Argentinian Acquisitions

With a population of 2.8 million, Buenos Aires has 734 bookstores, an average of 25 for every 100,000 inhabitants. This is a staggering number – if compared with London, for example – with just 10 bookstores for every 100,000 people, as The Guardian reports. In the linked article, Uki Goñi argues that the exemption of books from standard sales tax in Argentina is partly responsible for the industry boom.

El Ateneo Grand Splendid, one of the most well-known bookshops in Buenos Aires. Photo by Flickr user Jorge Láscar.

El Ateneo Grand Splendid, one of the most well-known bookshops in Buenos Aires. Photo by Flickr user Jorge Láscar.

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The secret lives of a poet: Olga Orozco

Browsing through our recently received Spanish books I came across the weird-looking cover of Yo, Claudia, a collection of articles published in the Argentinian monthly magazine Claudia, roughly between 1966 and 1970.

Yo, Claudia gathers a selection of letters and essays written by the poet Olga Orozco (1920-1999), who, during her life, undertook many jobs to

support her literary interests, from journalist to radio drama actress. Her work for Claudia, however, is particularly interesting. Claudia’s readership was interested in articles on fashion, entertainment, art, politics and literature, written by some of the most prominent intellectuals of the time. What originally was an asset eventually became a problem when in 1976 the publisher had to flee to Brazil, as it was accused by the Argentinian regime of supporting subversive journalists. Orozco’s collaboration was certainly valued, although, in order to please the publisher, she had to conceal her identity under eight different pseudonyms, each one for a different column. Continue reading

General elections in Latin America

A major focus of the University Library’s collection development policy for material in Spanish and Portuguese is the history of Central and South America, as explained on the Latin American & Iberian Collection webpages on the UL website. Coverage of specific periods in history varies from country to country. Contemporary history and in particular politics and government, however, are areas where our collections are particularly strong. Continue reading

Cartoneros

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Colourful Eloisa Cartonera’s books at a stall at the “Noche de las Librerías”, 2011. (Image taken from Wikimedia Commons)

When in 2001 Argentina went bankrupt, thousands of families lost everything, or almost everything. Many had to find new ways of survival and many joined the cartoneros force, the street cardboard pickers who, after long hours of walk around the city with their carts, would sell what they had collected to be recycled. In these times of crisis, the country also saw the rise of diverse forms of cooperativism and solidarity within communities (such as barter groups, communitarian urban allotments or the collective running of closed factories).

In this context, two writers and an artist in Buenos Aires (Washington Cucurto, Fernanda Laguna and Javier Barilaro), who would normally self-produce and self-publish their work but couldn’t do so anymore because of the highly increased price of paper, created in 2003 an independent non-lucrative cooperative publishing house: Eloisa Cartonera. Continue reading

Cortázar’s only graphic novel – an account of an Argentinian vision, or a vision of hell

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La raíz del ombú (2014.11.1003)

On August 26th this year, our team unfortunately missed the opportunity to write a blog-post on the centenary of Julio Cortázar – one of the pre-eminent Latin-American “boomers” of the 1960s. However, on that same day we were fortunate enough to purchase a fascinating item by the author: La raíz del ombú is Cortázar’s only graphic novel, created in collaboration with artist Alberto Cedrón between 1977 and 1981.

Although Cortázar had previously explored the interplay between text and images (see for example his Fantomas contra los vampiros multinacionales, 1994.8.201 and Ub.8.472) this is his first “full” graphic novel. In the words of Cortázar himself in the introduction, the work is “an account of an Argentinian vision, […] a current vision of hell”. It is an allegory of Argentina’s unsettled and often violent history from 1930 to the late 1970s, built around Alberto Cedrón’s memories, dreams and obsessions. Continue reading