Saturday, October 13, 2018

THE TAIGA SYNDROME--Los Angeles Review of Books

IF ONE IS LOOKING for works that embody the seismic shifts in Mexican literature’s aesthetics and styles in the 21st century, Cristina Rivera Garza’s boldly experimental books are the place to start. She began publishing in the mid-1980s, and her early works of short fiction and poetry garnered her some attention and awards, but her true irruption in the literary world took place with the publication of Nadie me verá llorar (No One Will See Me Cry, 1999), perhaps one of the last great books of the 20th century in Latin America. Winner of the José Rubén Romero National Book Award, the highest national prize for an unpublished novel, Nadie me verá llorar is a daring intervention in the genre of Mexican historical fiction.
In a time when Mexican women writers were able to take over a chunk of the editorial market with wildly successful historical romances (English-language readers will probably remember Laura Esquivel’s blockbuster novel Like Water for Chocolate, published in 1989), Rivera Garza told the story of a woman institutionalized in the infamous mental hospital of La Castañeda and of the photographer obsessed with her. She did this through a narrative devoid of syrupy sentimentality — what women-centered historical fiction was supposed to be in the literary markets of the 1990s. Instead, she was informed by Michel Foucault’s and Gilles Deleuze’s theories on madness, as well as by feminist theories of the bond between medicalization and gender. The book turned Rivera Garza into a widely read and admired writer, as well as into a cult figure in Mexican literary circles.
Unfortunately, the English translation of the book, published in 2003, did not capitalize on the excitement elicited by the Spanish original (we can only hope a revised or new translation of this most important book will be reissued now that Rivera Garza has become more of a household name). Rivera Garza’s work gained great acclaim in Spanish and became the subject of scholarly study, but no other English translations were published until late 2017, when the Feminist Press released Sarah Booker’s rendering of The Iliac Crest, Rivera Garza’s 2002 experimental novel around cult Mexican writer Amparo Dávila. In departing from the historical scenarios of her first novel, The Iliac Crest then showed another step in Rivera Garza’s evolution, which placed her closer to the canon of Mexican literature, and into the territory she would eventually develop, that of gendered experimental fiction.
Rivera Garza’s work seems to be coming into English translation in full force, finally catching up with her long intellectual relationship with the United States. Born in the border city of Matamoros, Tamaulipas, next to Brownsville, Texas, Rivera Garza has a PhD in history at the University of Houston; her dissertation was the departure point of both Nadie me verá llorarand the historical nonfiction book La Castañeda, on Mexico’s most infamous mental hospital. After a few years at the University of California, San Diego, she is now a professor of Hispanic Studies at the University of Houston, where she has been spearheading the first PhD program in creative writing in Spanish — a project with significant cultural and political ramifications in the current political and cultural climate. She is also the translator into Spanish of Vanessa Place and Robert Fitterman’s Notes on Conceptualisms, a book that has had a significant following in younger Mexican poets, and, more recently, Fred Moten and Stefano Harney’s The Undercommons, which is close to her work on communality and culture, developed in Los muertos indóciles. Necroescrituras y desapropiación (The Unquiet Dead. Necrowriting and Disappropriation, 2013), a theoretical book that connects conceptualist writing in the United States with the communalist theories of indigenous thinker Floriberto Díaz, Antoine Volodine’s work on post-exoticism, and the work of David Markson. Indeed, one of the reasons why Rivera Garza has one of the most intensively theoretical frameworks in Mexican literature today comes from the fact that she has been able to develop her place in the US academy as a way to resist Mexican cultural conservatism, while her place in Mexican literature inoculates her from the vices of US academic discourse.
Read full article by Ignacio Sánchez Prado here
--crg

