an educated woman nostalgic for her more cosmopolitan hometown and enamored of cinema and the arts.

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Juan Rulfo

16 May 2017 marks the centenary of Juan Rulfo, one of Spanish literature’s most revered and mysterious writers. Few other authors in any language have attained such mythic status on the basis of such a slim body of work. Rulfo is generally considered, along with Carlos Fuentes and Octavio Paz, to be one of the three most important figures of 20th Century Mexican literature. However, unlike the vast reams of prose and poetry written by his two compatriots, and their international standing as literary lions and esteemed intellectuals, Rulfo published very little and remained an ambiguous and elusive public figure.

Juan Rulfo by Ricardo Salazar

Portrait of Juan Rulfo by Ricardo Salazar, early 1950s

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