About Katie Brown

Katie Brown is a Teaching Fellow in Hispanic Studies at University of Bristol, book-lover and translator.

Las horas claras and El lejano oeste winners of the 2013 Premio de los libreros

las horas clarasFor the second year running, Venezuelan booksellers have voted for their favourite books of the year. The winners were Jacqueline Goldberg’s Las horas claras (Cultura Urbana) for narrative, and Alejandro Castro’s El lejano oeste (bid&co) for poetry. As a novel written by a poet, Las horas claras was said to ‘combine with great skill the best of both genres’, while El lejano oeste was praised for ‘Its force, its ironic humour and its cheek’.

The bookshops involved were Alejandría, El Buscón, Noctua, Kalathos, Sopa de Letras and Lugar Común. Special mentions were also given in poetry to Gina Saraceni for Casa de pisar duro (Cultura Urbana) and in narrative to Ana Teresa Torres for La escribana del viento (Alfa).

Click here to read the full report and judges verdict at Ficción Breve.

Interview with Sudaquia Editores Founder Asdrúbal Hernández

VERSIÓN EN ESPANOL ABAJO.

sudaquia logoBased in New York, Sudaquia Editores publishes great new and recent works of Latin American literature to cater for the Spanish speaking market in the States and beyond. Thanks to them, works from Venezuelan authors including Fransisco Massiani, Hector Torres, Eduardo Sánchez Rugeles, Gisela Kozak, Lucas García, José Urriola, Salvador Fleján, Slavko Zupcic and more are now easily and cheaply available throughout the world. I spoke to the founder and president of Sudaquia, Asdrúbal Hernández, to find out more.

Venezuelan Literature: Tell me more about Sudaquia’s mission.

Asdrúbal Hernández: Sudaquia’s mission is to offer the opportunity to Latin American authors to reach the US market of books in Spanish, and to Spanish readers in the US, to be able to discover a whole new level of Latin American literature, which is completely unknown and charged with a huge artistic and literary value.

How did it begin?

The idea came to our mind, the moment when, as readers, we tried to find some authors and books that interested us, but it was impossible to find them, or if they were available online, they were extremely expensive to acquire. In 2011, I carried out a market analysis of books in Spanish in the US as the final essay for a Master in Publishing that I did at Pace University NYC, and found out that there was a great opportunity. After I graduated. I started to work on a business plan, and by the end of the year the company was registered and we were working on putting together our first catalogue that was published by the end of 2012.

What has the response been? 

So far we have received a great response, especially from authors, agents and professionals from the publishing industry. We have built up our network of bookstores, and little by little we’re building up our brand recognition among Spanish readers in and beyond the USA.

How do you chose which authors to publish?

Our policy is all about quality, so if a manuscript is well written and we think that it is of great artistic value, we will be interested in it. Other factors are the public recognition and track record of the author, and if the topic of the book would be interesting for readers.

There has been a lot of talk in recent years about a new ‘Boom’ or ‘Golden Age’ in Venezuelan fiction, which seems to be backed up by the large amount of Venezuelans being published by Sudaquia. What do you find so appealing about contemporary Venezuelan literature?

I think that what is perceived as a “Golden Age” for Venezuelan fiction is just the hard work that many authors are doing to conquer spaces beyond Venezuela, because many of them are immigrants due to the political situation that the country is going through at the moment. I believe that Venezuelan literature is very rich in general starting from Andrés Bello all the way to Francisco Massiani, but the problem is that it is unknown beyond Venezuela’s frontier. There is a lot to discover in Venezuelan literature beyond Romulo Gallegos and Arturo Uslar Pietri, some of them are: Andrés Eloy Blanco, José Antonio Ramos Sucre, José Rafael Pocaterra, Miguel Otero Silva, Adriano Gonzalez León, Francisco Herrera Luque, or Eugenio Montejo among many others.

The reason for [the amount of Venezuelans in our catalogue] is that because both María Angélica and I are Venezuelans, the natural thing would be to reach out to Venezuelan authors because they are more accessible to us. However, our goal is to promote Latin American (not Latino, which has become a stereotype in the US) literature. I want to say that there is an extraordinary literature being written nowadays by Venezuelan authors who live abroad or in the country.

Do you have any plans to branch into translation of your catalogue, to bring these books to an even wider audience?

At the moment, our market is Spanish readers in the US and abroad. We have in mind to create an imprint to offer translated books from Latin American authors, but we think that currently we’re not ready and it is not the right moment.

