Argentina, a Traveler’s Literary Companion

Edited by Jill Gibian (Whereabouts Press, Berkeley, Calif. 2010)

If you travel as I do, not consulting guidebooks (in fact, avoiding them), but showing up and seeing what happens, this portable book is for you. Argentina is an anthology of the literature of that country. It tells you more, shows you more, and  penetrates a culture faster, more accurately, more deeply than a dozen guidebooks ever could or would dare to. The writers whose works you’ll encounter include some of the world’s greats: Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortazar, and Luisa Valenzuela. Marcelo Birmajer’s The Last Happy Family not only put me smack in the middle of the gritty Once barrio of Buenos Aires where I often went while living there. But it also shed some light on why it’s so gritty. This is no-holds-barred literature that deepens one’s understanding of a culture beyond the surface and superficial stories that make the rounds all too often. Other stories in the 234-page volume take you out to the provinces. As the book jacket notes, the collection of 18 stories takes you “on a literary journey that climbs the Andes Mountains, navigates the great River Plate, traverses the expansive plains of the Pampas, and explores the ever-changing landscape of the Patagonia as it extends south to Tierra del Fuego.”

Argentina‘s Editor Jill Gibian is Professor of Spanish and Latin American Studies at Eastern Oregon University. She is a Fullbright Scholar committed to the study and translation of the literature and culture of the River Plate region of Argentina and Uruguay. And, best of all (for some of us!), she is interested in tango and questions of memory and national identity. Watch for her forthcoming book, Tango-Lit: Parodies of Passion, with its focus on tango as cultural text.