Susan Smith Nash
This anthology of Paraguayan women writers is the culmination of more than two years of focused research and investigation into the nature of Paraguayan history, culture, and art, with special emphasis on literature. It has been a fascinating project because I have sought to gain a view of the social, literary, historical, and cultural context in which the works have been produced. This has required a great deal of reading, research, and study of literary texts, history, newspapers, tracts, and all types of documents produced in Paraguay on Paraguayans. In addition, I have learned the basics of Guarani grammar, and have studied the type of Spanish used by Paraguayans to better comprehend the regional and local expressions. Finally, in the 12 or so visits I have made to Paraguay since November 1996, I have made a point to meet with the women authors (who have become very close friends) to conduct interviews and to participate in as many of the workshops, gatherings, book fairs, readings, and book presentations as possible.
The selections contained in this collection have been made after carefully reading the works of the authors and choosing ones which represent their work, women's lives, Paraguayan cultural issues, unusual genres, and certain techniques or literary trends. Of course, the selections also reflect my personal taste and preferences, and my desire to select work that will give English-speaking audiences an idea of the depth and quality of the literary output of Paraguayan women.
In choosing how to translate, I opted for a "transparent" or "fluent" style (using terms coined by Lawrence Venuti at Temple University). However, at times I deliberately preserved syntactical idiosyncracies in order to maintain the "otherness" of the text and to refrain from domesticating it completely. Although I believe that some texts, particularly the more surreal or postmodernist texts of Renee Ferrer or Luisa Moreno de Gabaglio actually require a more non-representational translation style, such as the styles used by Paul Blackburn in his translation of the French troubadour poets, or Louis Zukofsky's jazz-influenced translation of Catullus, I decided not to run the risk of offending those who may not be familiar with that type of translation, which in reality constitutes as much a philosophy as a style.
In addition, I have chosen to absolutely ignore the "New Critics" stance to translation that bases itself on examinations of the text and nothing more. I have even allowed the writers themselves to analyze my draft translations and have listened carefully to their suggestions. Also, I have paid great attention to extra-textual elements, such as individual biographies. By learning about the folklore and indigenous myths, and by visiting many of the places referred to in the text, I have been able to better understand how certain representations have been rendered. Thus, my word choices and phrasings have evolved over the course of this project.
This is not the first literary translation project I have undertaken, but it has been by far the most enjoyable. In my master's thesis (completed at The University of Oklahoma), I included a section of translations from Spanish to English of the poetry of Mexican poet Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz. In the critical introduction, I included a section discussing various theories about literary translation, drawn from my graduate research and coursework. Later, I studied Bolivian literature of mining, with special emphasis on the representation of women and social control. I partially translated Antonio Diaz Villamil's La Nina de sus ojos in anticipation of my Ph.D. dissertation research, until I changed my emphasis and decided to focus on apocalyptic narratives instead. While the dissertation research did not have a direct bearing on translation, it prepared me to take a "systems" approach to textual analysis, and to relate literary texts to historical and cultural documents, and to supplement all work with personal interviews and correspondence. In 1998, my translation of Susy Delgado's Close to the Fire was published in a trilingual edition (Guarani, Spanish, English). I was happy with it primarily because I felt my work honored the work in a way that could only result after many interviews, in-depth research, and extended personal correspondence.
My primary objective in preparing this document is to introduce English-speaking audiences to a body of work that is largely unknown, and rarely included in anthologies. While the quality of literary output is very high, and the dedication of the women unflagging, the country has been largely overlooked by English-speaking literary critics or potential translators. Eventually it would be good to see the work of the women translated in entirety, and a series of bilingual versions published. For now, it is very gratifying to be able to present a comprehensive body of work that provides an excellent overview of trends in contemporary Paraguayan women's writing. Unfortunately, I could not meet all women writing in Paraguay, and this collection, by necessity, contains the work of women who made a special effort to participate in interviews and to correspond with me. Of course, I would like to continue the work, and so I would like for all readers to consider this an introduction and not a judgment call on my part.
Of all the women authors represented in this anthology, it is perhaps Renee Ferrer who most directly addresses the issue of Alfredo Stroessner's 35-year dictatorship and its impact on the psyche and collective consciousness of Paraguayan artists and writers. A prolific writer of essays, novels, short stories, and poetry, Ferrer explores many themes in her work. These include identity construction vis-a-vis the protective masqueraded selves used to manage oneself in a dangerous world, the internalization of censorship, corruption (on both a governmental and personal level), women's roles in society, and the love/hate relationship between the victimizer and the victimized. In her stories, the characters take risks in order to discover themselves and their limits.
