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CULTURE | 22-05-2024 16:04

Argentine writer Selva Almada: ‘More attention is being paid to Latin American literature'

Acclaimed author from Entre Ríos, whose third novel was nominated for the International Booker Prize, discusses creation, translation and international recognition.

Acclaimed Argentine author Selva Almada belongs to a wave of Latin American writers gaining international recognition.

The 51-year-old writer from Entre Ríos travelled to London this week after she was selected as a nominee for the International Booker Prize, the prestigious British literary award that was won on Tuesday by German author Jenny Erpenbeck for her book Kairos.

Almada, a finalist with the English translation of her book No es un río (“Not a river”), was singled out by organisers of the prestigious award as “one of the most powerful voices of contemporary Latin American literature and one of the most influential feminist intellectuals in the region.”

“I believe that at present, Latin American literature is doing very well,” she said in an interview. “There’s a variety of authors, especially women authors, very diverse, very rich, with super interesting books. They’re also authors who, fortunately, are extensively translated into different languages.”

She explained: “Regardless of the Booker, there has been attention paid to Latin American literature from the rest of the world these last few years, thanks to these books and these authors.”

Works by Selva Almada have been translated into French, English, Italian, Portuguese, German, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian and Turkish. 

“When I write a book and I publish it in Argentina, its future is always quite uncertain. So the fact that it is translated, circulated, has new readers… to me is a great joy. And if that also contributes to spreading Argentine and Latin American literature worldwide, then I’m twice as happy,” said the author. 

“Having been selected is very important to me personally as an author, but also as a part of Latin American literature, because it’s a very important award to put books in circulation and also to make readers take a look at Latin American authors as well,” said the author. 

No es un río is the author’s third novel, after El viento que arrasa (“The wind that lays waste”) and Ladrilleros (“Brickmakers”). She started out in the poetry world with Mal de muñecas (“Evil of dolls”).

This novel can be considered the third chapter of a trilogy of works by Almada. In her previous two novels she explored the world of men, focusing on the usual emotional bonds between them and focusing on feelings and violence.

“The three novels feature males stars and go into the different ways males relate to one another. Relationships between fathers and sons, between friends, between lovers. It’s a universe crossed by masculinity and misogyny,” the author said.

“I’m quite curious about the male world and especially to imagine the possibilities of why they act the way they act. Mostly thinking about our continent, [which is] dominated by sexism. In novels and fiction, I try to figure out how this apparatus works,” she observed.

In 2021, the 51-year-old collaborated with Argentine director Maximiliano Schonfeld on the script for the film Jesús López. Almada was also a finalist for the Premio Bienal de Novela Mario Vargas Llosa award with No es un río, which in Rome went on to win the IILA-Letteratura prize in Rome.

“The only thing I look for by writing is to go on writing. I’m very amused by writing. Every time I start a new book,. it’s like a kind of abyss I lean out of. I’m very fond of that state. And then, well, I also celebrate that there are readers interested in those books,” she said. 

“The exchange that later happens with those readers is very interesting, very rich. I’m interested in literature that entertains. I have read a lot since I was a child and I owe it to books that they have opened doors into unknown worlds.

“If that also happens to someone with my literature, I think my work is done”, she concluded. 

by Pablo San Roman, AFP

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