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Ilan Stavans

Eight Conversations

Neal Sokol

Publication Year: 2004

    "Ilan Stavans has emerged as Latin America’s liveliest and boldest critic and most innovative cultural enthusiast," states the Washington Post. And the New York Times described him as "the czar of Latino literature in the United States." But his influential oeuvre doesn’t address Hispanic culture exclusively. It has also opened fresh new vistas into Jewish life globally, which has prompted the Forward to portray Stavans as "a maverick intellectual whose canonical work has already produced a whole array of marvels that are redefining Jewishness."
    Neal Sokol devoted almost a decade to the study of Stavans’s work. He applies his substantial knowledge to this candid, thought-provoking series of eight interviews. In them Stavans is caught at the vortex where his Mexican, Jewish, and American heritages meet. He discusses everything from the formative influences that shaped his worldview to anti-Semitism, Edmund Wilson, sexuality in Latin America, Gabriel García Márquez, and the fate of Yiddish. He also contrasts the role of intellectuals in advanced and developing societies, dwells on his admiration for Don Quixote and his passion for dictionaries, and reflects on his groundbreaking, controversial research on Spanglish—the hybrid encounter of English and Spanish that infuriates the Royal Academy in Madrid and also makes people describe Stavans as "the Salman Rushdie of the Hispanic world."
    Sokol shrewdly tests Stavans’s ideas and places them in context. By doing so, he offers a map to the heart and mind of one of our foremost thinkers today—an invaluable tool for his growing cadre of readers.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Preface

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pp. vii-xi

The first time I read the work of Ilan Stavans, I was perusing the pages of a favorite literary journal of mine, Transition. His witty and biting essay “Two Peruvians” played the personality of novelist Mario Vargas Llosa off against the persona of Shining Path leader Carlos Abimael Guzmán Reynoso. Like scores of other readers before and after, I was struck by Stavans’s touch with words: his prose was luminous, noncondescending, and thought provoking. Indeed, the...

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1. The Self and the World

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pp. 3-27

My ancestors lived in Poland and the Ukraine for centuries. They were poor and uneducated merchants, although my mother’s ancestors maintained a prominent standing within the Jewish community. In the late nineteenth century, as pogroms erupted and anti-Semitism spread, various members of the family decided to immigrate to the New World: a few came to the United States, others traveled as far as Brazil. As a result of immigration...

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2. The Uses of Catastrophe

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pp. 30-54

...n. s. In the “Letter to a German Friend” [Art and Anger], you recounthow you explored your family roots, Jewish memory, and mythology,wife visited Kafka’s Prague and several former concentration campssites. What kind of preconceptions on those subjects did you carryi. s. It was 1988 and I was looking for my roots in the Old Continent—...

3. The Task of the Intellectual

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pp. 55-77

4. Translation and Its Discontents

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pp. 78-98

5. Onto la hispanidad

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pp. 99-121

6. Lexicomania

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pp. 122-141

7. A Biographer in Macondo

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pp. 142-167

8. Of Rabbis, Books, and Mirrors

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pp. 168-194

Index

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pp. 195-207


E-ISBN-13: 9780299199135
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299199104

Publication Year: 2004