In a very revealing interview, Ferrer talked about her own need to take risks during the 80s, when General Stroessner was going to extreme lengths to control all dissident literature and reporting. As a writer, Ferrer explained that she had to deal with subject matter so controversial that its publication could mean her arrest and even disappearance. She suffered panic attacks and a general collapse from the stress, but still her determination continued to drive her to continue to question the legitimacy of artistic repression. Her experience is described in the essay which came from a hand-written letter sent to me in the summer of 1997, as well as being echoed in most of her work, of which I have tried to select a representative few. Ferrer is widely acknowledged as an important writer in her own community, and her works are widely praised. Outside Paraguay, Ferrer's reputation has been growing over the last few years, with critical articles being published the U.S. by such critics as Jose Delgado Costa, at Ohio University. Much of the attention has focused on Ferrer as related to the literature of exile, as the recent The Short Story Technique of Renee Ferrer: Continuity and Change in Our Expression by Gloria da Cunha-Giabbai, published in 1997.
Social protest and cultural critique also characterizes Angelica Delgado's work, but hers is from an ecological perspective. Delgado, journalist and environmental activist, directly addresses the need to preserve Paraguay's cultural and ecological heritage. Ironically, her strategies for preserving the culture and lands of Paraguay at times echo the isolationism expressed in Paraguay since the time of the 19th-century dictator, Dr. Francia, who closed the borders and kept Paraguay sealed off from the rest of the world. The fluidity of her writing is unusual, and her bilingual verses (Guarani-Spanish) incorporate the rhythms and complex noun structures of Guarani. Her work affirms the orality of Guarani, and preserves the intimacy of poetry which creates a private space vis-a-vis the public space of more "commercial" discourses such as journalism or political propaganda.
Maria Luisa Bosio received her education in Asuncion, where she dedicated herself to the study of languages, particularly English, French, and Portuguese. In addition, she studied literature and history, and is a member of various writer's workshops. Her work investigates the secret or the hidden in women's lives, and there is a great emphasis on the way that mystery is introduced into a woman's life. Mystery, in the Catholic sense of the word, suggests the ineffable, unexplainable, and is perhaps related to the rhetorical sublime. In this regard, Bosio's work corresponds to a definable body of work in contemporary Paraguayan women's writing having to do with the representation of the mind in a state of awe or heightened awareness.
Lita Perez Caceres, a highly-respected journalist in Asuncion, specializes in short stories that have the clarity of Hemingway's short stories or of Gertrude Stein's novels. She was born in Asuncion, but moved to Argentina with her family. After returning to Paraguay in 1965, she continued her education in literature and journalism. Her short fiction has won various competitions, including "Veuve Clicquot" and "Challenger." In certain ways, her style is reminiscent of Mexican short story writer Juan Rulfo, but her unwillingness to impose closure and the cinematic quality of the descriptions evoke French New Wave writer Alain Robbe-Grillet. She is much more intimate and ironic than Robbe-Grillet, however, and the reader immediately recognizes that Perez is skilled postmodernist who utilizes the absurd in order to call into question the values of the dominant culture. Specifically, P_rez deals with women's dilemmas and marginalization. In many of her stories, including the ones published here, the protagonists break free of dismal, mind-numbing, identity-robbing lives. Their breaks for freedom are almost always grotesques that celebrate the often weird path one takes in the construction of a new identity. Poignant, intense, and very much an excursion into boundary areas where convention and limits are transgressed, Perez's stories ask the reader to consider the possibility of a short story with multiple potential resolutions, and a narrative form that keeps moving forward even after the story itself has come to an end.
