Eyes on Latin American Literature: Jonathan Franzen opens the International Book Fair in Guadalajara

November 28, 2012
Guadalajara, Mexico

There was much to talk about during the 26th edition of the largest Spanish language book fair in the world, and it wasn’t just limited to discussions about books.

The Feria International del Libro, or FIL, a world-wide recognized commercial and public book fair hosted by the University of Guadalajara in the Expo convention center of the city by the same name, was marked this year by substantial controversy over the selection of Peruvian novelist  Bryce Echenique as this year’s awardee.  Echenique has been widely accused of plagiarism on numerous accounts by many in the literary world who,  in turn, were outraged upon hearing he had been selected by the FIL jury.  The FIL and its president Raúl Padilla were subject to harsh criticism in the weeks preceding the fair, and until this past weekend, it had been unclear if they were going to revoke their decision, as it threatened to tarnish the fair’s prestige among the literary community.

Long-standing President Padilla decided to proceed with honoring Echenique but opted to do so in a discrete ceremony, canceling the traditional opening-day ceremony in Guadalajara and instead presenting the author with the award in his native Peru (which includes a $150,000 cash prize.)

Jonathan Franzen, Silvia Lemus, Jorge Volpi

In place of the traditional award ceremony, the FIL instead choose to honor the literary great late Carlos Fuentes, in a ceremony that included his wife Silvia Lemus and American novelist  Jonathan Franzen.  Lemus bestowed upon Franzen the newly inaugurated “Carlos Fuentes award,” and the author remarked that it was “personally meaningful to be here [in Guadalajara],” having met Fuentes and Lemus just months before Fuentes passed.

When asked about his interest in Latin American literature, Franzen admitted that after having paid attention to some of the greats of the 1970s during the “Latin boom” (Fuentes, Márquez, Llosa) he hadn’t been keeping tabs on authors coming out of Latin America but is ready to change that.  He has been reading Colombian author Juan Gabriel Vasquez and mentioned that his decision to participate in the fair was a testament to his interest in keeping a close eye on Latin American literature.


Other authors to keep your eye on:

Juan Villobo (Mexico)
Diamela Eltit (novelist, Chile)
Guillermo Calderón (playwright, Chile)
Angel Ortuño (poet, Mexico)

Visitors to the Chilean pavilion. Chile is the guest country this year, but due to the above-mentioned controversy, many previously schedule authors were absent, including Antonio Skármeta and poet Raúl Zurita.


~ by maureenmoore on December 2, 2012.

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