By Daniella Walsh | LB Indy
Among Latin American writers, Isabel Allende, Jorge Luis Borges, and Gabriel Garcia-Marquez are some of the most immediately recognizable names to U.S. readers, in part because their works have been widely translated and made into movies.
In a first foray into the world of Latin American literature, Laguna Beach Books will stage “Latin American Writers: Poetics and Politics” on Sunday, Sept. 28, envisioned as a quarterly salon featuring international literature. Also under consideration are later talks focused on India, China and Africa.
The series begins with Latin American writers, who, since Cervantes, have focused on the intersection, often the collision, of the personal and the political. Whether South American, Central American or Mexican, they write fiction with clarity and elegance, and often within their tales is the search for a moral and emotional center amid political turmoil.
Writer and book reviewer Randy Kraft, of Dana Point, and UC Irvine emeritus instructor Nancy Rayl will introduce participants to established and lesser known Latin American authors and lead discussions about the vast literary universe reaching beyond magical realism, a literary genre associated especially with Latin America and popularized by Garcia-Marquez.
The salon takes a step towards bridging a huge literary gulf. Twenty times more English speaking writers are translated into foreign languages than international writers are translated into English, Kraft pointed out.
“We came up with 10 books to cover an entire continent in the span of one hour, so we tried to spotlight different geographic areas and the last 70 years to the present,” said Rayl, who lectures on Los Angeles history and literature produced by immigrants to the city.
Some of the books are famous, at least in their author’s home region, and others more obscure. “We looked for appealing themes, nothing esoteric or overly philosophical,” Rayl added.
The salon will introduce the notable writers of a region, with recommended readings, rather than a book group’s analysis of a single work. “It’s not necessary to know all the works, even though that might help the discussion,” said Kraft, whose novel “Colors of the Wheel,” focusing on the ramification of race and gender, was published last year.
Among the recommended readings are works by Mexican poet Carlos Fuentes, Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Diaz of the Dominican Republic, Renaldo Arenas and Cristina Garcia of Cuba, Jose Saramago of Brazil, Chileans Pablo Neruda and Roberto Bolano, and Jorge Luis Borges of Argentina.
“Every writer is different, with a different style of writing, but there are common themes centered on the intersection of politics and the personal,” Kraft said.
Much centers on family and the vagaries of political upheaval, Rayl said. Good translation is a factor. “I don’t really understand the art of translation, but a well-translated book really sings,” she said.
Laguna Beach Books proprietor Jane Hanauer supports the salon’s inception. “We were happy when Randy and Nancy approached us with the idea,” said store spokeswoman Danielle Bauter. “We have done book clubs and meet the author events but this format is new to us.”
The independent bookstore stocks a strong inventory of local fare – by Laguna authors and Laguna-focused books — as well as traditional sections devoted to new releases, best sellers, travel and cooking. Shoppers can also browse shelves with foreign-language learning texts, which even extends to the kid’s section. Non-English editions can be special ordered.
- Isabel Allende – “The House of Spirits”
- Roberto Bolano – “The Savage Detectives, By Night in Chile”
- Laura Esquivel – “Like Water for Chocolate”
- Carlos Fuentes – “The Death of Artemia Cruz, Diana”
- Cristina Garcia – “Dreaming in Cuban”
- Mario Vargas Llosa – “Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter”
- Gabriel Garcia Marquez – “Love in the Time of Cholera, 100 Years of Solitude”
- Andres Neuman – “Talking to Ourselves, Traveler of the Century”
- Juan Gabriel Vasquez – “Sound of Things Falling”