Why you should care
Because Argentina’s lit scene is booming, thanks to these folks.
Argentina has always been a hot spot for Latin American literature. Sure, there’s Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortázar, and about a decade ago, a next gen of writers was flagged. But a lot has changed in Argentina since then. The economy has rocked and rolled, the president has been embroiled in a whodunit scandal, and there’s Messi. With a presidential election coming up in October, don’t expect to see the country fall out of the headlines anytime soon.
So who better to help us understand the culture and context of the place than its brightest young wordsmiths? Back in 2010, Granta magazine came up with a list of the 22 “Best Young Spanish-Language Novelists.” The following five authors were on that list, and their new works have been gaining international attention, as they write in a country living through a moment ripe for criticism and contemplation.
With a dark beard that recalls “Let It Be”-era Paul McCartney, it might come as no surprise that Neuman was raised by musicians. Born in Argentina and later moving to Spain, the 38-year-old has excelled in bridging his work across both countries. Since publishing his first novel, Bariloche, at age 22, Neuman has won prizes galore for his novels and short stories, in addition to picking up the Hiperión Prize for Poetry along the way. His 2012 novel, Traveler of the Century — at once a murder mystery, a historical narrative and a timely social commentary — was called a “total novel” by The Guardian for the way it breaks through genres and boundaries.
Despite a sprawling background as a German-educated, Spanish-dwelling Argentine with a doctorate in Romance philology, 40-year-old Pron often writes about the Argentine experience. His 2013 novel, My Fathers’ Ghost Is Climbing in the Rain, deals with the aftermath of Argentina’s Dirty War, as told by the next generation as they cope with an attenuated, haunted relationship to their country’s past.
Oloixarac doesn’t shy away from heavy-hitting topics. The 37-year-old has penned everything from edgy op-eds on Argentine politics for The New York Times to a libretto about an inventor traveling through the rivers of central Brazil in the 1820s. Her first, smash novel, Las Teorías Salvajes (The Wild Theories), intertwines the lives of a student trying to seduce a philosophy professor and a couple of edgy, young Buenos Aires outcasts experimenting with sex and drugs.
Born in the interior, in Argentina’s grassy pampas region, the 38-year-old Falco produces writing that bristles with the kind of stark intensity rural living brings; dialogue between characters is often flower-free. Falco’s stories are widely published in anthologies; like Oloixarac, the New York University-educated Falco was a fellow at the esteemed International Writing Program at the University of Iowa.
Thirty-seven-year-old Schweblin’s work reads, with aesthetic severity, like scene-setting scripts. No surprise, then, that she comes from a background in film and art. One of her strengths is diving headfirst into cruel darkness, like in “To Kill a Dog,” a short story filled with blood and shovels and bites.
What matters is that these young folks keep writing. “I wasn’t going to abandon the dream of literature. I was going to keep dreaming,” writes Pron in a short essay for Granta. Please do, argentino.