Live event: Nathalie Teitler, Cristina Bendek & Karina Lickorish Quinn

Date and time Fri, 13 May 2022, 19:00 BST

On leaving and returning: a FLAWA Festival conversation between two debut novelists and a literary activist who has been promoting diversity in the UK for over 20 years and is now working on her first novel. Join Nathalie Teitler, Cristina Bendek and Karina Lickorish Quinn talking to Silvia Rothlisberger about their fiction writing on leaving and returning.

Cristina Bendek is a Caribbean author, born on the island of San Andrés (Colombia) in October 1987. In 2018 her first novel, Salt Crystals, won the Elisa Mújica National Novel Prize (Colombia). The novel has been translated into Portuguese (Moinhos, 2021), and Danish (Aurora Boreal, 2020), and now appears in English translation for the first time with Charco Press, which will also launch the novel in Spanish for the North American readership. Some of her work has also been translated into German. Cristina is also a journalist but spends her time researching Caribbean literature and writing fiction. She lives in Berlin.

Dr Nathalie Teitler was born in Buenos Aires and did a PhD in Argentine poets. She has worked promoting inclusivity in British arts, especially literature for 25 years.  She is the Director of the Complete Works- an initiative that had a significant impact on the landscape of British poetry. She is also the founding Director, along with poet Leo Boix, of Nuevo Sol, an organisation developing British Latinx writers and building links with Latinx & Latin American writers around the world. She is working on her first novel, exploring gender, colonialism & race that is set in the tango scene of Buenos Aires in 1900.

Karina Lickorish Quinn is a Peruvian-British writer and a lecturer at the University of Leeds. Her short prose has been published widely including in Wasafiri, The Offing, Palabritas, and the Journal of Latina Critical Feminism. She was featured in Un Nuevo Sol, the first major anthology of British-Latinx writers. Her debut novel The Dust Never Settles (Oneworld, 2021) examines the legacy of colonialism in Peru. It will be published in Spanish as El Polvo Nunca se Asienta by Editorial Arde in May 2022. Karina is working on her second novel and a short story collection. She is represented by Seren Adams at United Agents.

Location

Rich Mix 35-47 Bethnal Green Road – London E1 6LA

Date and time Fri, 13 May 2022, 19:00 BST

Book tickets: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/literary-talk-leaving-and-returning-tickets-299090677267

Live Event: FLAWA’s Poetics in Motion

I’m really happy to be curating some of the Literary events at this year’s FLAWA Festival (a festival in London dedicated to highlight the work of Latin American women artists).

Poetics in Motion Saturday 14 May 2022, 19:00 BST

Featuring poets Maia Elsner, Janel Pineda, Yvette Siegert, Sofía Vaisman who will be performing alongside open mic-ers; live music by the all-female bewitching Witchas!, and dance performance by the traditional dance group Somos Chibchas.

Open mic: Wish to share your own work on stage? Sign up on the night to enter your name into the open mic lucky dip draw – 6 slots 3 minutes each, selected at random.

Maia Elsner was born in London to Mexican and Polish Jewish parents. Her debut collection, overrun by wild boars (flipped eye, 2021), explores the dislocation of lives, communities, objects, and histories through migration and the legacies of colonisation. Most recently she has been involved in a film collaboration with Latin American artists across the diaspora, and in a poetry-postcard project that explores the refugee experience through troubling the line between verbal and visual arts.

Janel Pineda is a Los-Angeles born Salvadoran poet, educator, and the author of Lineage of Rain (Haymarket Books, 2021). Since her involvement with the 2018 Radical Roots Delegation, Pineda is also a member of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES). She holds an MA in Creative Writing and Education from Goldsmiths, University of London and is currently pursuing an MPhil in Latin American Studies at the University of Cambridge.

Yvette Siegert is the author of Atmospheric Ghost Lights, selected for the 2021Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowship Award. Her debut collection, a winner of the James Berry Poetry Prize, explores the civil war in El Salvador and is forthcoming from Bloodaxe Books. Shortlisted for the PEN Award for Poetry inTranslation.

Sofía Vaisman Maturana was born in Santiago, Chile 1993. Composer, poet, andmusic improviser. In 2019 awarded with the Victorina Press Poetry Awards (runner up), London. She currently publishes monthly chronicles of her experience as a boater for ‘Salvoconducta fanzine’ (Santiago, Chile).

Witchas! A music and arts collective based in London created by Latin Americanmigrant women and the daughters of Latin American migrants. They fusionBullerengue and other afro latin rhythms to create and experiment with new soundsand to inhabit cultural spaces usually dominated by male presence.

