Book review Letters from Latin America
TANGO has defined Argentine culture and people for generations. From its humble beginnings at the end of the 19th century in the brothels of the poor neighborhoods of Buenos Aires.
Later, its fusions with flamenco, milonga and Cuban habanera which gave way to salon tango, to the creations of Astor Piazzola and Gotan Projects, tango became not only a way of life, but a passion and a an excuse to bring people together.
6 To Tango (Viperfish, £ 15) was born from the very seed that characterized tango, that which allowed collaborations, dialogues and friendship between artists.
The book consists of three collaborations. The illustrator Piero Pierino responds to the poems of Miguel Ardiles while Ricardo Cinalli illustrates a story by Sylvia Libedisnky, and finally Oscar Grillo illustrates the stories of Mario Flecha.
This fascinating book offers memorable, passionate, sometimes absurd and funny stories, all filled with the rhythm of life. It begins with the tragic story of three dwarfs, their passionate and sometimes bloody love story, masterfully illustrated by Cinalli.
The exquisite work of Pierini (reviewed in the Star of August 15, 2018 – https://mstar.link/purgatoryvisions), noted for the expressive brush, for its colorful and dark collages, intriguingly interprets each of Ardiles’ beautiful short poems.
Grillo reflects the comical and often ironic aspects of Flecha’s short stories. In short, it is a delicious book of Argentinian collaborations that testify as much to friendships in exile as to their common way of perceiving and telling the world: as dramatic as the tango.
“This book is a colorful and very entertaining proof of the passionate friendship between six Argentines living in London,” writes Juan Toledo in the foreword.
Harutu Woman (Victorina Press, £ 10) is the first novel by Mexican writer and poet Paloma Zozaya Gorostiza. The title of the book, which means “white woman,” tells the story of a Guatemalan teacher called Selene who arrives in a Mexican town on the Atlantic coast where her life will be forever transformed.
There she meets a local man, with whom she will eventually start a family and subsequently become closely involved in many aspects of the local community.
I was struck by the direct prose of Zozaya Gorostiza, his in-depth description of the conflicts of cultures, morals, class and life experiences between Selene and the inhabitants of the town of Redencion (Redemption).
It’s a powerful book that delves deep into the historic land conflicts in this region, the ubiquitous drug trafficking and narco-violence as well as the conflict between the locals and wealthy landowners interested only in cash crops.
There are healers, peasants, drug dealers, warrior dancers and all kinds of extraordinary characters mingle in this wonderful first novel with a strong voice from Diaspora Mexico – impressively translated from Spanish by the writer and poet Juan Julian Caicedo.
Havana Year Zero (Charco Press, £ 9.99), by Cuban Karla Suarez, also has at its heart the experiences of a female character, Julia, in the early 1990s in Havana amid an economic crisis that began with the fall of the Soviet Union.
The story, courtesy of Christina MacSweeney, revolves around Julia, a young woman who teaches math at a school somewhere in town. She is on a personal quest for an almost mythical document that will prove that the telephone was not invented by the Anglo-American Alexander Graham Bell in the United States, but rather in Havana by an obscure Italian scientist by the name of Antonio Meucci, partner of Giuseppe Garibaldi.
The search will lead Julia to three men Euclid, an older mathematician with whom she once had an affair, Angel, her current love with a woman who left him to live in Brazil, and a writer Leonardo, who is writing a novel about Meucci. .
“It all happened in 1993, year zero in Cuba. The year of endless blackouts, when bicycles filled the streets of Havana and shops were empty. There was nothing at all. Zero transport. Zero meat. Zero hope. I was 30 years old and I had thousands of problems, ”begins this masterfully crafted novel by one of the clearest and most stimulating voices in Cuban literature.