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Literature > Latin American and Caribbean Literature

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Ilan Stavans Cover

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Ilan Stavans

Eight Conversations

Neal Sokol

    "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.

Imaging the Chinese in Cuban Literature and Culture Cover

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Imaging the Chinese in Cuban Literature and Culture

Ignacio López-Calvo

More than 150 years ago, the first Chinese contract laborers ("coolies") arrived in Cuba to work the colonial plantations. Eventually, over 150,000 Chinese immigrated to the island, and their presence has had a profound effect on all aspects of Cuban cultural production, from food to books to painting.

Ignacio Lopez-Calvo's interpretations often go against the grain of earlier research, refusing to conceive of Cuban identity either in terms of a bipolar black/white opposition or an idyllic and harmonious process of miscegenation. He also counters traditional representations of chinos mambises, Chinese immigrants who fought for Cuba in the Wars of Independence against Spain.

Imaging the Chinese in Cuban Literature and Culture fills a void in literary criticism, breaking new ground within the small field of Sino-Cuban studies. It is destined to set the tone for years to come.

Invisible Work Cover

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Invisible Work

Borges and Translation

Efraín Kristal

It is well known that Jorge Luis Borges was a translator, but this has been considered a curious minor aspect of his literary achievement. Few have been aware of the number of texts he translated, the importance he attached to this activity, or the extent to which the translated works inform his own stories and poems. Between the age of ten, when he translated Oscar Wilde, and the end of his life, when he prepared a Spanish version of the Prose Edda , Borges transformed the work of Poe, Kafka, Hesse, Kipling, Melville, Gide, Faulkner, Whitman, Woolf, Chesterton, and many others. In a multitude of essays, lectures, and interviews Borges analyzed the versions of others and developed an engaging view about translation. He held that a translation can improve an original, that contradictory renderings of the same work can be equally valid, and that an original can be unfaithful to a translation. Borges's bold habits as translator and his views on translation had a decisive impact on his creative process. Translation is also a recurrent motif in Borges's stories. In "The Immortal," for example, a character who has lived for many centuries regains knowledge of poems he had authored, and almost forgotten, by way of modern translations. Many of Borges's fictions include actual or imagined translations, and some of his most important characters are translators. In "Pierre Menard, author of the Quixote," Borges's character is a respected Symbolist poet, but also a translator, and the narrator insists that Menard's masterpiece-his "invisible work"-adds unsuspected layers of meaning to Cervantes's Don Quixote . George Steiner cites this short story as "the most acute, most concentrated commentary anyone has offered on the business of translation." In an age where many discussions of translation revolve around the dichotomy faithful/unfaithful, this book will surprise and delight even Borges's closest readers and critics.

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Island Bodies

Transgressive Sexualities in the Caribbean Imagination

Rosamond S. King

In Island Bodies, Rosamond King examines sexualities, violence, and repression in the Caribbean experience. She analyzes the sexual norms and expectations portrayed in Caribbean and diaspora literature, music, film, and popular culture to show how many individuals contest traditional roles by maneuvering within and/or trying to change their society’s binary gender systems. She skillfully argues and demonstrates that these transgressions better represent Caribbean culture than the “official” representations perpetuated by governmental elites and often codified into laws that reinforce patriarchal, heterosexual stereotypes.

Unique in its breadth and its multilingual and multidisciplinary approach, Island Bodies addresses homosexuality, interracial relations, transgender people, and women’s sexual agency in Dutch, Francophone, Anglophone, and Hispanophone works of Caribbean literature. Additionally, King explores the paradoxical nature of sexuality across the region: discussing sexuality in public is often considered taboo, yet the tourism economy trades on portraying Caribbean residents as hypersexualized.

Ultimately King reveals that despite the varied national specificity, differing colonial legacies, and linguistic diversity across the islands, there are striking similarities in the ways Caribglobal cultures attempt to restrict sexuality and in the ways individuals explore and transgress those boundaries.

Jungle Fever Cover

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Jungle Fever

Exploring Madness and Medicine in Twentieth-Century Tropical Narratives

Charlotte Rogers

The sinister "jungle"that illdefined and amorphous place where civilization has no foothold and survival is always in doubtis the terrifying setting for countless works of the imagination. Films like Apocalypse Now, television shows like Lost, and of course stories like Heart of Darkness all pursue the essential question of why the unknown world terrifies adventurer and spectator alike. In Jungle Fever, Charlotte Rogers goes deep into five books that first defined the jungle as a violent and maddening place. The reader finds urban explorers venturing into the wilderness, encountering and living among the "native" inhabitants, and eventually losing their minds.

