Collection of interviews from The Paris Review with ten authors addressing many subjects but a single overarching theme: What does it mean to be a Latin American writer?
“I despise the term ‘Latin America,’ ” declares Cuban novelist and essayist Guillermo Cabrera Infante. “Better call us Mongrelia. We are mongrels, a messy mix of white, black, and Indian.” For Colombian Gabriel García Márquez, it means to be a descendant of the Cuban Revolution, which, having “turned into an article of consumption,” ignited interest in a literature hitherto ignored both abroad and at home. “What was really sad,” García Márquez adds, “is that cultural colonialism is so bad in Latin America that it was impossible to convince the Latin Americans themselves that their own novels were good until people outside told them they were.” Argentine fabulist Jorge Luis Borges finds the question uninteresting. “For about the last seven years,” he remarks in an interview from 1966, “I’ve been doing my best to know something of Old English and Old Norse. Consequently, that’s a long way off in time and space from the Argentine, from Argentine writers, no?” Chilean poet Pablo Neruda dances around the matter, and a couple of dozen others, with a dazzling mix of erudition and Stalinist sophistry, while exiled Argentine novelist Manuel Puig makes a case for the writer as a citizen of a private world. Other stars take a turn in these pages, with Octavio Paz, Carlos Fuentes, and Mario Vargas Llosa weighing in to throw out gossipy tidbits, offer advice to young writers, and speak to favorite causes. Curiously, only one woman is represented: Argentine journalist and novelist Luisa Valenzuela holds her own just fine, but one wonders at the omission of, for example, Isabel Allende and Laura Esquivel.
A worthy entry in the long list of Paris Review interview volumes, of considerable interest to students of world literature and creative writing.