Saturday, April 09, 2011

Our April Author: Santiago Roncagliolo

Red April (Vintage International)This month we are reading Santiago Roncagliolo's Red April.  The book was recently shortlisted (with Orhan Pamuk) for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and the author is the youngest to have received the Spanish Alfaguara Prize.

I'm sure there are many interviews and other great resources available in Spanish, but here is what I could find in English.  This Boston Globe interview is a good place to start. We learn about the similarities between the author and the central character of the book,
Q. Chacaltana is a wonderfully odd character.
A. Well, he's more or less like me, really. I worked in human rights in Peru in the '90s. Like Chacaltana, I was this ridiculous little figure who saw himself as enforcing the law and upholding order. His process is the same process I lived, which was gradually realizing that the state and the terrorists could be really similar. I didn't have a serial killer to track, but I saw a lot of serial killing. I was probably not as ridiculous as he is, but for sure I was a bit ridiculous.
The Best of Young Spanish Language Novelists (Los Mejores Narradores Jovenes en Espanol ) : Granta The Magazine of New Writing 113More insight from an interview from Latineos about how human rights influences the author's writing and how we might relate this Peruvian story to other contexts:
LP:  When I worked with PEN, I remember campaigning on behalf of Peruvian writers and journalists persecuted under Fujimori’s regime in the 1990s. You worked in human rights in Peru at a similar time, when it would have been particularly dangerous for you. Do you believe in “the power of the pen” and do you think writers and journalists have a moral duty to campaign against injustice?

SR: I would force no writer into political subjects. Power is always to be mistrusted, no matter where it comes from. The only way to control it is civil action. What would Norwegians write about? Red April is about violence and death. It is not just about Peru’s war, but also Baghdad’s or even World War II. I just picked the violence and death I knew well, which was Peruvian. But each reader recognises his own terrible past in it.  I think it is important that citizens take part in public life, not just writers, although writers or photographers can also show the injustices to other people. 
Three Percent, the website dedicated to literature in translation, offers a taste of what's in his yet untranslated work.

One of Roncagliolo's books, Pudor, has been made into a film.  I can't see that the film has had a North American release, but you can watch the trailer (in Spanish) here.

AmuletRoncagliolo was featured in Granta's recent "The Best of Young Spanish-Language Novelists" issue. In a web feature related to the issue, the author talks about fellow Peruvian and 2010 Nobel Laureate Mario Vargas Llhosa and another recent Rights Readers author, Roberto Bolano,
Death in the Andes: A NovelAnd just what is a Latin American writer? I’ve no idea. Vargas Llosa’s next novel is the story of an Irishman. He also wrote the story of a French painter – Gauguin. And The Bad Girl takes place in Europe and Japan. Bolaño’s detectives travel through Africa and many of his characters live in Barcelona or Paris. In my opinion, what these two authors have in common is their boldness. Vargas Llosa has always taken risks, always tried out new ways of writing, without ever getting bogged down in his own creative past. And Bolaño was always implacably himself, and did things his own way.
The author reads from the Red April in Spanish:

Finally, please visit the Amnesty International site for more information about current human rights concerns in Peru.
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