By huge popular demand or, rather, by request of one intellectually curious reader, I will now try to offer suggestions on which contemporary Latin American writers might be worth reading. I don't study Latin American literature professionally, even though when I first started my career in Hispanic Studies that was what I was going to do. Then I realized that I was psychologically unprepared to deal with the kind of deep-seated hatred of women that informs contemporary Latin American literature. (If you have discovered Latin American novels that you think are not machista, leave their titles in the comments, and I will show you why you are mistaken.)
So these are the authors from Latin America who are writing right now and who are good enough for me to disregard their Stone Age attitudes towards women:
- Mario Vargas Llosa from Peru is the only writer of the Latin American Boom whose work I love to the point of following everything he writes. My favorite book ever by this writer is La guerra del fin del mundo (The War of the End of the World in English.) As I wrote before, Latin American writers have been trying to create a great Latin American love story for a very long time now. They have failed miserably, in my opinion. Vargas Llosa's attempt at this goal, however, (titled The Bad Girl: A Novel) is better than most. It's also one of the most recent novels by this newly-minted Nobel Prize winner.
- Another Peruvian whose work I'm reading right now is Alfredo Bryce Echenique. When I finish his Un mundo para Julius (Spanish Edition) (or A World for Julius: A Novel (THE AMERICAS)), I will post a review on this blog.
- If you are interested in Cuban literature, I'd recommend Zoe Valdes. Her I Gave You All I Had is available in English translation, so it might make sense to check it out.
- Alberto Fuguet is what I'd call a very typical Chilean writer. His male Bildungsroman Mala onda (in English translation Bad Vibes) has had a cult following, although I have no idea why. I find this author's writing to be infantile and boring.
- Edmundo Paz Soldan is a Bolivian who teaches at Cornell. His novel La materia del deseo (Spanish Edition) (or The Matter of Desire: A Novel in English) is a story of a Bolivian professor who teaches at Cornell. The book would be really fantastic if it weren't for its profound machismo, but well, what else is new. If you want to read Latin American literature, you'll have to get used to it.
- Roberto Bolaño from Chile died recently. He is a Latin American writer you need to read because his fame keeps growing. If you don't feel prepared to tackle his humongous 2666: A Novel, maybe you should start with The Savage Detectives: A Novel.
As I go over this list, I'm seeing that I don't have any authors from Mexico and Argentina which upsets me. If anybody knows of anything good in terms of literature that happened in these countries since Juan Rulfo and Manuel Puig respectively, please let me know in the comment section. My familiarity with other Latin American countries in terms of literature has always been next to non-existent.
Remember that the best gift you could give me is a reading suggestion. So feel free to share your favorite contemporary Latin American writers in the comments. Please don't list Borges and Carpentier, though, because we are talking about people who are writing right now.