In one of the brilliant lectures that Julio Cortázar gave at the University of Berkeley in 1980, entitled ‘Latin American Literature Today’ (that you can find in a miraculous edition published by New Directions and translated by Katherine Silver) he says something that I find key when trying to think about what makes Latin American literature different: ‘I have always thought that literature wasn’t born to give answers – which is the articulated goal of science and philosophy – but rather to ask questions, to unsettle, to open our intelligence and our sensibility to new perspectives of the real (…). From that point of view, current Latin American literature is the most formidable interrogator we can remember’. Of course this is linked to a particular sociopolitical and historical context, and one of the most turbulent ones for many Latin American countries, but I believe it still applies when I try to explain rationally something that is hard to pin down, or rather, that encompasses so much that it would take a lifetime to explain.
I am slightly uncomfortable to speak of Latin American literature as a whole because each and every country that makes the region one, contains in itself many universes, and this is again replicated within each nation. This is a reality that is also manifested in language, and I am not just thinking of Portuguese vis-à-vis Spanish, but rather the languages within each language, and the different landscapes, tones, realities that they express. But for the sake of this article and to bring to readers a humble and succinct overview of what Charco is trying to do, I’ll stick to Latin American literature as a single concept, albeit overarching.
As Sam mentioned in the previous blog entries, most of the authors we publish, have never before been translated into English, despite the fact that in most cases these are well-known, highly-regarded, award-winning authors, translated into many other languages. Paradoxically, every time we publish a book, we are taking a risk, because all these recognitions may simply not translate. In other words, these different perspectives of reality, the questions these texts bring with them, may be very differently received by the English-speaking reader. But does it matter? Should it matter? The option should be down to the reader, not to the industry. That is why we aim to publish an array of voices, styles, themes and so forth, so as to give the English-speaking reader the choice to inhabit some of the questions, worlds, visions being tackled by our authors, to open up to different sensibilities.
Choosing to showcase an author or a book among the several titles we have published, or from the ones forthcoming, would feel like having to pick my favourite child, so I shall refrain. I do invite you, however, to browse our website and have a browse through our titles and authors and/or talk to your local bookseller (pandemic allowing) to see what they’d recommend to you from our list. I am extremely proud for the work we have done so far and for having broaden the options in your Latin American Literature section a tiny bit. There is a lot to do. There is a lot more to come from this land, as Eduardo Galeano would say, with an inexplicable capacity to resist.
(Dr. Carolina Orloff is an author, translator and scholar who has been working on research projects studying the literature, politics and culture of contemporary Argentina. At the end of 2016, together with Sam McDowell, Carolina co-founded Charco Press. Carolina acts as director and main editor at Charco Press.)