The canonical works of authors such as Joseph Conrad, Andre Malraux, Jose Eustasio Rivera, and others present jungles and wildernesses as fundamentally corrupting and dangerous. Rogers explores how the methods these authors use to communicate the physical and psychological maladies that afflict their characters evolved symbiotically with modern medicine. While the wilderness challenges Conrad's and Malraux's European travelers to question their civility and mental stability, Latin American authors such as Alejo Carpentier deftly turn pseudoscientific theories into their greatest asset, as their characters transform madness into an essential creative spark.

Ultimately, Jungle Fever suggests that the greatest horror of the jungle is the unknown regions of the character's own mind.

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Kant's Dog

On Borges, Philosophy, and the Time of Translation

Situates Borges at the limit of philosophy and literature.

The Legacy of Christopher Columbus in the Americas Cover

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The Legacy of Christopher Columbus in the Americas

New Nations and a Transatlantic Discourse of Empire

Elise Bartosik-Velez

Why is the capital of the United States named in part after Christopher Columbus, a Genoese explorer commissioned by Spain who never set foot on what would become the nation's mainland? Why did Spanish American nationalists in 1819 name a new independent republic "Colombia," after Columbus, the first representative of empire from which they recently broke free? These are only two of the introductory questions explored in The Legacy of Christopher Columbus in the Americas, a fundamental recasting of Columbus as an eminently powerful tool in imperial constructs.


Bartosik-Velez seeks to explain the meaning of Christopher Columbus throughout the so-called New World, first in the British American colonies and the United States, as well as in Spanish America, during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. She argues that, during the pre- and post-revolutionary periods, New World societies commonly imagined themselves as legitimate and powerful independent political entities by comparing themselves to the classical empires of Greece and Rome. Columbus, who had been construed as a figure of empire for centuries, fit perfectly into that framework. By adopting him as a national symbol, New World nationalists appeal to Old World notions of empire.

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Life in Search of Readers

Reading (in) Chicano/a Literature

Manuel M. Martín-Rodríguez

Martín-Rodríguez begins this writing with an examination of the Chicano movement of the 1960s and 1970s, when the creation of Chicano-owned or controlled publishing enterprises made possible a surge of Chicano/a literature at the national level. He then concentrates on Chicana literature and "engendering" the reader and on linguistic and marketing strategies for a multicultural readership. Finally, Martín-Rodríguez provides a very thorough list of Chicano/a literature which he studied and he recommends for the reader to consider.

Love and Politics in the Contemporary Spanish American Novel Cover

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Love and Politics in the Contemporary Spanish American Novel

By Aníbal González

The Latin American Literary Boom was marked by complex novels steeped in magical realism and questions of nationalism, often with themes of surreal violence. In recent years, however, those revolutionary projects of the sixties and seventies have given way to quite a different narrative vision and ideology. Dubbed the new sentimentalism, this trend is now keenly elucidated in Love and Politics in the Contemporary Spanish American Novel. Offering a rich account of the rise of this new mode, as well as its political and cultural implications, Aníbal González delivers a close reading of novels by Miguel Barnet, Elena Poniatowska, Isabel Allende, Alfredo Bryce Echenique, Gabriel García Márquez, Antonio Skármeta, Luis Rafael Sánchez, and others. González proposes that new sentimental novels are inspired principally by a desire to heal the division, rancor, and fear produced by decades of social and political upheaval. Valuing pop culture above the avant-garde, such works also tend to celebrate agape—the love of one’s neighbor—while denouncing the negative effects of passion (eros). Illuminating these and other aspects of post-Boom prose, Love and Politics in the Contemporary Spanish American Novel takes a fresh look at contemporary works.

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Machado de Assis, the Brazilian Pyrrhonian

by José Raimundo Maia Neto

Machado de Assis (1839-1908) is Brazil's greatest writer and the most important Latin American writer of the nineteenth century. His subtle criticism of cherished institutions is evident to all readers, and critics have often mentioned his skepticism. In Machado de Assis, the Brazilian Pyrrhonian, however, a philosopher seriously examines Machado's philosophical position for the first time. Jose' Raimundo Maia Neto traces Machado's particular brand of skepticism to that of the ancient philosopher Pyrrho of Elis and reveals the sources through which he inherited that line of thought. He then shows how Machado's own philosophical development follows the stages proposed by Pyrrho for the development of a skeptical worldview.

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