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sudaquiaBasado en Nueva York, el editorial Sudaquia publica lo mejor de la narrativa nueva y reciente latinoamericana para servir al mercado hispanohablante en los Estados Unidos y más allá. Gracias a ellos, obras de autores venezolanos tales como Fransisco Massiani, Hector Torres, Eduardo Sánchez Rugeles, Gisela Kozak, Lucas García, José Urriola, Salvador Fleján, Slavko Zupcic, entre otros, ya están disponibles, de manera fácil y económica, en todos partes del mundo. Hablé con el fundador y presidente de Sudaquia, Asdrúbal Hernández, para saber más.

Venezuelan Literature: Cuéntame más sobre la misión de Sudaquia

Asdrúbal Hernández: La misión de Sudaquia es ofrecer a los autores latinoamericanos la oportunidad para entrar en el mercado hispanohablante estadounidense, y a los lectores hispanohablantes de los Estados Unidos, poder descubrir una gama nueva de literatura latinoamericana, que queda completamente desconocida y es cargada de un

¿Cómo empezó?

La idea nos vino en mente al momento en que, como lectores, intentábamos encontrar algunos autores y libros que nos interesaban y nos resultaba imposible encontrarles, o, si eran disponibles en línea, costaban muchísimo. En 2011, hice un análisis del mercado de libros en español estadounidense como último ensayo por la maestría en la industria editorial que hice a Pace University NYC, y encontré que aquí había una gran oportunidad. Después de graduarme, empecé a elaborar un plan de negocio, y al in del año la compañía era registrada y estábamos trabajando en compilar nuestro primero catálogo que se lanzó al fin de 2012.

¿Cómo ha sido la reacción?

Hasta ahora hemos recibido una reacción muy positiva, sobre todo de autores, agentes y profesionales de la industria editorial. Hemos desarrollado una red de librerías, y poco a poco aumentamos nuestro reconocimiento de marca entre los lectores hispanohablantes dentro y fuera de los Estados Unidos.

¿Cómo eligen a los autores que publican?

Nuestra política es de calidad sobre todo, así, si un manuscrito es bien escrito y pensamos que tiene un gran valor artístico, nos interesará. Otros factores son el renombre y la trayectoria del autor, y si el sujeto del libro puede interesar a nuestros lectores.

En los últimos años se habla mucho de un nuevo ‘Boom’ o ‘Edad de oro’ de la narrativa venezolana, del que la cantidad de autores venezolanos publicados por Sudaquia parece una prueba. ¿Qué hay de tanto interés en la narrativa venezolana contemporánea?

Pienso que lo que se percibe como una ‘Edad de oro’ de la narrativa venezolana es solamente el resultado de todo el trabajo que hacen muchos autores para conquistar espacios fuera de Venezuela, ya que muchos de ellos se han emigrado a causa de la situación política que vive el país en este momento. Creo que la literatura venezolana es muy rica en general, de Andrés Bello a Fransisco Massiani, pero el problema es que queda desconocida fuera de las fronteras venezolanas. Hay mucho para descubrir en la literatura venezolana más allá que Rómulo Gallegos y Arturo Uslar Pietri, entre tantos: Andrés Eloy Blanco, José Antonio Ramos Sucre, José Rafael Pocaterra, Miguel Otero Silva, Adriano Gonzalez León, Francisco Herrera Luque, o Eugenio Montejo.

La razón por la que se encuentran tantos autores venezolanos en nuestro catálogo es que como tanto María Angélica como yo somos venezolanos, lo natural es estirar el brazo a autores venezolanos, ya que nos resultan más accesibles. Sin embargo, nuestra meta es de promocionar la literatura latinoamericana (no latino, lo que ha llegado a ser un estereotipo en los Estados Unidos). Quiero decir que se escribe una literatura extraordinaria hoy en día escrita por autores venezolanos dentro y fuera del país.

¿Tienen planes para expandirse hacia la traducción del catálogo, para hacer llegar estos libros a un público aun mayor?

En este momento, nuesto mercado son los lectores hispanohablantes dentro y fuera de los Estados Unidos. Tenemos en mente crear un editorial que ofrezca libros traducidos de autores latinoamericanos pero todavía no estamos listos y no es el momento adecuado.

