Pulitzer the Argentine who writes in English and the disguises of an author

One of the main literary prizes in the English language, this year’s Pulitzer Prize for Fiction went to Hernan Diaz, an Argentine who moved with his parents to Sweden when he was young and moved to the United States in his youth. Today the author is 50 years old and writes in English. Shared with the American Barbara Kingsolver, author of “Demon Copperhead”, the Pulitzer Prize for Diaz is yet another piece to help us understand how fluid the borders of literature can be.

Diaz took the prize for his second novel, “Trust”, published here in Brazil by Intrínseca as “Confiança” (translation by Marcello Lino). “In The Distance”, the writer’s previous novel released in 2017, also reached the Pulitzer final, in addition to receiving other recognitions across the United States.

“Confiança” is a fragmented fiction that presents multiple views on the North American financial universe in the first years of the 20th century. The frequent comparisons with “The Great Gatsby”, classic by Scott Fitzgerald, give an idea of ​​what the reader can find in constructions. Colleague José Godoy brought his vision of the novel to Clube do Livro.

Diaz writes in English and has just won an important literary award with a story that seems to be deeply linked to the United States. Right off the bat, it wouldn’t seem absurd to me to see him as an American author born in Argentina, a case similar to the great Brazilian author who, almost by chance, came into the world in Ukraine. I speak, of course, of Clarice Lispector.

But Diaz’s cultural background leaves this game more open. In a recent interview with O Globo, he commented that he had already dedicated himself to works by Clarice and Machado de Assis. More than that, he pointed to the brothers Augusto and Haroldo de Campos, exponents of concrete poetry, as responsible for teaching him the importance of form when writing.

The highlight of Hernan’s non-fiction work is the book “Borges, Between History and Eternity”, an essay on fellow countryman Jorge Luis Borges. There is more about the author’s proximity to Argentina in the conversation, in Spanish, than the now-awarded hit with Hinde Pomeranic on the Vidas Prestadas podcast.

There are many literatures in confluence with Latin America that happen beyond the Rio Bravo. An example of this is Chicano Literature, a current that took shape in the middle of the last century and includes works deeply marked by the presence of Mexicans and their descendants in the United States. “A Casa na Rua Mango”, by Sandra Cisneros (Dublinense, translation by Natalia Borges Polesso), is a good reference of this literature.

Colombian Juliana Delgado Lopera, who has lived in the North American country since she was 15, follows a similar line in her fiction. Written in English permeated by Spanish, “Febre Tropical” (Instante, translation by Natalia Borges Polesso) is a portrait of part of the community formed by Latin American immigrants in Miami.

I am also thinking of the New Latino Boom, a literary movement of writers who write in Spanish and live in the land of Cormac McCarthy. The Bolivian Giovanna Rivero, author of “Terra Fresca da Sua Tumba” (Incompleta/ Jandaíra, translation by Laura Del Rey) is part of it.

Another one to mess up borders that are too rigid for art is the Guatemalan Eduardo Halfon, whose story is also linked to the United States. An excerpt from “Canción”, a novel by Halfon published by Mundaréu, translated by Joca Reiners Terron, is a good example of how multiple an author’s identity can be:

“I was in Japan to participate in a congress of Lebanese writers. Upon receiving the invitation a few weeks ago, and after reading and rereading it until I was sure it was not a mistake or a joke, I opened the wardrobe and there I found the Lebanese disguise – among my many disguises – inherited from my paternal grandfather, born in Beirut. I had never been to Japan. And I had never been asked to be a Lebanese writer. Jewish writer, yes. Guatemalan writer, of course. Writer Latin American, obviously. Central American writer, less and less. American writer, more and more. Spanish writer, when it was preferable to travel with that passport. Polish writer, on one occasion, in a bookstore in Barcelona who insisted – and insists – about putting my books on the shelf of Polish literature. French writer, since I lived in Paris for a while and some still assume I’m still there. I keep all these disguises always at hand, well starched and hung in the wardrobe. But they never had me invited to participate in something as a Lebanese writer. And it didn’t seem like a big deal to me to have to pretend to be an Arab for a day, at a conference at the University of Tokyo, if that would allow me to get to know the country”.

It’s easy to note: Hernan Diaz, now a Pulitzer Prize winner, is not an isolated case in this question full of possibilities.

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