The poetry of Raquel Chavez -- highly mystical, transcendent, contemplative -- is not overtly political, nor is it a literature of protest or a critique of societal conditions. In this sense, it is quite unusual in the context of contemporary Paraguayan women's writing. Her focus is on the moment of transcendence, and on the process by which the mind obtains an awareness of self, and the differences between external and internal realities. Sometimes evocative of the French symbolist poets, particularly Rimbaud, in the need to examine the struggle to represent the soul, and to investigate what constitutes, in a poetics, the notion of an individual soul. Her use of the first person reinforces the heuristic, self-discovery process, and her motif of the journey is utilized in exploring the various manners in which consciousness is uncovered. Although more Buddhist than Catholic, Chavez's' poetry aligns itself within the discourse of transcendence that is practiced widely in Paraguay, especially in relation to the prayers and devotions surrounding the saint day of the Virgin of Caacupe and other religious holidays, such as Holy Week (Semana Santa). Her work is as much a philosophy as a poetics, as is the work of many of the Paraguayan women writers, such as Maria del Carmen Paiva and Gladys Carmagnola.
Maria del Carmen Paiva was born in Asuncion, where she received her education and began to write poetry and participate in various writing classes and workshops. Her work explores many themes that are dominant in twentieth-century South American literature, particularly that of solitude, and its counterpart, exile. Exile as a state of mind is a notion that is dissected with philosophical rigor in her poetry, which can be categorized as minimalist. For her, the transition state between conscious rationalism and a more unconscious intuition are important. She often invokes the "siesta" as the place where that transition stage is explored, and it is in precisely that carefully preserved Paraguayan tradition that many of the fascinating boundary states arise.
The siesta -- typified by a retreat and relief from oppressive heat, facilitated by the slightly narcotic effects of terer_, an herbal beverage drunk through a metal straw from a cowhorn cup -- is a living, breathing alternative to the use of night as the primary place where dreams and symbol systems intrude themselves onto waking thought. Translating her work poses a number of difficulties because the ambiguities expressed are not easily rendered in English, particularly if one is trying to effect a "fluent" or relatively literal translation. For example, one stanza in her work can be rendered two (or more) ways: "I invent a ship of stone / so it will never sail" or, "I invent a ship of stone / so I will never navigate." A more Zukofskyesque translation style would honor the ambiguities more fully, but it is difficult to justify such an approach since the decision was made to follow a more conventional translation approach, one which privileges the denotative rather than the connotative, and which tends to be more literalist than one that stresses the feeling, tone, or "color" of the original.
Dirma Pardo Carugati writes screen plays as well as short fiction, and her writing has an unmistakable cinematic quality. Teacher and journalist, Pardo was department head for the Colegio Internacional and columnist for "La Tribuna" newspaper. A member of several writing workshops, she writes short fiction which have been adapted for screenplays. One of her scripts was used in a feature-length movie filmed in Paraguay. The recipient of numerous awards, she lives in Asuncion. Many of her short stories deal with extremely sensitive topics, especially as they relate to the lives of Paraguayan women. For example, in "The Evening and the Day," the protagonist is a rural Paraguayan who earns a meager living for herself and her family by making and selling "chipa" -- a bread containing cheese, corn, oil, cumin, and other ingredients, which is typically sold first thing in the morning to people on their way to work. With unflinching honesty, Pardo describes a life that is brutally true-to-life among the Paraguayan working class -- a one-bedroom "rancho" housing a woman, her companion, and her eight children; an abusive male companion who contributes little or nothing to the household; the overwhelming responsibility of merely feeding the children. In addition, she confronts a painful stereotype -- that of the rich, white female outsider inevitably of European or North American descent who is barren of womb, but rich of purse. With her wealth, the chronically depressed foreign woman seeks to acquire (buy or "adopt") one of the Paraguayan women's children. Instead of being an act of benevolence, charity or human understanding, the foreign woman's desire to adopt the child seems rapacious and self-interested. This is certainly a reflection of one attitude held by Paraguayans who view with deep misgiving the flood of Americans trying to adopt Paraguayan babies. In fact, stories are frequently run in daily newspapers about women who are arrested for selling babies (their own or those of desperate single mothers) or about the unscrupulous adoption market that is no more than a veil for the harvesting of children's organs for transplants for rich Americans. The fact that these accounts have all the earmarks of urban legend does not do anything to mitigate the psychological realities which are reflected in Pardo's work.
Although Maria Eugenia Garay was born in Asuncion, she lives in the U.S. Her work was included because it deals with many of the themes that characterize other Paraguayan writing, such as the role of women, women's choice, and the development of feminine autonomy of thought and action. Garay was deeply marked by the civil war which resulted in Stroessner's rise to power and the Colorado Party's domination of Paraguayan politics for more than 50 years. Her father's family was a part of the "Opposition" during the 1947 civil war which resulted in the out-migration of a large number of Paraguayans, primarily to Argentina, but also to the U.S., Brazil, and other countries. To this day, a number of cities are considered to be "Opposition" cities. One is Villarica, an agricultural center famous for its elegance and its traditional industries (farming, textile production, artisanwork).