Friday, October 05, 2018

THE TAIGA SYNDROME--Minor Literatures


THE DISTANT NEVER SO CLOSE
While her previously translated works (The Iliac Crest and No one Will See Me Cry) are grounded in the politics and history of her native Mexico, Cristina Rivera Garza’s The Taiga Syndrome offers a timeless, “boreal” fairy tale. Its inchoate eroticism and arch asides evoke authors as disparate as Amelia Gray and Halldór Laxness; Herbert Marcuse and Helen Oyeyemi; Anna Kavan and Donald Barthelme; (Lars von Trier and Walt Disney)—but Rivera Garza’s fabular elements create a singularly inclement climate.
Unto this arctic clime (the Taiga) comes a nameless “writer of noir novellas,” dispatched as envoy of a deserted husband. A reluctant emissary, our author/detective narrator (à la Auster) must track down her client’s “second wife,” with the help of a taciturn translator and fellow “outsider.” (The excluded figure prominently in Rivera Garza’s work.) As they puzzle over laconic leads (cryptic telegrams, elliptic testimony), they are alternately engaged and cold-shouldered by the inhabitants of that wintry wasteland.
The obscure object of their investigation rapidly evolves on this short trek (119 pages) through a frozen forest primeval. Their primary clue is a mysterious telegram, which has piqued the narrator’s “all-consuming weakness for forms of writing no longer in use” and drawn her into the fray. Further clues are ferreted from the journal of “the second wife,” as writing reveals itself as such. Rivera Garza has here nested narratives (her modus operandi) and the telling of tales takes center stage, though we are warned,
Nothing happens as it is written. 
Read Steven Felicelli´s full review here.

--crg

THE TAIGA SYNDROME--Tor.com


1. how does any story work
Wood, snow, blood: old stories. The witch in the forest, the breadcrumb trail, the grandmother-skinned wolf—everybody’s here, in this wild little book, breath steaming humid in the cold air. The taiga is the sometimes swampy coniferous forest of the high northern latitudes. A person has gone there with her lover to become lost. Or perhaps she has gone there to find something else.
2. suicide
Our narrator is a writer, a failure, and a detective. She is hired by a man whose Adam’s apple she cannot fail to notice to find a woman who loves someone other than him, or who has run away to the taiga with someone other than him, which, to him, is the same thing, but may not be the same thing to us. The circumstances of her own disappearance may not be of interest to the disappeared. She is the protagonist of a different story than the one the man seeking her has told.
“It seems,” he tells our narrator, “that certain inhabitants of the taiga begin to suffer terrible anxiety attacks and make suicidal attempts to escape.” This is a phenomenon long documented in the Arctic. Ishavet kaller, writes the painter Christiane Ritter, who spent the winter of 1934-1935 with her trapper-husband on the island of Spitsbergen, in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard: “Ishavet kaller: This is what the Spitsbergen hunters say when one of their comrades, for mysterious reasons of his own, throws himself into the sea.” Maybe he can no longer stand the endless darkness of the polar night. Maybe he can no longer bear the inhuman grandeur of its beauty. A fairytale kind of death, if you think about it. Or a manner of haunting.
The woman our narrator has been tasked with detecting, the woman who has escaped, or run away, or agreed to her own absence, documents her flight, leaves our narrator an analog trail: telegrams, letters, maps. If we are lost to other people but not to ourselves, what constitutes our geography? If the terrain is unknown are we missing? Or are we merely unwilling to be found?
6. solastalgia
is the name of a specific kind of grief, the distress produced by the effects of climate change on a place that has long supported a community. It is a form of mourning that particularly affects indigenous peoples who depend on subsistence activities for their survival, although it is a loss that can splinter its way into anybody’s heart.
“Above all,” our narrator says, “I remember I used to exhale… in front of the glass, and write with the tip of my index finger the words ‘I am leaving here’ and ‘I will never return.’”
7. “We all carry a forest inside us, yes,”
our narrator says. The wilderness to which we are returning. The long way to becoming missing.
We go to a place we imagined as foreign, and find instead that we are home.

Read Sarah McCarry´s full review here

--crg

THE TAIGA SYNDROME--Arkansas International


The resultant investigation is both bright light and shadow, a slow tightrope walk towards the cold, coniferous Taiga and its cache of strange secrets. Rivera Garza maintains resistance to the traditional fable. Routinely her detective-narrator breaks the spell of her story, reminding us of the act of her telling, through commentary on her word choice (“‘Breathlessly,’” she notes, “is an adverb with rhythm”) and the presence of a literal translator accompanying her through the forest. In their breadth and variety, Rivera Garza’s words—wonderfully translated by Suzanne Jill Levine and Aviva Kana— also resist fable. In the space of a single short chapter, the author moves from delicate and beautiful (“The booming of the sky made me tremble. The wing beats of birds with no names, that couldn’t have names. The violently clashing branches”) to strictly anatomical language (“The masculine hand on the lower edge of her jaw. Below, the submandibular glands, the submental ganglia. Underneath, the veins and facial arteries and stylohyoid muscles. . .” ) proving her’s is a book of raw nerves, exposed skin, but also hardness: sinew and bone. For the detective-narrator—and, indeed for us readers—Rivera Garza’s pages are these things and more. What she has created here is a diary of longing, anxiety, trauma; a record of the tension between our deepest, most personal forests and the ways that we choose to preserve them.