Books from Oasis: Publishing Venezuelan Literature in London

books from oasisBooks from Oasis is the new publishing venture from environmentalist turned novelist Cinzia De Santos which aims to publish books from Venezuelan authors here in London.

Cinzia explains that the project started because she was getting frustrated waiting for agents or publishers to answer her submissions. “Writing to me is more an inevitability than a commercial activity. So I decided to create my own mini publishing company”. Through Books from Oasis, Cinzia has published her first novel, El sentido de la oscuridad, as well as an English translation, The Sense of Darkness.

Consequently, a friend with experience of publishing books in Venezuela suggested to her that she use her company to offer an international platform to other Venezuelan authors who face real difficulties getting their books distributed abroad because of strict currency controls.

Any authors wanting more information should contact Cinzia at cinzia@bookfromoasis.com. She is currently building a website which will have more information.

Nominations for Premio de la Crítica 2013 announced

Premio critica novela 2013The Premio de la Crítica a la Novela for 2013, organised by Ficción Breve Venezolana, announced on 4 July 2014 its 17 contenders. The jury, comprising professors and researchers Violeta Rojo, Miguel Marcotigiano and Álvaro Conteras, will announce the winner, and up to five finalists, in September.

The novels in the running, in alphabetical order, are:
  1. Días de novenario, Inés Muñoz Aguirre, Bruguera
  2. El abismo de los cocuyos, de Mario Amengual, Bid &CO. Editor
  3. El buen esposo, Federico Vegas, editorial Alfa
  4. El hijo de Gengis Khan, Ednodio Quintero, Seix Barral
  5. En sueños matarás, Fedosy Santaella, Alfaguara
  6. Guararé, de Wilmer Poleo Zerpa, Ediciones B
  7. Jezabel, de Eduardo Sánchez Rugeles, Ediciones B
  8. La decisión justa, José Miguel Roig, Oscar Todtmann Editores
  9. La escribana del viento, Ana Teresa Torres, Editorial Alfa
  10. La luna envidiosa, José Miguel Roig, Oscar Todtmann Editores
  11. La víctima perfecta, Mónica Montañés, Ediciones B
  12. Las horas claras, Jacqueline Goldberg, Sociedad de Amigos de la Cultura Urbana
  13. Las topias de la invocación, Leoner ramos Giménez Ediciones B
  14. Óyeme con los ojos, Valentina Saa Carbonell, Ediciones B
  15. Por poco lo logro, de José Manuel Peláez, Ediciones B
  16. Procedencia desconocida, Antonieta Benítez Briceño, Bruguera
  17. Sábanas negras, Sonia Chocrón, Ediciones B

Read the original announcement from Ficción Breve here.

Un hielo en mi boca

un hielo en mi boca coverAl compás de la música, sentía proyectarse como una pelicula aburrida y lenta las cosas que he visto y vivido, la sensación del hastio, el morbo por estar, la indiferencia al terror, la rutina, el doble sentido del todo, la miseria de las noches, la represión de los días, la muerte como algo natural. Esos golpes secos de batería que no me tocan el alma.

To the rhythm of the music, I felt the things I’ve seen and lived project themselves like a slow and boring film, the feeling of weariness, the desire to be, the indifference towards terror, the routine, the double meaning of everything, the misery of nights, the repression of days, death as something natural. Those dull drumbeats that do not touch my soul.

Very shortly, I will be bringing you a translation of Tibisay Rodriguez Torres’ short story ‘Blood’, winner of this year’s Premio de Cuento Policlínica. In the meantime, I am very excited that Tibisay has kindly allowed me to share a free PDF version of her first collection of short stories with you, Un hielo en mi boca (first published by El perro y la rana in 2006; republished by the Universidad Bolivariana de Venezuela in 2013).

Click here for your free PDF of Un hielo en mi boca.

The narratives weaved in Un hielo en mi boca, switching between the viewpoints of often unnamed protagonists caught in an undefined present, are as mind-altering as the sex, drugs, rave music and other substances which fill its pages. In some ways small, confessional tales, each has a wealth of meaning and emotion lurking beneath the surface. Tibisay Rodriguez Torres significantly juxtaposes the awkwardness of everyday social situations with moments of genuine horror. When connections are formed between people they are fleeting and fragile. In this short but powerful first collection of stories, Rodriguez Torres develops an increasingly poignant picture of the loneliness, self-doubt and disconnection that plagues the postmodern subject.