Luisa Moreno de Gabaglio studied to become a doctor in Veterinary Sciences, graduating in Asuncion in 1976. Her poems and short fiction (both in Guarani and in Spanish) have been widely published and she has been the recipient of numerous awards, for her writing for adults as well as for young readers. She is a member of the Taller Cuento Breve writing workshop. Moreno is a fascinating writer whose works are explorations into the limits of human endurance and psychic pain. Often surrealistic, her stories concern themselves with the representation of madness as a new way of knowing.
Through a set of perceptions reconfigured by horror, Moreno's short stories may be well analyzed by means of 20th-century Russian critics, such as Todorov and Bakhtin, whose theories about the generic forms of the "fantastic" or the "carnivalesque" demonstrate how the grotesque serves to create a narrative form that allows for transformation. Moreno's characters are often victims of themselves -- of their curiosity, their greed, or their hunger for violence. And yet, without the catalyst of the Paraguayan unknown -- often the Chaco (where Moreno was raised) -- the characters maintain their equilibrium, and their behavior stays within the norms dictated to them by their cultures. Moreno's characters exhibit the rapacity of interlopers seeking to plunder what they consider a "brave new world." Without exception, they leave behind victims; usually the innocent and defenseless (an indigenous woman's infant, newborn carpinchos in the Chaco). As an interesting aside, Moreno's prose presents great difficulties to the translator, because there are many ironies embedded in her word choices -- choices that are often difficult to render in English and preserve the layers of meaning.
Emi Kasamatsu was born in La Colmena, the first Japanese colony in Paraguay. La Colmena was established after World War I, when Japan fell into a deep recession which was particularly hard on farmers. This exodus of Japanese farmers to the relatively hostile regions of South America (Paraguay, Bolivia, Brazil, Peru) resulted in an important stimulus to the agricultural industry. However, the culture shock was profound, particularly for those who attempted to preserve Japanese traditions in the new surroundings. Deeply influenced by the multicultural atmosphere, she continued to explore the two cultures when she moved to Asuncion to major in Philosophy and Letters at the Universidad Nacional de Asuncion. She later moved with her husband, a diplomat, to Tokyo and Washington, DC, where she took classes in art, ikebana, Japanese painting, Asian religions and philosophy. Her work has received awards, and she is a member of several writing workshops.
Gladys Carmagnola's poetry has been characterized as domestic and prosaic, appearing in stark contrast to the often florid lyric of her literary antecedents. The themes are of everyday life, of the lofty dreams of Everyman. Carmagnola's poetics posit a space for the Paraguayan "Everywoman" whose dreams sometimes seem to arise in inverse proportion to her actual ability to attain them. In fact, this is a theme in Paraguayan women's writing -- the woman whose life is completely bound by domestic ritual, societal constraints, and financial limitations, who finally escapes from her personal penitentiary and explores the land of dreams and of the taboo. In fact, the subject of jails -- primarily psychological -- recurs throughout Carmagnola's poetry. In the context of Paraguay, particularly the Stroessner-era Paraguay (when many of her poems were written), it is difficult to keep from drawing the conclusion that for the average woman, life was extremely limited, with few options. Carmagnola's poetry is a poetics of transcendence and spiritual escape, but outside the Romantic tradition. For Carmagnola, transcendence is achieved by means of domestic ritual and the careful observation (and appreciation) of the elements of quotidian life.
Rosana Berino, an attorney in Asuncion, writes poetry that reflects the socio-political realities of post-1947 Paraguay. She writes of betrayal, avarice, power, ambition -- elements that are the traditional elements of the classical tragedy, but which take on more resonance and immediacy given the ongoing internecine bloodshed, including the assassination of Vice-President of the Republic of Paraguay Luis Argana in March 1999. In contrast to the work of other Paraguayan women poets, Berino's poetic diction is elevated, and the ethos is one of a tribunal that, with courage in the face of immediate danger of reprisal, denounces the most powerful and exposes him (almost always male) for his betrayal of his office, his family, his wife, his people.
