Sunday, April 07, 2019

Bogota 39: New Voices from Latin America

I can't really count this book for my reading round the world project, as it is not from any one specific country, but it is an interesting overview of younger Latin American writers. Writers selected are not just from South America, but also from Mexico and the Caribbean. And not every South American country is represented - although I tend to forget it, the Guyanas (Guyana, French Guiana and Suriname) are none of them Latin American countries being British, French and Dutch colonies respectively. Also, there is no writer here from Paraguay which suggests that Paraguayan writers are thin on the ground - in fact, the coverage is a bit uneven with the largest group being from Mexico (7 authors) followed by Argentina and Colombia (6 each) and Chile (4). Peru has 3, Ecuador, Brazil and Uruguay 2 each and Bolivia, Venezuela, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Cuba 1 each. It is the second such collection being published in 2018 out of the Hay Festival of Literature as a follow up to an earlier collection in 2007.

As for genre there is a wide range. Some are quite realistic, others are futuristic and imaginative. Most are short stories, but a surprising number are excerpts from novels, in most cases not yet published in full in English, which I found on the whole rather unsatisfying, wanting to go on and read the whole thing. And some of the short stories too felt rather fragmentary. Others however, like Diego Zuniga's "Castaways" (Chile), Juan Manuel Robles' "Valentina in the Clouds" (Peru) and Valentin Trujillo's "Forest Where there was Nothing" (Uruguay) were beautifully executed small pieces. I also loved the excerpt from Laia Jufresa's "Umami", but as I had already read the full novel, it was hard to judge whether this really worked as an excerpt.

Only a few of the authors seem to have longer works available in English, and I hope that publication in this collection will lead to longer works being available in the future, as there are certainly many talented young authors represented here.