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A Different Solitude: New Writing from Colombia

September 2017

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Image: Carlos Saavedra, Daughters of Huitaca: Maryuris Ipuana Uriana, 2011–2012, series of photographs. Courtesy of the artist.

Image: Carlos SaavedraDaughters of Huitaca: Maryuris Ipuana Uriana, 2011–2012, series of photographs. Courtesy of the artist.


This month’s issue brings twelve writers from Colombia working across three genres: fiction, poetry, and journalism. The writers here capture the past and present of a country remaking itself and its history after a 2016 peace deal ended the armed conflict between the Colombian state and the FARC. Silvana Paternostro embarks on a journey of rediscovery as a tourist to her own country and reflects on the new possibilities now open to writers who once felt compelled to address the war. Giuseppe Caputo brings us a story of the love between a father and son in the midst of poverty, and also a reflection on violence and homosexuality. Melba Escobar’s narrator rages against Bogotá’s elite and Juan Gabriel Vásquez writes a tale of chance and tragedy. Alfredo Molano interviews one of the founders of the FARC. Yolanda Reyes looks at the relationship between a mother and her adopted son, and Gilmer Mesa’s protagonists bond over salsa music before their friendship comes to an unexpected end. Juan Álvarez’s narrator explains why he couldn’t help punching his uncle in the face, and Óscar Collazos examines the bond between two brothers in a tale of youthful rebellion and unholy acts. Poets Piedad Bonnett, Vito Apushana, and Fredy Chicangana lend their verse. WWB editor Eric M. B. Becker discusses the unique historical moment in which these writers now reach English language readers. 

A Different Solitude: Colombian Literature Today
By Eric M. B. Becker
The writers here capture the past and present of a country remaking itself and its history.
Living to Tell New Tales
By Silvana Paternostro
The old story is changing.
An Orphan World
By Giuseppe Caputo
“Wouldn’t you pay to speak to your house?”
Translated from Spanish by Sophie Hughes
The Double
By Juan Gabriel Vásquez
Isn’t it strange (the letter said to me), in Spanish there’s no word for what I am.
Translated from Spanish by Anne McLean
Madres Terra
By Carlos Saavedra
A photo essay of mothers of the disappeared.
I Never Wanted to Sock You in the Face, Javier
By Juan Álvarez
Why didn’t you let the old man go, dude?
Translated from Spanish by Megan McDowell
House of Beauty
By Melba Escobar
When I left Colombia, mothers still made sure their daughters’ knees weren’t showing; now nothing is left to the imagination.
Translated from Spanish by Elizabeth Bryer
Lost Causes
By Oscar Collazos
Respect, I now understood, was nothing more than the fear of his reaction.
Translated from Spanish by Ezra E. Fitz
The Origins of the FARC: An Interview with Sergeant Pascuas
By Alfredo Molano
Renowned journalist Alfredo Molano interviews one of the founders of the FARC.
Translated from Spanish by Ezra E. Fitz
Bubblegum and Baldy
By Gilmer Mesa
It all began by chance, when Arcadio heard the song “Melancholy” by the Orquestra Zodiac.
Translated from Spanish by Frances Riddle
Bobotá
By Yolanda Reyes
I hated this image that you invented: me, running, happy, slow motion, as if it were easy to call you Mama, Mommy, Mom so suddenly.
Translated from Spanish by Susannah Greenblatt
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