As a student of Latin American literature, I always found it odd that in British academia we focus on only a handful of countries – Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru above all – while others are almost entirely ignored. The same pattern is evident in the relative success and availability of works from these countries, especially in English translation. The obvious assumption, which I have heard many times now, is that literature from other Latin American countries is not known outside its national borders because it is not good enough. There are many reasons for the relative marginalisation of these literatures, many complex cultural, political and economic factors, but literary quality is certainly not one of them.
Curious about why Venezuelan literature is so unknown in the UK, I started to investigate. I found it extremely difficult to find information online about where to begin: the Venezuelan Embassy listed authors and works of note, but no-one born after 1940, while Wikipedia’s list of Venezuelan authors jumbled journalists, poets, novelists, essayists and more without any hint to what their writing was like, the themes addressed or the relative merits of each. Eventually I took to Twitter, made Venezuelan contacts and got book recommendations from them. The next difficulty was getting hold of those books – many had to be delivered to me by friends visiting from Venezuela. When at last I actually got to read some books, however, I was hooked. Venezuela is currently experiencing a ‘boom’ (admittedly a loaded term when it comes to Latin American literature), producing extremely heterogeneous, often experimental texts. Of course, not everything is great, but the same can be said of literature from every other country. The main problem, as I see it, is that it is a vicious cycle. Little is known of Venezuelan literature in the UK and it has not proved its worth in our literary markets. Publishers, ever more wary of losing investments, won’t take a risk on books that might not sell and therefore won’t publish English translations. Bookshops won’t stock Spanish versions either if there’s no proven market for them. Because the books are not sold or translated, it is naturally assumed that they aren’t ‘good enough’, and so the cycle continues.
The idea behind this site, then, is to provide a starting point. For anyone curious about Venezuelan literature, I hope it will provide an insight into the different types of writing coming out of Venezuela, and encourage you to get hold of these texts for yourself. I will provide links to where they are sold (or in some rare, delightful cases, given away as free PDFs) wherever possible to make that easier. Given what I explained above, most of these texts are currently only available in Spanish, but the ‘Published English Translations’ page will provide information on any texts which have made it into English, as I find out about them. Over time, I hope more works will be translated into English, and other languages, opening Venezuelan literature up to a much wider market. I hope to contribute to this myself, and will post translations on this site, providing the authors approve!
Most importantly, it must be stressed that this site is not intended in any way to create a canon. It is not an introduction to the ‘best’ of Venezuelan literature based on an objective analysis of all literature produced by Venezuelans. My research is still at a very early stage and I acknowledge that what I have read so far is just a drop in the ocean. Please take this site instead as a guide to works I have so far read and enjoyed in the knowledge that there are far more books and authors out there. I will update regularly as I read more and hope that the site will continue to grow with the help of other fans of Venezuelan literature.
Thank you and happy reading! If you have any questions, suggestions or would like to contribute please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Katie Brown, October 2012
UPDATE May 2016:
Nearly four years ago I launched this site full of enthusiasm for promoting Venezuelan literature. My love for the writing has only increased as more and more great books are coming out, but between completing my PhD and co-editing an anthology, I found myself with little free time. As a result, this site remains very much a work in progress. Bear with me!