Translated fiction makes up less than two percent of fiction titles in the UK, yet recently fiction in translation has been punching above its weight. Heavyweights such as Elena Ferrante and Han Kang have been flying off the shelves and exciting new publishers are bringing original and distinctive writing to an English-language market. A new voice has been added to these champions of translations: that of brand new Edinburgh-based publisher Charco Press, who aim to showcase the best of modern fiction from Latin America.
We’re delighted to be showcasing two of Charco’s authors, Ariana Harwicz and Gabriela Cabezón Cámara, who are considered to be at the forefront of the so-called new Argentinian fiction. Both authors will be reading from and discussing their newly translated novels, Harwicz from Die, My Love and Cámara from Slum Virgin.
Above the books
Ariana Harwicz’ Die, My Love is translated by Sarah Moses. In a patch of dilapidated French countryside, a woman struggles with the demons of her multitudinous internal conflicts. Embracing exclusion, yet at the same time desiring to belong, craving freedom whilst feeling trapped, yearning for family life and yet wanting to burn the entire façade down. Given surprising leeway by her family for her increasingly erratic behaviour, she instead feels ever more incarcerated, stifled. Motherhood, womanhood, the mechanization of love, the inexplicable brutality of having “your heart live in someone else’s”; these questions are faced with raw intensity. It is not a question of if a breaking point will be reached, but rather when – and how violent a form will it take?
In Slum Virgin, translated by Frances Riddle, Gabriela Cabezón Cámara masterfully steeps us in a world where drugs and marginality go hand in hand, and offers up a very different kind of love story, blending comedy with drama and social critique. The ghetto, the government, the mafia, the Virgin Mary: a pageant of diverse elements combine in the pages of this epic novel called a “revelation for contemporary literature”. Slum Virgin tells the story of Cleopatra, a transvestite who renounces prostitution after the Virgin Mary appears before her. Cleo becomes the leader of the shantytown she lives in, transforming it into a tiny utopia. The journalist Qüity knows she’s found the story of the year when she hears about this newly revered nun. But her incursion into the world of the shantytown constitutes a passage to a new life as she finds herself irrevocably seduced by the captivating subject of her article.
About the authors
Gabriela Cabezón Cámara was born in Buenos Aires in 1968. She has published a number of novels and novellas, including Slum Virgin (known in Spanish as La Virgen Cabeza, 2009) and Le viste la cara a Dios (You’ve Seen God’s Face, 2011) as well as short story collections and comics, illustrated by Iñaki Echeverría. In 2013 she was writer in residence at UC Berkeley, where she also taught. She was one of the founders of the NiUnaMenos (“Not One Less”) movement against femicides and gender violence.
Compared to Virgina Woolf and Sylvia Plath, Ariana Harwicz is one of the most radical figures in contemporary Argentinian literature. Her prose is characterised by its violence, eroticism, irony. Born in Buenos Aires in 1977, Harwicz has written two plays, and directed the documentary El día del Ceviche (Ceviche’s Day), which has been shown at festivals in Argentina, Brazil, Cuba and Venezuela. Her first novel Die, My Love was named best novel of 2012 by the Argentinian daily La Nación. It is currently being adapted for theatre in Buenos Aires and in Israel.
This event is free but booking is recommended.