The writers of the Boom generation, such as Gabriel García Márquez, Julio Cortázar and Mario Vargas Llosa, have dominated Latin American literature for so long that it has been difficult for new, young talent to get much attention. But things are changing. A new generation of hemisphere writers is now finally receiving the respect and attention they deserve, thanks in part to Diego Trelles Paz, a Peruvian novelist and U.S.-based academic.
Trelles Paz, 31, whose own fiction has been praised as “ambitious” and “ingenious,” has published a major series of anthologies aimed at introducing the world to the talented writers of his generation. A professor of Romance Languages and Literature at Binghamton University, State University of New York, and the author of Hudson el Redentor (Hudson the Redeemer) and El Círculo de los Escritores Asesinos (The Circle of Killer Writers), Trelles Paz published his first anthology of 63 authors on www.piedepagina.com, the website of a Bogotá, Colombia-based literary journal in 2008. His anthology, El Futuro no es Nuestro: Narradores de América Latina nacidos entre 1970 y 1980 (The Future is Not Ours: Latin American Narrators Born Between 1970 and 1980) is now available in a shortened print version, with excerpts from the work of 20 writers, in Argentina and Bolivia, and is scheduled for release later this year in Chile and Panama.
The Lima-born Trelles Paz says he wanted to focus on writers born after 1968, a generation he says is marked by a desire to scrap the “all-knowing and all-powerful veil that used to stand between the writer and everyone else.” That, he adds, “allowed us to find our own voice.”
But Trelles Paz also notes that one defining characteristic of the newer writers is that they have been aided by the rise of independent editorial houses across Latin American countries. This is in contrast to their predecessors, whose main avenue to the reading public was through long-established publishing houses of Spain, which often made books expensive and inaccessible to Latin American readers. Combined with the availability of online resources, this diversity of publishing venues has democratized the Spanish-language publishing business, he says. Trelles Paz practices what he preaches: his own anthology has been supported by local independent publishers across Latin America as well as on the Internet. He admits that online literature makes him slightly uncomfortable. “I’m allergic to books online,” he says. ”They don’t smell like anything. But it would be naïve to deny the power of the Internet in combating the editorial isolation in which Latin America finds itself.”
Trelles Paz’s work has already helped his fellow authors gain greater attention. After reading the anthology, U.S. film director Francis Ford Coppola asked Paz and Peruvian writer Daniel Alarcón, author of Lost City Radio and associate editor of the Peruvian magazine Etiqueta Negra, to co-edit the Spring 2009 issue of Coppola’s literary magazine, Zoetrope: All-Story. The issue features ten stories in both English and their original language of publication (either Spanish or Portuguese). Michael Ray, the editor of Zoetrope, who prior to meeting Paz was unfamiliar with post-boom Latin American authors, says he was surprised at how familiar the work of the featured authors seemed to him. “There is no real ‘otherness’ or ‘exoticism’ about it. The writers could have come from anywhere in the world,” he says.