Where is 21st century Latin American fiction heading?

A screenshot of the collaborative online translation project “Palabras errantes” presented at the seminar.

A screenshot of the collaborative online translation project “palabras errantes” presented at the seminar.

What are the new trends in Latin American fiction? Can we go beyond the general conviction that, after the ‘60s “boom”, Latin American fiction experienced a steady decline both in the quality and quantity of literary works produced? How are researchers, librarians and publishers reacting to this in the UK? These and many more questions were answered at the seminar 21st Century Fiction from Latin America  held on Wednesday 12th of February 2014 at Senate House, London.

The panorama of 21st Latin American fiction is hugely vast and exciting, as was evidenced by the very stimulating contributions presented at the Seminar. Here we mention some of them. Continue reading

Mexico’s greatest poet (but not according to him)


Image taken from Wikimedia Commons.

Less than two weeks after the death of his close friend Juan Gelman, a fellow Cervantes Prize winner and near neighbour in the Condesa district of Mexico City, the great Mexican writer José Emilio Pacheco passed away on January 26, 2014.

 Whilst Gelman (having very personal experience of the horrors of right-wing dictatorship) was outspoken in his left-wing allegiances, Pacheco was much more politically ambiguous and ambivalent in his writing. His most popular work, the novella Las batallas en el desierto (classmark: 9743.d.1564), looked back on a fictionalised adolescence during the post-war presidency of Miguel Alemán (1946-1952) – a period of great optimism, growth and development in Mexico’s history. However, rather than straightforward nostalgia, the story reveals the seeds of corruption and inequality that would come to trouble the country’s growing population throughout the 20th century. Continue reading

Juan Gelman and Argentina’s Troubled 20th Century

This image is taken from the Presidency of the Nation of Argentina website, in accordance with the copyright licensing.

This image is taken from the Presidency of the Nation of Argentina website, in accordance with the copyright licensing.

The great Argentinean poet Juan Gelman passed away on January 14th at the age of 83. He received the Cervantes Prize, the most important Spanish literary award, in 2007, and many of his peers and followers argue that he was the first writer to create a truly Argentinean form of poetry. Certainly, his life and work were inextricably connected to the troubled history of his home country.  A prominent journalist and left-wing political activist as well as a poet, like many of his fellow countrymen and artists he was forced into exile following the 1976 coup. He never again lived in Argentina, and exile was a prominent theme throughout much of his later writing – dealt with in works such as Bajo la lluvia ajena from Interrupciones (classmark: 9007.c.6796-6797) and, with reference to his Jewish parents’ own exile from Russia, Dibaxu (classmark: 2002.8.1688).

Continue reading

A Chilean “anti-carol”


The cover of Coplas de Navidad, by Nicanor Parra.

The year 2013 will surely be one not to forget for many Chileans. Just last Sunday 15th December, two women were rivals in the race for the presidency, producing an unprecedented democratic contest. Michelle Bachelet ran against her childhood friend, Evelyn Matthei, and won the second round of the election with 62.16% of the vote. With her, two other young women (Camila Vallejo and Karol Cariola, from the student movement) are going to join the government and advocate a better and fairer educational system, which has been the subject of protests since 2011. Things have not always looked that promising in Chile.

On December 19th 1983, exactly 30 years ago, poet Nicanor Parra published Coplas de Navidad (Christmas ballads or verses), of which our Library holds one of only 1000 copies printed (classmark: S743:3.b.9.73). Continue reading

Clemens Brentano at Newnham College Library


Page from the manuscript of Romanzen von Rosenkranz. By kind permission of The Principal and Fellows of Newnham College Cambridge.

Back in November 2007, an exhibition celebrating European Languages special collections in Newnham College Library brought to attention the Library’s significant collection of material relating to the German Romantic writer, Clemens Brentano (1778-1842). This collection was given to the college by Miss Edith Renouf (NC 1881), whose grandfather was Christian Brentano, brother of Clemens. The collection contains a number of early editions of the works of Brentano and his circle, including works by Achim von Arnim,  Bettina von Arnim (née Brentano), Joseph von Görres and Ludwig Tieck, as well as several  books by the eighteenth-century writer Sophie von La Roche (1730-1807), the grandmother of Clemens, Christian and Bettina Brentano. Continue reading