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
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
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.
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.
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.
Portrait of Juan Rulfo by Ricardo Salazar, early 1950s
Reinaldo Arenas (1943-1990) was one of Cuba’s most important and controversial writers. His debut novel Celestino antes del alba celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Arenas is best known outside the Spanish-speaking world for his posthumously published 1992 autobiography, Antes que anochezca / Before Night Falls (adapted into an award-winning film in 2000 by Julian Schnabel). This documented the horrific persecution he faced under Fidel Castro, both for his openly homosexual lifestyle and for his public antipathy towards the leader’s regime, and his eventual escape to the USA as part of the infamous Mariel Boatlift.
Reinaldo Arenas in France in June, 1988. (Photo by Louis MONIER/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)