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?


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