Maybell Lebron was born in Cordoba, Argentina, but raised in Paraguay. Her work has won several awards, including First Prize in the competition, "Veuve Clicquot." She is also a member of the Taller Cuento Breve writing workshop. A strong sense of justice can be found in her work, and they have the impact of a medieval morality play, which functions to restore order to a troubled and out-of-balance world. She explores with precision the relationship between the various members of a family, and she recreates the dynamics that drive the strong and sadistic to prey upon the weak and defenseless. Naturally, the psychological drama and tensions that one finds within such situations are echoes of the culture at large, and relationship between society's strong and its weak. While her work falls more into the realm of realism, her use of motifs and repetitions of colors bring to mind the work of F. Scott Fitzgerald, particularly in The Great Gatsby or Tender is the Night. Hers is a narrative of psychological extremes, and of personal triumph -- how a Nietzschean self-overcoming leads to the ability of the small and weak to finally prevail, and to prevail with dignity. Lebron's poetry also bases itself on highly effective metonymies which she can reiterate and recast stanza to stanza, bringing a polyphonic complexity to the work, simultaneously talking about society, relationships, states of being, and psychological realities.
Neida de Mendonca's short stories are often celebrations of the marginalized and overlooked segments of the Paraguayan population, and they provide a rare opportunity to gain insight into the daily lives of people who are often ignored or exploited. Her techniques are simultaneously traditional and postmodern. In some of her stories, such as the one in this collection, her narrative style is more or less based in realism. In others, the narrative style is surrealistic, almost fantastic, and reality is always called into question. Realism limits the characters -- they are essentially trapped in their destinies in a terrible, exploitive world that offers little hope of escape or transcendence. In the surrealistic world, escape is achievable when the limits of the real are called into question and the characters begin to shape their own destiny through the force of their own imaginations. In both genres, Mendonca utilizes readily identifiable characters and places from Paraguayan culture, which gives the work a unique sense of place.
Lourdes Espinola's feminist poetics have found expression in a number of her collections of poetry, some of which have been translated into French. Deeply influenced by American feminist criticism, Espinola lived for a number of years in Texas, where she studied literature and obtained a degree in dentistry. While in Texas, she joined a number of writers groups where the newly emerging feminist erotic writing was beginning to be discussed. After returning to Paraguay, she continued to write erotic poetry in which she challenges traditional notions about the relation between sexuality and art. Instead of using sexuality as a motif for union and transcendence, Espinola uses it as a politics of the body, and of ownership. Espinola has given readings of her works in Europe as well as in the U.S., where she completed a residency at the Iowa Writers Workshop.
Nila Lopez is an accomplished actress and writer whose essays seek to put into perspective the changing roles that women have begun to assume in Paraguay. The situation in Paraguay for women is different than in other countries due to the fact that many have considered Paraguay a virtual matriarchy since the disastrous Triple Alliance War in the late 19th century, in which 90 percent of the Paraguayan male population was decimated in terrible encounters with Argentine and Brazilian troops. When the Chaco War with Bolivia in the 1930s devastated yet another large percentage of the male population, even more emphasis was placed on the need to repopulate the nation. Many have commented on the sociological results, commenting that what began as an exigency resulted in hard-to-eradicate patterns and values. For example, after the Triple Alliance War, it was not uncommon for one man to father children with three or four women. Needless to say, it was difficult for one man to support so many households. As a result, women tended to live with their extended families, and the roles of the "Abuelita" (grandmother) and the "Tia" (aunt) were pivotal in raising and supporting the children. Women had to be very inventive and motivated in order to obtain the skills necessary to be able to provide for their family. As a result, many women started small businesses and directed schools.
Paradoxically, even as financial independence was gained, emotional dependence was fostered. Men were a scarce commodity, and thus prized. Irresponsible paternity, abuse, bullying, and an obsession to control the woman's every move were all excused. Having a man meant everything. In order to "have" a man, women became experts at coquetry, and even today place great importance on their grooming and appearance (in contrast to the men). As a result, women often placed themselves in compromising or humiliating positions in order to have the company of a man. Perhaps this is changing, but attitudes die hard, and the situations reflected in the essays and stories of Nila Lopez (and many other Paraguayan women authors) have a base in reality.
