Telling stories has long been a way for humans to make sense of life’s many events. Little more than a year has passed since the beginning of the first UK lockdown, and we already know that huge amounts have been published about the current pandemic, chiefly online and prominently in the sciences and social sciences. In this blog post we present some of the stories authors are telling about and around COVID-19.
In her book Viral Modernism: the Influenza Pandemic and interwar literature, Elizabeth Outka reveals that, even if the 1918-1919 pandemic ‘faded from historical and cultural memory […], [and was] overshadowed by World War One and the turmoil of the interwar period’, it in fact ‘shaped canonical works of fiction and poetry’, to the extent of framing modernism with its ‘hidden but widespread presence’.
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 →
The Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano passed away on 13 April 2015, aged 74. He started his career in journalism, but came to greater prominence in 1971 with what remains his best-known work, Las venas abiertas de América Latina (original: 220.d.97.88; translation: 670:8.c.95.866), a history of Latin America from the time of Columbus onwards, focusing on the economic exploitation and military oppression that had shaped the continent. This book remained popular and respected throughout the decades, and even became an unexpected bestseller in 2009, when the Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez publicly gifted a copy to Barack Obama.
Galeano had a long and varied writing career, throughout which he tried to bring to light the usually unwritten history of Latin America and the world – that of the victims, the poor and the downtrodden – as he felt that without acknowledging and understanding this, governments and nations could never truly progress. His outspoken socialist stance unsurprisingly put him at odds with the right-wing dictatorships that dominated the Southern Cone in the 1970s and 1980s. He first fled Uruguay and then Argentina in the mid-1970s, and wrote another of his most famous works, Memoria del fuego (original: 670:8.c.95.547-9; translation: 9743.c.334-336), whilst in exile. Continue reading →