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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Reinaldo Arenas: 50 years of Celestino

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.

The cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas in France in June, 1988.

Reinaldo Arenas in France in June, 1988. (Photo by Louis MONIER/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

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Fidel Castro, 1926-2016

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On Friday November 25th, exactly 60 years since he set forth from Mexico on the yacht Granma, one of the most influential, divisive and long-standing public figures of the last century passed away. This year also marked 10 years since Fidel Castro began to step down from his position as president of Cuba, a country he had led for well over half a century. However, his influence and image still loomed large over his country – and world politics in general – in the intervening years and will continue to do so for years to come.

The University Library has always strongly collected material from and about Cuba, especially since the Revolution – in fact, the earliest book that we hold concerning Fidel Castro dates from 1959, the very year that Castro and his rebels finally ousted Fulgencio Batista from power: Fidel Castro: rebel–liberator or dictator? by Jules Dubois (672:45.c.95.2). Continue reading

Richard Boyle’s Spanish Colonial Art book donation

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Donation label designed by the Faculty of Art & Architecture Library, Cambridge (based on original from Richard Boyle)

Richard Boyle, an enthusiast of Spanish Colonial art history, recently donated 88 Spanish colonial art books to the University Library in honor of his wife Marlene de Block. This is a significant donation, as there were very few volumes on colonial Latin American art and are mostly North American publications. Until now, the University Library and the Centre of Latin American studies collections mainly focused on nineteenth and twentieth-century Latin America.

This exceptional donation includes Spanish publications from Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, Mexico, Brazil and other Latin American countries, unavailable in most European national libraries. This is a unique opportunity for the development of colonial Latin American art studies in the United Kingdom. Continue reading

Gregory Rabassa, 1922-2016

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Gregory Rabassa in 2007 (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News)

Many of the Latin American Boom’s greatest writers owe much of their international acclaim to one man: Gregory Rabassa, who passed away last month.

Rabassa’s English translations of Julio Cortázar’s Hopscotch (9743.c.74), Mario Vargas Llosa’s The green house (9743.c.108) and, in particular, Gabriel García Márquez’s One hundred years of solitude (9743.c.116) sold millions of copies and brought these authors to a much wider audience. He enjoyed a particularly close and mutually appreciative relationship with Cortázar and also translated the great Brazilian authors, Clarice Lispector, Jorge Amado and Machado de Assis, amongst many others. Continue reading