Margot Ayala de Michelagnoli's poetry and prose are lyric quests for meaning. They posit strategies for establishing contact between nature and the individual self. In addition, they suggest that reality is a construct, no so much of individual self, but of the genre itself. Romantic epistemologies are developed from the functioning of fancy or the imagination, and the moment that words are unmoored from their denotative anchors, the art becomes plastic, the consciousnesses filled with promise. Paraguayan, but born in France, Ayala writes poetry and fiction, and has been a member of a number of writing workshops and groups.
Elly Mercado de Vera was born in Encarnacion, Paraguay, on the Argentine border, and the location of Jesuit missions of the 17th century. A prolific writer of prose, poetry, and historical texts, her work investigates the collective consciousness vis-a-vis internalized historical realities. Her collection of treasure tales in Paraguay is particularly fascinating, because it incorporates a great deal of the tragic history of Paraguay. For example, the stories of treasure lost during the Triple Alliance War bring to mind more than the battle statistics (where, who, when, how many lost), but the human toll and the horror of battle, which are all made frighteningly immediate in the supposed presence of ghosts and the story of why the treasure was lost in the first place. Simultaneously folkloric and gothic, the tales of treasure bring together the past and the present. The reader's consciousness becomes the meeting place of the disparate times and vocabularies; theoretically, it is in the reader's consciousness where all these tales, with their alternative archetypes become recorded.
Margarita Prieto Yegros was born in Asuncion and received her training in education, and also a doctorate in history. Deeply devoted to literature, she has been published in several newspapers and journals and has won several awards. Her short stories are often ironic, often based true events. However, her treatment of journalistically represented events places a human face on facts and figures and it also shows the toll in human emotion. In addition, the stories focus on the dynamics in marriages often formed out of convenience in which the woman is no longer capable of enduring the harsh realities of life without autonomy or freedom. Human dignity is at issue. From a post-Marxist literary perspective, Prieto examines a politics of erasure -- how silence and invisibility are enforced and reinforced by attempt to eradicate the beingness of any subversive or questioning voice. Ironically, repression only makes the protest grow stronger.
Elinor Puschkarevich's poetry can be characterized by its careful renderings of how the mind perceives external reality, and the consequent existential condition of solitude. She explores the ephemeral nature of perception, and locates it with the shifting colors and types of flowers blossoming throughout the Paraguayan seasons. Lyric in the best sense, her poetry allows for the development of a mechanism of union where two consciousnesses merge in order to come to new ways to view the world. Motifs of penetration, union, and merging occur often in her poetry. Similarly, many of the occasions have to do with opening, blooming, emerging. Thus, personal growth and transformation are implied in the work, always as fresh and colorful as the objective correlatives -- blooming trees, clay jars, wild weather. In addition, the notion of the impossibility of self-knowledge by means of mimesis, or mirror representation, is reinforced as the mirrors in her poetry distort, bend, and flicker, never revealing to the onlooker the self he or she had anticipated.
Susana Riquelme de Bisso's powerful short stories and poetry bring to mind the notion of the poet as seer or divinely inspired prophet who brings an uncomfortable, even chilling vision of reality into existence. Born in Asuncion, where she currently lives, Riquelme has participated in a number of writing workshops. Her work has received a great deal of attention, and has garnered praise and literary awards. With a clear, yet penetrating style, she represents the internalization of power relationships and oppression. The representation of various emotional states is of particular interest as Riquelme constructs a space in which nostalgia, solitude, loss, rage, and indignation are associated with archetypes lodged in the unconscious. In addition, she explore the pain of existence, and of persistent melancholy in a world where utopias are constructed from the lacerated psyches of the survivors of the 20th century.
Yula Riquelme was born in Asuncion. She obtained her college education in history. A director of an advertising firm, she often works in advertising and publicity. Her poems and short stories have been widely published. Her book of poems, The Inhabitants of the Whirlpool is utterly rivetting to those seeking to understand the situation for artists during the dictatorship. Riquelme's poems are a scathing indictment of moral and psychological depravity, and the notion that they reflect some of the players during the dictatorship is more or less irresistible. Although the English translation does not reflect the gender of the persons being profiled with the same precision as the Spanish original, the maleness is clear. The male -- not simply as a specific man, but as a state of being -- is represented as predatory, penetrating, corrupting, and death-dealing. A fascinating text for the gender and "masculinist" studies, Riquelme's texts intrude the psyche of the torturer and dissect the mechanisms housed there.
