Their words went around the world: Latin American writers remembered


Gabriela Mistral, a Chilean poet, professor and diplomat, became the first Spanish American writer to win the Nobel Prize in literature, in 1945. In verses of desperation and tenderness, she writes the kitchen, the tang of blood, the cold of river water on bare skin in the morning, the small sounds of desert creatures born at night:

feeling two breaths

where nothing was warm,

groping in burrows

for things transformed.

In 1931, she taught at Middlebury College, and Eagle readers could have met her with a quick trip to Vermont.

This week, we can meet her poetry.

On Tuesday night, Holly Brown, a professor of Spanish Language and Literature at Bard College at Simon's Rock, will lead a conversation with her students on "Cuatro mujeres, cuatro géneros," to bring together four Latin American women writers.

Brown is researching three women writing in 15th-century Castile and Aragon -- Spain did not exist then as it does today. And few women who lived then could write what they saw and thought, let alone preserve what they write to this day. Women then had to fight to learn to read and write at all, she said, and they did not speak the dominent language of educated people, which then was Latin.

Brown finds this kind of courage among Latin American women writers today.

In "Don Quixote," the 15th-century hero observes a woman who defends her right to live alone, and he champions her. But today, still, a Latin American woman who stands alone may win global honor and disappear.

So Brown and her students have set out to find them.

Maria Teresa Solari, a contemporary writer and professor in Bolivia and the director of Eco Feminino, a literary journal, set her "Death and Transfiguration of a teacher," a fiercely comic story, in a poetry class.

Clarice Lispector, a Brazilian Jewish novelist, journalist and essayist smoking a cigarette in a chanel suit, blends clear imagery and philosophy.

Frida Kahlo paints herself in vivid color to blot out physical pain.

Imagine them all talking together.


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