Somos Chibchas is a cultural association involving dance, music, visual arts and theater, focused on research, practice, preservation and diffusion of traditional Colombian culture and dances. Based on the study of old and new rhythms mostly focused on traditional dance movements and how they influence new dances developed for different genres of music.

Book tickets https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/latinx-poetics-in-motion-tickets-299056916287?fbclid=IwAR0Uv1qEtCqrmr4J8hUdro82a8W5loiqMehKiivOUZ-bnA0BJcFg7SFE8Uw

Podcast: Italian author & literary translator Claudia Durastanti

Claudia Durastanti is based in Rome, she has written four novels in Italian. She is co-founder of the Italian Literature Festival in London and is on the board of the Turin Book Fair. She is the Italian translator of Joshua Cohen, Donna Haraway, Ocean Vuong, and the most recent edition of The Great Gatsby. Two of Claudia’s novels have been translated into English: Cleopatra Goes to Prison, translated by Christine Donougher, and Strangers I Know translated by Elizabeth Harris.

Strangers I Know is Claudia’s fourth novel and the second one translated into English. A finalist for the Premio Strega in 2019, Strangers I Know has been translated into twenty-one languages. It is a first-person account of an unconventional family. Where Both parents are deaf and have no sign language in common – which allows communications to be rife with misinterpretations. The narrator comes of age in this strange, and increasingly estranged, household split between a small village in southern Italy and New York City. Strangers I Know is a profound portrait of an unconventional family that makes us look anew at how language shapes our understanding of ourselves.

Strangers I know is a novel, based on Claudia’s own family history. It is part autobiography, part mythology, part essay.

Podcast: Angolan author Ondjaki

Ondjaki was born in Luanda, Angola, in 1977. He has written poetry, children’s books, short stories, novels, playwrights and film scripts. He has won major literary awards and his books have been translated into more than a dozen languages.

 With a writing career spanning for two decades Ondjaki is the most prominent African writer of Portuguese from generations born after Portugal’s former colonies achieved independence in 1975.

Ondjaki’s latest book published in the UK is the award-winning Transparent City (translated by Stephen Henighan Europa editions UK 2021). Transparent City is a book set in Luanda,  through the life of the many people who inhabit a residential building Ondjaki depicts different perspectives of modern, capitalist, post-war Luanda.    

Ondjaki recently opened the bookshop Kiela Livraria in Luanda, started a publishing house, wrote and directed the film The Kitchen.  

Ondjaki photo by António Jorge Conçalves.

Sound engineer: Oscar Perez.

Podcast: Literary translator Sophie Hughes

Sophie Hughes has translated such Latin American writers as Alia Trabucco Zerán, Laia Jufresa, Brenda Navarro, Guadalupe Nettel, and Fernanda Melchor. She is the recipient of grants from PEN/Heim in the US, and the Arts Council and Arts Foundation in the UK. Her recent translation of Fernanda Melchor’s Hurricane Season was shortlisted for the International Booker Prize, the Dublin Literary Award, and longlisted for the National Book Award in Translation and the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. 

Sophie has also worked with the Stephen Spender Trust promoting translation in schools and is the co-editor of the anthology Europa28: Writing by Women on the Future of Europe.

Podcast: Literary translator and author Jennifer Croft

Jennifer Croft is a translator, author and literary critic who works from Polish and Argentine Spanish. She was awarded the 2018 Man Booker International Prize for her translation of Flights written by Olga Tokarczuk. Croft’s recent translations are a Perfect Cemetery by Federico Falco (Charco Press), and The Woman from Uruguay by Pedro Mairal She is the author of the memoir Homesick, the novel in Spanish Serpientes y EScaleras ; the forthcoming novels Amadou, Fidelity and a book-length essay about Postcards.

Sound engineer: Oscar Perez.

Literary South’s On Translation series

After almost five years of interviewing authors from Latin America, Literary South is exploring a new direction to talk about literature in translation. Many of the authors that have been featured in the show are also translators and Latin American authors writing in Spanish can access English-speaking readers, and important literary prizes, thanks to the translations of their work.

That’s why Literary South wants to explore translation as an art and as a powerful tool to diversify the stories we read. The first three guests of 2021:

February: translator, author and editor Jessica Sequeira.

Jessica Sequeira is a writer, literary translator and PhD candidate at the Centre of Latin American Studies, based in Cambridge (UK) and Santiago (Chile). Sequeira has translated authors like Carlos Fonseca, Osvaldo Lamborghini, Liliana Colanzi to name a few. She is the author of A Luminous History of the Palm (Sublunary editions), A Furious Oyster, a novel (Dostoyevsky Wannabe), Rhombus and Oval, a collection of stories (What Books Press), Other Paradises, a collection of essays (Zero Books).

