Chile Revives in Bookstores
The recent work of several Chilean authors has put the Latin American country in the spotlight of Hispanic literature.
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Last week, Chilean writer and journalist Cristian Alarcón won the 2022 Alfaguara prize, one of the most important literary awards given to an unpublished work written in Spanish, with his novel El tercer paraíso (The Third Paradise). Set in various locations in Chile and Argentina, the book, in addition to recounting autobiographical episodes, includes various recognizable historical events in Chilean history: from the 1960 earthquake and Salvador Allende's rise to power, to Pinochet's coup d'état and the subsequent repression.
Alarcón is not the first to put Chile in the spotlight of current Spanish-language literature. In the last year, several authors from the Latin American country, whose political and social panorama has been shaken in recent years, have published outstanding works, "betting on situating themselves in the forgotten peripheries and using humor as the language of reconstruction," as journalist Paloma Cruz Sotomayor wrote in Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia on Friday, Jan. 21.
One of them is Paulina Flores (born in Santiago in 1988), who in 2021 published her first novel, Isla Decepción (published by Seix Barral in 2021). Written as a comedy, it is an account of the crude reality of the Eastern sailors who traverse the Strait of Magellan in so-called factory ships. Addressing the current state of exploitation of the seas and working conditions unthinkable in the 21st century, the novel crosses the border of reality to reach a new shore, one where loneliness, mistakes and despair can still become an adventure.
Also standing out for his casual and realistic tone is Alejandro Zambra, author of Poeta chileno (published by Anagrama in 2020). The book tells the story of Gonzalo, a poet who wants to be a poet and a stepfather who behaves as if he were Vicente's biological father, a boy addicted to cat food who years later refuses to study at the university because his main dream is to become — also — a poet. This comes despite the advice of Carla, his proudly lonely mother, and Leon, a mediocre father dedicated to collecting toy cars.
On the other hand, journalist Cruz Sotomayor highlights Benjamin Labatut (born in Rotterdam in 1980), the most political writer of them all, who in October 2021 published La piedra de la locura (Anagrama), an essay on chaos and madness based on scientific theories, literary expressions and personal experiences. Labatut is also the author of When We Cease to Understand the World, his most famous book, recommended by U.S President Barack Obama and a finalist for the 2021 Booker Prize.
Finally, Bruno Lloret (born in Santiago in 1990), author of Nancy, the story of a woman victim of violence in northern Chile, a desolate and exploited region, and journalist Arelis Uribe (born in Santiago in 1987), who recently published Quiltras (Tránsito), a book of short stories in which she addresses issues such as sexuality among women, care and love for animals, travels to Chilean villages, virtual love, adolescence and education in Chile, all from a critical and critical point of view.