The Center for Latin American Studies at The Ohio State University presents

Latin American Literature in English Translation

THESE WERE OUR TITLES FOR SUMMER 2001 (Click on title for description)
June 21, 2001 Juan de la Rosa, by Nataniel Aguirre
July 12, 2001 The Kingdom of this World/El reino de este mundo, by Alejo Carpentier
July 19, 2001 Lovesick/Mal de amores, by Angeles Mastretta
August 2, 2001 Artificial Respiration/Respiración artificial, by Ricardo Piglia
August 16, 2001 One Hundred Years of Solitude/Cien años de soledad, by Gabriel García Márquez



Juan de la Rosa (1885)

Nataniel Aguirre (Bolivia)

Long considered a classic in Bolivia, Juan de la Rosa tells the story of a young boy's coming of age during the violent and tumultuous years of Bolivia's struggle for independence. Indeed, in this remarkable novel, Juan's search for his personal identity functions as an allegory of Bolivia's search for its identity as a nation.

Set in the early 1800s, the novel is narrated by one of the last surviving Bolivian rebels, octogenarian Juan de la Rosa. Juan recreates his childhood in the rebellious town of Cochabamba, and with it a large cast of full bodied, Dickensian characters both heroic and malevolent. The larger cultural dislocations brought about by Bolivia's political upheaval are echoed in those experienced by Juan, whose mother's untimely death sets off a chain of unpredictable events that propel him into the fiery crucible of the South American Independence Movement. Outraged by Juan's outspokenness against Spanish rule and his awakening political consciousness, his loyalist guardians banish him to the countryside, where he witnesses firsthand the Spaniards' violent repression and rebels' valiant resistance that crystallize both his personal destiny and that of his country. In Sergio Gabriel Waisman's fluid translation, English readers have access to Juan de la Rosa for the very first time.

Discussion leader: Fernando Unzueta


The Kingdom of this World/El reino de este mundo (1949)

Alejo Carpentier (Cuba)

"The best Latin-American novel of them all" -- A reader from Cambridge, MA. The Kingdom of the World is truly extraordinary, exquisitely crafted and overwhelming in its human implications. In it historical fiction and magical realism come together to produce a masterful work of art and an unforgettable story about the triumph of human dignity in the midst of destruction and senseless horror. Using as a setting one of the most bizarre episodes in history (the Haitian independence and its aftermath), Carpentier tells a mesmerizing story that reveals human beings in all their complexity, contradictions and perversity, but also in their extraordinary power of survival and redemption. A literary masterpiece of the highest order.

Carpentier paints a vivid portrait of colonial Haiti, depicting the racial strife and class wars that are par for the course in such a world. The protagonist, Ti Noel, is a product of this colonial system: no longer African, but not exactly French. Where, Carpentier seems to ask, does Ti Noel belong? And to whom? Carpentier's prose is beautiful, his images are vivid and striking: one can picture the vast plantation, so far from the city....the row of powdered wigs on their stands...the look on Ti Noel's face when he realizes revolution does not add up to personal freedom. A near perfect novel, Ti Noel and his story will stay with you long after you've read it.

Discussion leader: Fernando Unzueta.


Lovesick/Mal de amores (1996)

Angeles Mastretta (Mexico)

Lovesick has already been a huge hit in the author's native Mexico and all over Latin America, and it's easy to see why. Mastretta manages to harness the turbulence, madness and beauty of Mexico and interweave it with a narrative of relative simplicity. There is much of the rich tradition of 20th-century writers from Latin America evident here, yet it is also refreshingly different in its approach to love.

Born, like the author, in the city of Puebla, the central character Emilia is an only child of radical and unusual parents. She sees Daniel as the brother she never had, and as children they are inseparable. Inseparable, that is, until Daniel is sent off to boarding school where he gains the seeds of revolutionary thought. His return, years later, as a man, kindles a feeling in Emilia that at first frightens her and then attracts her powerfully. The backdrop to her love, which wrestles with her great desire to become a doctor, is that of radicals, violence and revolution. Even though Daniel, a restless rebel, is hard to love, the author manages to create an intriguing love story of the epic and the intimate.

Discussion leader: Ignacio Corona


Artificial Respiration/Respiración artificial (1994)

Ricardo Piglia (Argentina)

Acclaimed as one of the most important Latin American novels in recent decades, Artificial Respiration is a stunning introduction for English readers to the fiction of Ricardo Piglia. Published in Argentina in 1981, it was written at a time when thousands of Argentine citizens "disappeared" during the government's attempt to create an authoritarian state. In part a reflection on one of the most repressive and tragic times in Argentine history, this is one of those rare works of fiction in which multiple philosophical, political, and narrative dimensions are all powerfully and equally matched.

As a prize winning detective novel, Artificial Respiration reaches through many levels of mystery to explore the forces that have been at play in Argentina throughout its violent history. The narrator, a writer named Renzi, begins to look for an uncle who has vanished, a man he knows only through a web of contradictory family stories and an exchange of letters. Through these letters he learns about his uncle's research into the life of Enrique Ossario, secretary to the 19th-century Argentine dictator Rosas and spy for the dictator's enemy. As Renzi's search leads further into his uncle's work and to conversations with his literary and chess-playing friends, the reader is led by Piglia to consider the nature of Argentine identity, its literature and history, and its relation, for example, to Europe, exile, and democracy. Finally, and made most vividly appreciable by the retelling of a story in which Kafka meets Hitler, it is the encounter between literature and history that is explored.

A richly textured, intricately crafted, and startling mixture of storytelling, inquiry, and speculation, Artificial Respiration has established its author among the leading representatives of contemporary Latin American letters.

Discussion leader: Laura Podalsky


One Hundred Years of Solitude/Cien años de soledad (1967)

Gabriel García Márquez (Colombia)

The story follows 100 years in the life of Macondo, a village founded by José Arcadio Buendía and occupied by descendants all sporting variations on their progenitor's name: his sons, José Arcadio and Aureliano, and grandsons, Aureliano José, Aureliano Segundo, and José Arcadio Segundo. Then there are the women--the two Úrsulas, a handful of Remedios, Fernanda, and Pilar--who struggle to remain grounded even as their menfolk build castles in the air. If it is possible for a novel to be highly comic and deeply tragic at the same time, then One Hundred Years of Solitude does the trick.

With One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel García Márquez introduced Latin American literature to a world-wide readership. Translated into more than two dozen languages, his brilliant novel of love and loss in Macondo stands at the apex of 20th-century literature. --Alix Wilber

"The first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race . . . with more lucidity, wit, wisdom, and poetry than is expected from 100 years of novelists, let alone one man".--Washington Post Book World.

Discussion leader: Fernando Unzueta