Friday, June 26, 2015

New Classics

This week I showcase a few literary works that rightfully have attained the status of "classic" and that will be re-released in the near future.  New readers have a chance to find out what all the shouting was about when these books first came out, and those already familiar with the books can renew their relationship with new editions, fresh introductions, and the knowledge that these books have made a difference.

Death in Veracruz
Héctor Aguilar Camín
Translation by Chandler Thompson
Schaffner Press - October, 2015

Here's some really good news for those of us who want (desire, lust after) crime fiction with a social bite.  Héctor Aguilar Camín is recognized as a master of Mexican noir. Unfortunately, none of his books have been translated into English -- until now.  Schaffner Press out of Tucson has announced the upcoming release of one of Camín's masterpieces, Morio en el Golfo/Death in Veracruz ( first published in 1985.) The publisher says this:

This is the first novel by acclaimed Mexican journalist, editor and author Héctor Aguilar Camín to be published in the English language.  Heralded by Ariel Dorfman as "a classic of contemporary Latin American fiction," Death in Veracruz, set in the coastal regions of southern Mexico and the city of Veracruz, is a realistically drawn and beautifully detailed noir that explores the era of crime and graft in the late 1970s when the land and its people were under siege from the oil cartels and the gangs who lorded over their fiefdoms. A journalist finds himself plunged into a Mexican "Heart of Darkness," as he must confront both the corrupt government officials and the charismatic yet ruthless union boss, Lacho Pizarro, in his search for the truth behind the murder of his best friend and husband of the woman with whom he is carrying on a torrid -- yet doomed -- affair.

About the author:  Born July 9, 1946 in Chetumal; Mexican writer, journalist and historian; author of several novels, among them Death in Veracruz and Galio's War, of which Ariel Dorfman (Death and the Maiden) has exclaimed, "Without hesitation, I would call either one of these a classic of Latin American fiction. ... Essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the history of Mexico, but also who simply wants to be thrilled by extraordinary narrative power." Aguilar Camín's most recent novel, Goodbye to My Parents, was published in Mexico to great critical and popular acclaim in 2014.

...y no se lo tragó la tierra/And the Earth Did Not Devour Him
Tomás Rivera
Translated by Evangelina Vigil-Piñón
Arte Público Press - September, 2015

[from the publisher]
“I tell you, God could care less about the poor. Tell me, why must we live here like this? What have we done to deserve this? You’re so good and yet you suffer so much,” a young boy tells his mother in Tomás Rivera’s classic novel about the migrant worker experience, … y no se lo tragó la tierra (first published in 1971.) Outside the chicken coop that is their home, his father wails in pain from the unbearable cramps brought on by sunstroke from working in the hot fields. The young boy can’t understand his parents’ faith in a god that would impose such horrible suffering, poverty, and injustice on innocent people.

Adapted into the award-winning film … and the earth did not swallow him and recipient of the first award for Chicano literature, the Premio Quinto Sol, in 1970, Rivera’s masterpiece recounts the experiences of a Mexican-American community through the eyes of a young boy. Forced to leave their home in search of work, they are exploited by farmers, shopkeepers, even other Mexican Americans, and the boy must forge his self identity in the face of exploitation, death and disease, constant moving, and conflicts with school officials.

In this new edition of a powerful novel comprised of short vignettes, Rivera writes hauntingly about alienation, love and betrayal, man and nature, death and resurrection and the search for community.

About the author:  Tomás Rivera (1935-1984) was born to a family of migrant farm workers in the South Texas town of Crystal City.  In spite of moving constantly to work the crops, he managed to graduate from high school.  He went on to obtain a degree in English from Southwest Texas State University, and then earned a master's degree in Spanish literature and a doctorate in Romance languages and literatures.  He became a university administrator, and in 1979 was appointed chancellor of the University of California, Riverside, a position he held for five years until his sudden death in 1984.

Claros varones de Belken/Fair Gentlemen of Belken County
Rolando Hinjosa
Arte Público Press - September, 2015 (originally published 1981)

[from the publisher]
National Book Critics Circle Lifetime Achievement honoree Rolando Hinojosa returns to Klail City -- in Belken County along the Texas-Mexico border -- to chronicle the lives of its residents.  There's friendship, "which can all of a sudden pop up at any time," and death, which happens just as frequently.

The friendship between cousins Rafe Buenrostro and Jehú Malacara continues through war and peace.  After returning from Korea, Rafe -- like so many Mexican Americans -- is advised to use the G.I. Bill to learn a trade, like building fishing boats.  He and Jehú opt to attend the University of Texas

The sun rises and sets in Klail City. People fall in love, wrangle with God and sell their souls to the devil.  Frequently compared to William Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha and Gabriel García Márquez's Macondo, Rolando Hinojosa's fictional Klail City brings to life the Texas-Mexico border area in the twentieth century.

About the author:  Rolando Hinojosa, the Ellen Clayton Garwood Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Texas at Austin, is the recipient of numerous literary awards, including the most prestigious prize in Latin American fiction, Casa de las Américas, for the best Spanish American novel in 1976; and the Premio Quinto Sol in 1974.  His novels include The Valley/Estampas del Valle, Ask a Policeman, The Useless Servants, and Dear Rafe/Mi querido Rafa, all published by Arte Público Press.


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