Literature of the World: Venezuela

Venezuela is one of the northernmost countries of South America. “Like many Latin American countries, Spanish conquerors have had the greatest effect on both the culture and the literature,” but there was a strong tradition of oral literature, some of which has endured. (Wikipedia)

The capital: Caracas
Language: Spanish
Population: 26.8 million
Currency: Bolivar fuerte
Area: 352,140 sq miles (around the size of Nigeria or the size of Texas and Oklahoma put together)

Spanish speakers will have many options to read Venezuelan literature, but English speakers have a small pool to work with. Here are a few highlights. They inevitably reflect my own tastes, so YMMV. The list I just linked to has TONS of poets that you may want to check out, but I’m not mad for poetry so I didn’t look into it.

Teresa de la Parra was the daughter of the  Venezuelan ambassador to France.  Her novel, Iphigenia (The Diary of a Young Lady Who Wrote Because She was Bored), was published in 1924 in Paris, not Caracas, because of its controversial nature. Not only were many of the characters caricatures of Caracas society, but the novel is about an intelligent, educated young woman struggling against social expectations. She wrote only one other book, which is not available in English, before becoming a well-respected lecturer and finally dying of tuberculosis in 1936.

Published in 1992, Doña Inés vs. Oblivion is, in scope, Venezuela’s answer to 100 Years of Solitude. Ana Teresa Torres explores three hundred years of Venezuelan history through the eyes of her narrator (even after she dies!). This is a massive epic and does not always move at a quick pace, so make sure this is the kind of book you enjoy before you pick it up!

My last pick is Chronicles of a Nomad: Memoirs of an Immigrant by A. A. Alvarez, published just last year! It “is a first-person adventure narrated by Carlos Rodriguez, an intrepid young immigrant who embarked in a journey of self-discovery and reflection by confiding his secrets to the reader. Although he spends his childhood in abundance, at age fifteen, the worsening state of his troubled nation leads him to Denver, Colorado, where he ends up overstaying the time allowed on his tourist visa. Not many years later, he is left with no choice but to immigrate to Greece, where the ghosts of his past challenge his future and where his search for home leads him farther away from his hometown, Caracas, Venezuela.” Sounds great, no?

Any other suggestions for Venezuelan literature?

Reading Meme

1. Favorite childhood book?
It changed all the time, but I’ll go with Matilda.

2. What are you reading right now?
Three Cups of Tea

3. What books do you have on request at the library?
None! I’m trying to read more of the books that a. people have lent me and b. I’ve bought but haven’t read.

4. Bad book habit?
Buying too many of them!

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?
I have a chicken book that is overdue because the library it’s from is 1.5 hours away and I haven’t been back. >.>

6. Do you have an e-reader?
No, but my mom does! I mostly play sudoku on it.

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?
Often at least two. If my mood changes in the middle of a book, I often will start a new one and slowly keep working on the old one.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
This is an interesting question and one I might answer in a separate post. The short answer is that in some ways I thinks about the books more deeply and in other ways less deeply.

9. Least favorite book you read this year (so far?)
I’ve kind of lost track of my reading, but there was a romance novel that was kind of irritating.

10. Favorite book you’ve read this year?
Maybe Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale.

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?
I’m not sure what my reading comfort zone is!

12. What is your reading comfort zone?
Oh, well. See above.

13. Can you read on the bus?
I get motion sickness, but I’ll sometimes read at red lights or even stop signs. That works better for complex writing (like academic articles and such) where I can read a couple of sentences and then spend the minutes while the bus is moving to think.

14. Favorite place to read?
My chair!

15. What is your policy on book lending?
I hand ’em out as often as people will take them!

16. Do you ever dog-ear books?
I almost never dog-ear pleasure reading.

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?
Same as above.

18.  Not even with text books?
I often write in the margins of textbooks and occasionally dog-ear them.

19. What is your favorite language to read in?
English. I don’t speak any other languages well enough to read more than picture books!

20. What makes you love a book?
Good characters (who grow and change!) and beautiful writing. And an absorbing plot and real-feeling setting and…

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?
Often a strong emotional response.

22. Favorite genre?
Young adult!

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?)

Favorite biography?
! I don’t read many and can honestly not remember the last one I read.

25. Have you ever read a self-help book?
I’ve read parts of a couple and I have one in my TBR.

26. Favorite cookbook?
Eeek! I love to cook, but I get most of my recipes online these days! Maybe the Croatian cookbook my (now ex-) roommate picked up for me at a library sale a few months ago. (I, of course, have yet to cook a recipe from it.)

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?
Interesting question! I generally find non-fiction more inspiring. I’m about halfway through with Three Cups of Tea which, while inspiring, is also occasionally infuriating (especially to the anthropologist in me). On the other hand, Book of a Thousand Days was a pure joy to read, and what is more inspiring than that?

28. Favorite reading snack?
Chips, maybe?

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.
I don’t know that it’s ever ruined my experience, but it can certainly alter it. Another interesting question that might deserve its own post.

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
That would depend on the critic and the book!

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
I believe that reading critically is important, though not all the time! For me, reading critically changes the reading experience fundamentally and sometimes it’s just not what I want. So I will often include my least favorite parts of books. Likewise, I have a hard time believing that ANY book is completely terrible, and so I will search for positives even in books I didn’t like. I enjoy snark and teasing in good fun, but I have also read reviews that just seem cruel. Is that necessary? Reviews are for readers and readers certainly find harsh reviews entertaining, but I think it probably encourages negative sides of ourselves. Oh, Schadenfreude, will we ever be rid of you?

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose?
Hm! Does that mean I would automatically speak the language, too? Hmm… Perhaps Hindi or Japanese. Or Chinese. Or Arabic! Or Persian!

33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?
No idea. I tend not to read books that intimidate me, I believe.

34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?
At the moment, The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky for my Five Book Challenge.

35. Favorite Poet?
Um, me. No, just kidding. My cousin. Or, if you want someone I don’t know personally, Elizabeth Bishop.

36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?
When I am frequenting libraries, I generally check out 2-4 books.

37. How often have you returned book to the library unread?
At least a quarter of the time!

38. Favorite fictional character?
There are too many! I love Ender, I love Elizabeth Bennett, I love Ella (from Ella Enchanted), I love and love and love so many!

39. Favorite fictional villain?
Villains SUCK. I hate them all. Maybe the conquering emperor in Tigana.

40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?
Fun! Fun and quick!

41. The longest I’ve gone without reading.
Reading a book? Maaaaybe a week? I find that doubtful, though. Reading anything? Maybe an hour.

42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.
Mansfield Park.

43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?
The internet. Siiiigh.

44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?
I’ll be unoriginal and say the BBC Pride and Prejudice.

45. Most disappointing film adaptation?
Ella Enchanted.

46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?
I worked for B&N for almost a year and spent 90% of my last paycheck on books. Mind you, it was part-time, close to minimum wage, and we got our paychecks every week, so it wasn’t hundreds of dollars. Just under two, in fact. :P

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?
Losing it, hating it.

49. Do you like to keep your books organized?
Yes! By genre and author.

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?
Depends on whether I think I will reread them and how much I loved them in the first place.

51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?
The Brothers Karamazov.

52. Name a book that made you angry.

53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?
Hm. I can’t think of any offhand.

54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?
I’m having a lot of mixed feelings about Three Cups of Tea.

55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading?
Harry Potter!