Elsa Wiezell's lyric poetry spans many decades, placing her almost the contemporary of Josefina Pla, the Spanish-born literary lioness of Paraguay whose works were revered within the country and outside as well. Wiezell's work contains a number of repeating motifs -- one of journey, and another of flowers. In her work, nature becomes the screen upon which the self becomes discoverable. Truly a pioneer and courageous explorer of new forms and modes of expression during a very difficult time, Wiezell paved the way for other women writers, particularly those interested in aesthetics and connections between visual (or plastic) art and poetry.
Milia Gayoso was born in Villa Hayes, in the Chaco region of Paraguay, but left shortly to live in Buenos Aires with her relatives. Her academic training included rigorous studies in communication and philosophy. Her short stories deal with girls and women coming of age, and the often difficult realities of a woman's life. Her stories demonstrate enormous sympathy for those without privilege or special access to professions or services, and they incorporate Paraguayan traditions and cultural realities. These may not be understandable to a North American reader who does not comprehend the full implications of some of the events, but with a simple briefing, the universality of the stories can be seen. For example, the story of a girl's modest "quinceanos" is not particularly poignant until one understands that in Latin America a girl's 15th birthday is her debut into society, and great sacrifices are made to insure it is as spectacular as possible. Similarly, the story of a woman's misgivings in an abortion clinic may be universal, but it is made all the more compelling when one realizes that in Paraguay, irresponsible paternity and the need to repopulate the country after the Triple Alliance and Chaco wars have resulted in women raising their children alone, a very difficult task in a world which reserves the high-paying, prestigious jobs for men.
Susy Delgado is a unique voice in South American literature, whose writing in Guarani and Spanish has been awarded many important literary honors. Her poetry is minimalist, the diction unaffected, and the situations are celebrations of the individual's need to establish communication with each other, and to share in rituals, however modest, that forge bonds and facilitate mutual comprehension. Her preservation of the Guarani language and of Guarani traditions -- preparing yerba mate, boiling water for cocido in the morning, cooking and gathering around the fire -- are testimonies to the power of the language, which is spoken as a primary language by almost all of the rural inhabitants of bilingual Paraguay. Her poetry is often delightfully ironic, particularly as she addresses the man in her life, whose power she adroitly usurps by exposing the vulnerability behind the tough-guy facade.
Delgado?s latest book, Paper Rebellion, marks the emergence of an altered, more nostalgic voice which looks upon the changing face of the world with sadness and a quiet plea for human dignity in the midst of rampant consumerism. Her poem dealing with the death of Princess Di is particularly moving. I first heard it read two days after Princess Di's death. I was in Paraguay and was attending a book fair set up in the Shopping del Sol mall. In addition, I had been exploring the possibility of living in Paraguay for a year or so, when the news broke of Princess Di's death. It was a shock for everyone, and the sense of loss was palpable. In a gathering at the home of Dirma Pardo Carugati, women authors sat together and read each other works in progress. With heartfelt, almost painful syllables, Susy read the poem. Its tribute to the basic humanity of a woman who had been converted into a mass-marketed product until she rebelled was intensely moving. Perhaps it was the portrayal of the struggle against overwhelming forces that was so moving. That is a woman's life, isn't it? We package ourselves, or are packaged -- the roles seem quite predetermined for almost all of us. But what if the selection of predetermined roles is not adequate? What does that leave for the individual? The universality of that message is, in fact, heartrending, because it suggests that there is a fundamentally self-alienating component in a woman's life that only the brightest and most glorious type of courage can overcome. Perhaps this bright, glorious courage is what I most admire in Susy Delgado and in all the Paraguayan women writers, whose talent, dedication, and literary output did not come without a price.
I would like to thank all of the women represented in this collection for their generosity and time. In addition, I would like to acknowledge those who have helped me practice a theory or at least, philosophy, of translation. These include Rochelle Owens, George Economou, Nick Howe, Robert Murray Davis, Rod Smith and Cydney Chadwick. George Economou, whose lectures on the practice of literary translation, recommended texts, and the exercises done in his writing workshop gave me a new focus and interest in the realm of possibilities. Finally, I would like to thank my Paraguayan friends who have encouraged me each step of the way. Peter Jones, Martha clvarez, Beatriz Fusillo, and many others have all played a very important role, as has the American Embassy team, particularly James Dickmeyer, USIS cultural officer and Ambassador Maura Harty.