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Giovanna Rivero latest's novel. Photo: Candaya
Giovanna Rivero latest's novel. Photo: Candaya

Giovanna Rivera, the Bolivian writer who speaks openly about the horror and terror of everyday life

Her latest book, 'Tierra fresca de sus tumbas', inspired by a real case, combines macabre, science fiction and extreme realism.

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If Giovanna Rivero had to choose a universal literary phrase with which she identifies herself, she would choose this one by Rimbaud: "I am another". 

"Thus, we are others from our position as readers, because with the interpretation we tension the meaning of a text and force the authorship to give us a portion of its place, of its task. We are others from the act of being a writer: to assume the voice and the destiny of a character is, for me and to a great extent, to alienate myself, to withdraw a little from the verb "I am" to make invention possible from this shifting translation that writing propitiates".

With these words the outstanding Bolivian novelist and short-story writer responded to the question she was asked a few days ago in El Diario, a reference media in her country. 

Born in Montero, Santa Cruz, in 1972, Rivero belongs to the new generation of emerging Latin American writers who have managed to make their mark on the other side of the Atlantic. Rivera began her literary career in 1997, when she was awarded the Santa Cruz Municipal Prize for Literature for her collection of fantastic stories "Las bestias" (The Beasts) and since then she has been gaining fame for stories of a fantastic nature with a certain terrifying aura. International critics have classified her within the "New Latin American Gothic", a label in which she does not feel comfortable: 

"Belonging to the Latin American Gothic fully is something I resist a bit because I write from a place of radical freedom, a place where what matters is that the character's life, the conflicts he faces, are what determine the story and the relationship with the reader," she explained in an interview with Casa America Barcelona on the occasion of her participation in the Festival of Fantastic Genres.

Rivero took advantage of the trip to Barcelona to present his latest book, "Tierra fresca de su tumba"(Candaya, 2021), a series of fictional stories that bring together everyday horror, science fiction and the most extreme realism. The book began to brew in 2015 as a result of reading news about a case of mass rape in Manitoba, a Mennonite colony in his native Bolivia.

"I think one of the daily horrors that has recrudesced in the last couple of decades is femicides. The persecution of women for any circumstance, for the fact that they are women, because they have some kind of knowledge, because they want to exercise the full freedom to be people. This is the daily horror against which we must fight from all possible sides. Violence against girls is something that deeply shakes me and is a horror that torments me," the author told Casa América. 

Before identifying herself with the Latin American gothic novel, Rivero prefers to identify herself more as a woman, Bolivian and from the periphery, "a triad of factors that constitutes an enormous challenge in all areas of her work," she told Casa América.

"That peripheral place in any case also constitutes a tension that one can take advantage of subverting from one's own art, that is, I believe that being in a place that is not hegemonic, that is not central, also offers you the opportunity to create something else, to challenge those already established powers," she added.

His latest novel, "98 segundos sin sombra", published in Spain by Caballo de Troya and made into a film by Bolivian director Juan Pablo Richter, is a poetic yet merciless account of current Latin American reality. The protagonist, Genoveva, is sixteen years old, studies at a nuns' school and lives, as she says, in the Ass of the World, in a town in deep Latin America where modernization is arriving hand in hand with drug trafficking. She doesn't like what she sees, she doesn't like what she touches, she doesn't like the life she has and the life that awaits her. And for that reason -and for the other-, "with a contradictory, intense, impudent, undaunted and almost amoral voice due to the innocence she exudes", as described by the publisher, she tells us her secrets and longings and the chiaroscuros of a credulous spirituality "ready to believe in anything to get out of here and go who knows where".

Rivero is also the author of the children's stories "Lo más oscuro del bosque" (2015) and "La dueña de nuestros sueños" (2002), and the novels "Las camaleonas" (2001), "Tukzon, historias colaterales"(2009), "Helena 2022: La vera crónica de un naufragio en el tiempo" (2011).

Selected as one of the 25 best kept secrets of Latin America by the Guadalajara Book Fair, Rivero has lived in the United States since 2007 when she settled in the United States to pursue a doctorate in Hispanic American literature at the University of Florida.

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