 

The Conspiracy

conspiracy centeno

In Buenos Aires it’s called mist. In Mexico City they call it smog. When the wind from the Sahara blows and covers Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the islanders know it as haze. In Caracas, there was soot, and I was moving through smoke and ashes on the day I went out to kill the president.

In 2002, shortly after the failed coup attempt of 11 April, Israel Centeno published El Complot. The stark criticism and demythification of the Bolivarian government presented in the novel lead to a campaign against Centeno which ended in his exile. Now thanks to Sampsonia Way Publishing and translator Guillermo Parra,  Centeno’s remarkable, provocative novel is available to Anglophone readers for the first time.

As with all Centeno’s work, The Conspiracy has a dreamlike – or rather, nightmarish – quality, blurring the lines between fantasy and reality, and shifting the focus of narration between identifiable characters and an unknown but all-knowing observer. The dizzying quality of the narration leaves readers feeling as disorientated as the protagonist Sergio, who cannot reconcile his revolutionary zeal with Venezuela’s new political reality.

Beginning with a failed assassination attempt, The Conspiracy explores what happens to far-left revolutionaries – those remnants the from the guerrillas and radical movements which flourished in Venezuela following the end of dictatorship in 1958  – once the ‘Revolution’ is in power. The novel expresses Centeno’s own disillusionment with the Process, having grown up surrounded by radical activism. It is deeply critical of power-hungry former radicals turned ministers, who abandon their Marxist beliefs to form part of the establishment. At the same time, the novel shines a light on the sinister undercurrent of this process, that is, the ruthless violence necessary to cover up any traces of former ‘undemocratic’ behaviour by those now in power.

“All processes need elite groups for executing indecorous tasks. Every process has its indecorous tasks, it was romanticism to believe otherwise”.

In the background bubbles a criticism of Chávez himself (only ever named as ‘the President, but instantly recognisable), his populism, his reliance on the military and his use of the media to secure his power.

Ultimately, the novel is about the government’s betrayal of the revolutionary ideals it purports to represent. While anti-government sentiment is not hard to find in current Venezuelan literature, nothing attacks the core values and myths of Bolivarianism like The Conspiracy. At a time when opposition to the government is consistently labelled right-wing, imperialist, and oligarchic, The Conspiracy is a powerful document of the objections of the radical-left.

Click here to buy The Conspiracy from Sampsonia Way Publishing

Manifiesto: país – Exhibition at Sala Mendoza, Caracas

From Sunday 18 May until 31 August 2014, Sala Mendoza at the Universidad Metropolitana in Caracas will play host to Manifiesto: país, a creative response to the wave of protests which have hit Venezuela over the past few months. The exhibition brings together 66 responses to the idea of país from the country’s leading writers, poets, intellectuals and journalists, and accompanying artwork.

manifiesto país

The exhibition is organised by Lisbeth Salas, currently resident in Barcelona, who runs La Cámara Escrita publishing house. She explained to El Nacional:

I made the same request to each of them: define the word country.The ideas was that they speak about how they see it, what they hope for from the future that we seemingly don’t have, how to rescue the idea of nation from memory, reminiscence and even exile. We are all living through the same thing, regardless of where we reside; what’s certain is that Venezuela is no longer what it was and we don’t know what it is now either.

A todos les hice la misma petición: que definieran la palabra país. La idea era que hablaran sobre cómo lo ven, qué esperan de ese futuro que al parecer no tenemos, de cómo rescatar la nación desde la memoria, el recuerdo y hasta desde el exilio. Todos estamos viviendo lo mismo, independientemente de dónde estemos parados; lo cierto es que Venezuela ya no es lo que era y tampoco sabemos lo que es.

Each text has been transformed into a visual artwork inspired by Soviet posters, advertising, Dada, and mass movements, a fusion of words and images conceived by Salas and developed by the design duo Pedro Quintero and César Jara. The director of Sala Mendoza, Patricia Velasco, told El Nacional:

It’s a project for the city, but also for the student movement, which is leading the protests. It’s an exhibition to make us think, to think about Venezuela in a positive way, to dialogue, because that’s what we all want.

Es un proyecto para la ciudad, pero también para el movimiento estudiantil, que es el que está al frente de las protestas. Es una exposición para pensarnos, para pensar en Venezuela en positivo, para dialogar, porque eso es lo que todos deseamos.

The book, Manifiesto: país will be launched in July. I hope to bring you more news on that soon!