Tuesday, April 12, 2011


One of my favorite groups on campus is the PSU AMERICANISTS, a grad student organization headquartered in the Penn State Comparative Literature program and dedicated to truly hemispheric approaches to the literatures of the Americas. Over the years, this group has organized some of the best and most provocative symposia offered at the university. Last night, they produced "Writing the Americas: Writing World Literature," a symposium that brought the authors Zulfikar Ghose, Joao Almino and Luisa Valenzuela for a few days of intense conversation. I had not known of Almino before, despite his having won the Casa de las Americas Prize, but I see that his winning novel has been translated into English as The Five Seasons of Love, one in a series of novels Almino has set in the city of Brasilia. Ghose is, of course, a far better known writer in the United States who appears often in literary journals and newspapers. His The Incredible Brazilian provides one link to Almino's world, though my favorite Ghose title is Confessions of a Native-Alien. (I noticed just this evening that Wilson Harris's novel Jonestown, which I'll be teaching next semester, is dedicated to Ghose.) But the artist I had been anticipating most eagerly was Luisa Valenzuela, author of such stunning works as Clara, Strange Things Happen Here and Black Novel with Argentines. Valenzuela's novels appeared in my favorite remainder store in Washington DC back in my penniless undergraduate student days and I've been reading her with fascination ever since. I'd last had an opportunity to speak with her in 1982, when DC hosted an Hispanic Book Festival and Valenzuela was featured one memorable evening on the campus of the University of the District of Columbia. If you haven't read Valenzuela yet, start with the more recent Bedside Manners, available here.

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