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Bringing the Venezuelan Literature Boom to English Speakers

This post is the first part of a two-part series of our conversation with Venepoetics author Guillermo Parra on Venezuelan literature (online and offline) and his translation of the poet Jose Antonio Ramos Sucre.

Venezuelan literature, and especially the works of Jose Antonio Ramos Sucre, have a new place online and in the English language thanks to Guillermo Parra and his blog Venepoetics.

Guillermo is a Venezuelan-American blogger living in the United States (US) who has been writing about Venezuelan literature online for over ten years. He discovered Venezuelan poetry through Juan Sánchez Peláez in 1997, while he was working as a librarian in Providence, Rhode Island. Since then, Guillermo has become a devoted follower of the literary movement in Venezuela and its outreach outside the country – or lack thereof.

Guillermo Parra. Image used with permission.

Guillermo Parra. Image used with permission.

This issue is reflected in one of his posts about Alberto Barrera Tiszka's ‘The Sickness.‘ Here Guillermo comments about the absence of Venezuelan literature in other languages:

Why has Venezuelan literature remained so completely untranslated and unknown in the United States and England? When compared to other Latin American countries, such as Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Argentina, or Chile, the number of Venezuelan writers translated into English has always been minimal. This hasn’t been for a lack of innovative, important writers. But Venezuela’s invisibility in the global literary landscape is an issue we don’t have time to address here. Regardless of that dilemma, Venezuelan literature has been experiencing a boom for the past decade, with an avalanche of publications, awards, workshops, presentations and a growing readership in Venezuela, Latin America and Spain. The Venezuelan boom is particularly evident in the field of fiction, where several generations of writers are currently producing work that is worthy of attention well beyond the country’s (or Latin America’s) borders. This spring gave us the publication in English of a short novel that’s emblematic of the Venezuelan literary boom at the beginning of the 21st century.

We had an enriching conversation with Guillermo via email in which he told us about his experience with Venepoetics and how it lead to the publication of his book. He also told us about how social media has connected him with other people devoted to Venezuelan literature and its expansion outside the country.

Furthermore, Guillermo shared other places on the Internet where netizens talk about Venezuelan literature, and also his impressions about a literature, which he believes, is experiencing a new flourishing.

[…] En cuanto a la literatura venezolana hoy en día, soy de los que piensan que estamos en un momento muy bueno para la literatura. Sí creo que hay una especie de boom de literatura venezolana en estos días, con una gran cantidad de escritores buenísimos, de varias generaciones publicando cosas muy buenas. Por medio de los blogs, Twitter, Facebook y los periódicos venezolanos en línea, he podido tener aceso a todo tipo de información sobre lo que se está publicando y haciendo hoy. Una de las mejores fuentes de información sobre la literatura venezolana hoy es el Twitter de Ficción Breve Venezolana que llevan Héctor Torres y Lennis Rojas. Otra fuente imprescindible para mí es el Twitter de Roger Michelena.

[...] Regarding Venezuelan literature of today, I share the opinion of those who think we're in a very good moment for literature. I do believe there's a sort of boom in Venezuelan literature these days, with a big variety of great writers, coming from a lot of different generations, publishing very good pieces. Through blogs, Twitter and Facebook, as well as online Venezuelan newspapers and journals, I've been able to have access to all kinds of information about what is now being done and published. One of the best sources of information about Venezuelan literature today is Héctor Torres and Lennis Rojas’ Twitter account Ficción Breve Venezolana [es]. Another essential source for me is Roger Michelena's [es] Twitter feed.

Guillermo also told us about his book, a translation of selected poems by Jose Antonio Ramos Sucre, and how it was born out of his work on the blog Venepoetics:

El libro es el producto de mi trabajo con mi blog Venepoetics. Por medio del blog fue que se me acercaron lectores venezolanos, entre los años 2003 y ahora, y ellos me animaron en mi labor de traducir poesía venezolana. Muchos de los textos de Ramos Sucre que traduje para este libro aparecieron primero en mi blog, en versiones un poco distintas.Yo usé mi blog como un taller público para este proyecto de traducir a Ramos Sucre, siempre pensando que el material debería salir en un libro en el futuro [...] Por medio del blog, he tenido la suerte de conocer a varios escritores venezolanos, y de alguna manera sentirme conectado con lo que está ocurriendo hoy en día en la literatura venezolana […]

The book is the product of my work with Venepoetics. Since 2003, Venezuelan readers approached me through the blog, and encouraged me in my work of translating Venezuelan poetry. A lot of the texts I translated for this book were published first on the blog, in versions that were a bit different. I used my blog as a public workshop for this translation project, thinking that the material should be published as a book in the future […] I have been lucky to meet a lot of Venezuelan writers through my blog, which has made me feel somehow connected with what's been happening in Venezuelan literature.

He continues:

Mi contacto con blogueros (y luego tuiteros) venezolanos comenzó con dos personas, la profesora Iria Puyosa y el narrador Héctor Torres. Los conocí por correo primero, siguiendo sus blogs y luego en persona durante una visita que hice a Caracas en el 2007. Creo que ellos son un ejemplo del espíritu de generosidad y compromiso con los blogs [...] Desafortunadamente, la literatura venezolana es muy invisible en los Estados Unidos, no se conoce y a veces siento que mi blog es leído por muy pocas personas, aunque llevo casi una década escribiéndolo…

My contact with bloggers (and then Twitter users) started with two people: Iria Puyosa [es] and Héctor Torres [es]. I met them by email first, following their blogs and then in person while I was visiting Caracas in 2007. I think they represent the spirit of generosity and engagement with blogs […] Unfortunately, Venezuelan literature is quite invisible in the US. Few people know about it, and that makes me feel sometimes that my blog is not read by too many people, even if I've been writing on it for over ten years…

Join us in the next part of this interview where we will share some of Guillermo's translations. We will also discuss more thoughts on the works and the authors behind Venezuela's narratives of today and their role in the country's literature boom.

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