failures of language, typography, and translation

Granta is publishing its first ever issue in Spanish, which is pretty awesome. I think it says a lot about the difference in thinking about diversity between laypeople and artists. Or something. I dunno. I just think it speaks well to the idea that there are more liberal and understanding people out there than we think. And given the current US stance on Spanish-speakers, it’s nice to know that there are people in other countries who aren’t nuts.

But look at the titles. On closer look, I realize that the title indeed says “Spanish-language,” not “Spanish,” but you can barely read “language,” and they’re missing a hyphen, so technically the title is grammatically incorrect, and it’s almost a misnomer, because it’s going to seem as if it’s only novelists from Spain. And it seems they did that on purpose, since they made the word “language” so small. Probably it’s because we consider Europeans to be superior to South and Central Americans. That’s confirmed by the representation of southern hemisphere writers, as many come from Argentina and Uruguay, arguably the most European of Latin American countries. In fact, 15 of the 22 authors represented are from Spain, Argentina, or Uruguay. Not that I know much about the current state of Spanish-language novels, as I really haven’t read anything contemporary in Spanish (I should get on that, starting with this issue of Granta), but I can’t imagine that there aren’t equally talented writers from other countries. Still, this issue is a start.

There’s also the issue of the title, which is not the same in English as it is in Spanish. I would say the Spanish title is more offensive given the unfair geographical distribution, because the Spanish title translates as “The Best Young Novelists in Spanish.” At least the English title doesn’t imply that these are the only hispanohablantes (I wish we had an equivalent word in English, but we really don’t–one language is never sufficient for expression) worth reading, just that this magazine compiles the best work of these 22 writers.

The youngest person is 29. That’s pretty young, but I’m curious as to whether there are younger novelists out there. Since there are a number of people my age in English-speaking countries who are publishing, there must be some in Spanish-speaking countries as well.

So much about publishing in other countries I’d like to study. I can’t wait to do a Fulbright. Also, I think I should read this issue in Spanish, as a challenge to myself.


3 thoughts on “failures of language, typography, and translation

  1. Having devoured Spanish and Latin American literature from an early age until I became jaded, I can say that there is a definite lack of depth in the literary life of the Spanish speaking portion of the continent. While there is a novel-writing culture in Argentina and Uruguay due to what you rightly call their European cultural influence, there is no such culture in the rest of the countries except for the badly called “Boom Latinoamericano” of the 50’s. “Boom” that never existed and was merely a marketing device to lump together the works of several generations of writers that wrote or published during the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s; the ones still alive are 80-year-olds and thereabouts.

    For example in the country I call home, Colombia, there hasn’t been appeared a younger novelist that could succeed Gabriel García Márquez and Alvaro Mutis in the national Parnasus. There are many novelists, of course, but when you read them in the silence of the evening, you can hear the sound of your neurons dieing in pain.

      • Yes, it is really sad. We Latin Americans have an unhealthy fascination with anything and everything that is foreign and, most importanly, from the “Metropolis” (in the French meaning of the concept). First we looked to the Imperial seat, then to France, then to England. And in the last 60 years the source of all that is cultured and sophisticated has been the US (except in Argentina and Uruguay due to the large number of European immigrants there).

        That makes the “Boom” writers much more valuable as they tried to create real and authentic Latin American literature. These days, at least in Colombia as the diffusion of local literature between our countries is quite limited, all novel is a heartless, soulless rehash of our daily toils, sometimes a mere chronicle, sometimes a half-hearted critique, others hypocritical apologies ( and those are the ones that sell the most, we have at least 20 different versions of “Killing Pablo” and all are better than the US book. )

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