March: translator and author Jennifer Croft

Jennifer Croft is an American author, critic and translator who works from Polish, Ukrainian and Spanish. Croft is the author of the memoir Homesick (Unnamed Press) With the author Olga Tokarczuk, she was awarded the 2018 Booker International Prize for her translation of Flights (Fitzcarraldo Editions).

April : Translator and editor Eric M B Becker

Eric M. B. Becker is a writer, literary translator, and editor of Words without Borders. In 2014, he earned a PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant for his translation of a collection of short stories from the Portuguese by Neustadt Prize for International Literature winner and 2015 Man Booker International Finalist Mia Couto (now available from Biblioasis as Rain and Other Stories). He has also published translations of numerous writers from Brazil, Portugal, and Lusophone Africa, including, Noemi Jaffe, Elvira Vigna, Paulo Scott, Martha Batalha, Paulo Coelho, and Carlos Drummond de Andrade. Current book projects include work by Djaimila Pereira de Almeida, Alice Sant’Anna, Fernanda Torres, and Lygia Fagundes Telles (NEA Fellowship 2019), among others.

Book review: Feebleminded by Ariana Harwicz (trans. Annie McDermott & Carolina Orloff)

Silvia Rothlisberger

Feebleminded is narrated with an intense and fragmented prose characteristic of Ariana Harwicz (Argentina, 1977). It is the second book of what Harwicz calls an “involuntary trilogy” where she explores motherhood, how it affects the characters psychically, and how it sways their desires. Divided in three parts and with only 117 pages Feebleminded is a bold and superb short novel that confronts the impossible parameters society has set for women.

In the book, a woman in her late 20s lives with her toxic and alcoholic mother. They are more like two best friends than mother and daughter. Their house is a creepy place with wigs hanging up and mice in jars of formaldehyde. We learn about the daughter’s neglected childhood through feverish memories unveiled in conversations and internal monologues. Memories as far in the past as when she was conceived (“the guy comes inside my mum looking skyward and so it all begins”), or from one night when she was in her mother’s womb and the mum threw dice to decide if she’d get rid of the unknown creature inside her.

The pace of the novel is like a staccato: short punchy sentences where there is an intensity, a heaviness; only with short sentences can this roller-coaster of a book be bearable. We follow the story through dialogues where you don’t know if it’s the mother or the daughter talking. Other times the dialogue is internal. We feel their madness, their constant delirium in each phrase, or as the daughter says: “I’m not crazy, just possessed”.

The daughter is in a relationship with a married man who leaves her because his wife is pregnant. She feels angry — “it was the other common bitch who got him”, she thinks. She wishes for the baby to be born dead, or to be a Siamese twin stuck to a dog. But when her mum learns about this, she has a more sinister plan of revenge.

The two women are marginalised, they are maladaptive, they are happy in a very disturbing way. They have relationships with impossible men. They fantasise about men coming to their house to rape them. They drink whisky, talk about sex and masturbate in an insatiable way. From the opening paragraph —each chapter is one long paragraph— when we are getting to know them: “sitting on my clit I invent a life for myself in the clouds. I quiver, I shake, my fingers are my morphine and for that brief moment everything’s fine”.

They are verbally and physically violent to each other. Sometimes the daughter wishes for a different life. “If I could only have started a new chapter elsewhere… say bye to mum without fearing the crack of a fired arrow”. Yet, they are inseparable. At the end of part I, the mother has left and the daughter is searching for her. At the end of part II, it is the daughter who leaves the mother.  But they both return. At times they are tired of life, but most times they can’t get enough of it. At the end of part III they are crawling on hands and knees, covered in blood: “let it all explode, let it all turn to dust, says mother, still wanting more.”

Translated into English by Annie McDermott and Carolina Orloff, from its original in Spanish La Debil Mental, reading this book is an intense deranged tension that only a writer like Ariana Harwicz, who wants to transgress with her work, can achieve.

Harwicz’s main characters – at least in this trilogy – are women searching for who they are in a world that is telling them how they should be. The first book of this trilogy Die, My Love is similarly a sharp book about a marginalised woman who lives with her husband and unwanted baby. It was nominated for the 2018 Man Booker International Prize, and for the Republic of Consciousness Prize, placing Ariana Harwicz at the forefront of the so-called new Argentinian fiction.

* I’ll be talking with Ariana Harwicz and Gabriela Cabezón Cámara in an online event on 3 June 2020 7pm (UK time), Find out more HERE!