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Courtesy: Nórdica Books
Courtesy: Nórdica Books

An alternative 'atlas' of Latin American literature

In 'Atlas de la literatura latinoamericana,' Argentine writer Clara Obligado asked 50 renowned authors and academics to write about their favorite authors.

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Clara Obligado arrived in Spain in 1976, fleeing the terror of the Argentine dictatorship. After a stopover in Barcelona to announce to her then partner's sister that he had been one of the "disappeared" and to visit the Chilean writer José Donoso in Sitges, she settled in Madrid, where she lives to this day. 

Over the next 45 years, Obligado, who was a student of Jorge Luis Borges during her university years in Buenos Aires, dedicated herself to teaching creative writing workshops in Spain, being a pioneer in the field, and writing and studying Latin American literature. The author of numerous books, she recently published Atlas de literatura latinoamericana, a book-manual that aims to highlight and empower the rich variety of literary traditions present in these countries that are too often unknown in Spain and neighboring nations.

"We are before an original, timely and exemplary work," observes literary critic Fernando Iwasaki in Diario ABC, a Spanish newspaper. "We have been decades without refreshing our views on Latin American literature, very attached to the same names. In this illustrated book, Obligado, half Spanish, half Argentine, has ordered the contributors to this 'Atlas' by readings, studies and devotions. Andres Neuman, for example, writes about Roberto Bolaño, Mariana Enriquez about Silvina Ocampo and Ana Maria Shua about Augusto Monterroso. And so on in more than 30 texts to show a panoramic view of Latin American literature."

The book also includes notes by professors and specialists, such as Paqui Noguerol, professor of Spanish Philology at the University of Salamanca, Carmen Alemany, professor of Hispanic American Literature at the University of Alicante and director of the Mario Benedetti Center for Ibero-American Studies, and the Madrid professor Julio Prieto, specialist in Latin American literature and in charge of the entries on Felisberto Hernández and Gabriela Mistral.

"The first goal of this book was to remove the boom generation from the foreground," Obligado told El País in another interview. Among the 'greats' who do not have an entry in the atlas are Borges, Rulfo, César Vallejo and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. As a result, there are many names of writers, and especially women writers, unknown to the general public. 

atlas literatura latinoamericana
Courtesy Agustín Comotto/Nordica Books

The challenge issued to the 47 contributors invited to participate in the 'Atlas' was as follows: "If you had to choose an author to put on the map, who would you put? You have to choose him or her with enthusiasm. And tell a reader who doesn't know Roberto Bolaño, for example, why they should read him now, what's so wonderful about him," explained Obligado about her book, which is accompanied by vignettes by Argentine illustrator Agustín Comotto. 

Obligado is the author of more than 20 books, among them the novel Si un hombre vivo te hace llorar (1998), the stories of La biblioteca de agua (2019) and the essay "Una casa lejos de casa" (2020), where she addresses foreignness by relating it to language.

Her latest published work is "Todo lo que crece," an essay where she fuses her childhood memories with reflections on literature, the environment, and the immigrant condition.

"I lived in paradise, the Argentine Pampas of my childhood... but it no longer exists, the monoculture of transgenic soybeans ate it all," said Obligado in an interview with La Vanguardia in March. 

The book began to be written during confinement in a village of 270 inhabitants in Extremadura, in rural Spain, "which allowed me to realize my fantasy of living in the countryside for a year," she told La Vanguardia.

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