As we draw closer to the announcement of the next Nobel Prize in Literature winner, we thought we should reflect on the great writers and laureates who have sprung from the New World. Each of these writers was tangled up in the politics of their countries and many of them were forced to leave their homes due to difficult and antagonistic relationships with their governments, but these days, they are national treasures. Let us take you on a quick tour of the literary giants of South America.
Gabriela Mistral (Winner 1945)
She was and remains the only Latin American woman to have won a Nobel Prize in Literature. Her lyrical poetry contains a combination of her own intimate encounters with personal loss, suffering and love. Her most celebrated poetical voice is perhaps best represented in her collection “Ternura: canciones de niños”. Having spent part of her life as a diplomat for Chile abroad, her poetry has become an enduring and powerful ambassador for her country.
Pablo Neruda invented love poetry, his words transcend the cultural and linguistic barriers that any translation would impose, if you don’t believe us read the following snippets from 20 Love Poems and a Song of Despair and decide for yourself
“I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees”
“Like them you are tall and taciturn, and you are sad, all at once, like a voyage.”
“Between lips and voice something is dying.
Something of anguish and oblivion, with the wings of a bird”
Despite his status as beloved poet, his life was shaped by politics. His involvement with the communist party in Chile lead to his exile in 1948 and some have even speculated foul play in his death. Politics aside, it is impossible to not to feel his sensuous appreciation of nature, art, food and life which seeps into his poetry.
Gabriel García Marquez ( Winner 1982)
Affectionately known as “Gabo”, he started out his life on track to become a journalist before writing his masterpiece, One Hundred Years of Solitude, one of the most widely translated and published novels written in the Spanish language. It traces the lonely generations of the Buendía family and the tumultuous political landscape of Colombia in a plot which weaves the magical into the prosaic. This work pretty much defined the popular literary genre magical realism and is perhaps the crowning glory of the Latin American literary boom.
Mario Vargas Llosa ( Winner 2010)
Vargas Llosa is not just a Nobel prize novelist, he is an essayist, a playwright, a biographer and he ran for the Peruvian presidency in 1988, in other words a full blown polymath like all of our other South American Nobel winners. One of our favourite novels of his is one of his first: Aunt Julia and the scriptwriter, a brilliant and surreal medley of scenes from his marriage to his aunt fourteen years his senior, his encounter with a mad scriptwriter who psychologically implodes, and his wholly unconventional coming of age.