Jorge Luis Borges, 1899-1986

Jorge Luis Borges, Argentina’s most influential writer, died in Geneva on 14th June 1986. To mark the 30th anniversary of his death, this blog-post features a 24-page gem of a publication by the author, which is part of Gilbert de Botton’s Montaigne Library, donated to the UL in 2008. Borges was one of the 20th century’s most prominent authors and intellectuals, and wrote essays, poetry and short-stories that have since become classics. He was a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature for 30 years, but never won it, allegedly due to his conservative views.

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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

Libros_de_Eloísa_Cartonera_Noche_Librerias

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