Read Elizabeth DeMeo´s full review here.

--crg

THE TAIGA SYNDROME--Ploughshares


The language of the edition I read is most directly the work of Suzanne Jill Levine and Aviva Kana, who produced this first translation from the Spanish (and only the third English translation of Garza’s seven novels). Translation itself is a major theme of the book. Even after the narrator finds her translator, “tongue to tongue: a speaker of their tongue who would translate everything into my tongue,” Garza describes most events as coming through filters—through speaking, writing, or gesture. But Levine and Kana’s fantastic language is surprising, highly stylized and very, very precise. The repetition of phrases (“I remember…above all I remember,” “I told the truth”) in sections separated by many pages act as a series of bells, training readers to remember, to believe, and to fear on Garza’s terms.
This repetition brings us to what drew me to The Taiga Syndrome in the first place, which is its surprising use of fairy tales. Two are named explicitly: Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel. Garza alludes to these two tales with the plot—a telegram breadcrumb trail, a literal wolf at the door—and she also includes interludes on the stories’ academic interpretations. But her reference comes in a more foundational form as well, in her application of certain stylistic techniques common to all fairy tales. Scholars like Kate Bernheimer and Max Luthi list these techniques differently but usually agree on three: rigidly repetitive language (such as the use of “once upon a time” or something similar), special logic or normalized magic (nobody bats an eye when Sleeping Beauty pricks her finger and falls asleep), and maybe most importantly here, a flatness of character (a preference for the archetype over the psychologically realistic).
I’ve described Garza’s repetitive language, but she deploys these other techniques, too. Special logic is used to terrifying effect in a few scenes I won’t give away here, but which have caused at least one reviewer to (rightly) call the book Lynchian. The archetypal nature of the characters—“the detective,” “the translator,” “the man with two wives”—is particularly central. The characters’ flatness is not complete, as it would be in a true fairy tale, because the characters’ thoughts and actions do imply complex motivations and deep emotional lives. But it’s this tension between archetype and reality that leads us to the true heart of the narrator’s struggle: “The desire between one thing and another. The desire of bodies and, at the same time, the desire to narrate bodies.” Some writers who invoke fairy tale do it for the trance-like rhythm and rich symbolism, some do it for the thrill of recognizing an old story retold, for the sheer necromancy of it. But the best authors use it to talk about story itself. They do it because they are obsessed with what we’re really doing when we draw a narrative frame and call something a story. This is exactly what is happening in The Taiga Syndrome.
Read Amelia Brown´s full review here.

--crg

Monday, September 24, 2018

WORKSHOP SERIES FALL 2018


No se la pierdan por nada del mundo.
Habrá streaming (pero inscríbanse para mandar materiales).

--crg

Monday, September 10, 2018

WORKSHOP SERIES FALL 2018


No se la pierdan. Aquí, en UH, como parte de la Workshop Series Fall 2018, del PhD en Estudios Hispánicos con concentración en Escritura Creativa en Español (ECE).

--crg

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Monday, August 20, 2018

THE TAIGA SYNDROME--Publishers Weekly´s starred review


Rivera Garza’s extraordinary, incantatory novel (following The Iliac Crest) is short but stunning, following a semi-retired detective on the trail of her client’s second ex-wife, who abandoned him for a younger man. Intermittent communications from the couple place them last at the Taiga, an immense, faraway, and largely inhospitable forest province that borders the tundra. People disappear from the Taiga at such a frequency that the phenomenon has a name—the Taiga Syndrome. The detective arrives at the Taiga village from where her client’s ex-wife last sent a telegram, bringing along a translator for help. Though she privately suspects she’s there on a wild goose chase, the detective nonetheless faithfully records all that she comes across, including unsettling interviews with little boys and stories of a wolf cub who seemed to take an interest in the ex-wife and her lover. “Hansel and Gretel” and “Little Red Riding Hood” are explicitly referenced throughout the book—the original, darker versions, of course. And there are some truly chilling aspects of the novel, including what the aforementioned little boy confesses he witnessed and a feral child the Taiga lumberjacks find in the forest. In the climax, the detective plunges deep into the Taiga in search of the ex-wife, and discovers where love must go before it can finally be considered over. As lyrical as a poem (“Look at this: your knees. They are used for kneeling upon reality, also for crawling, terrified. You use them to sit on a lotus flower and say goodbye to the immensity”) and as fantastic as a fairy tale, Rivera Garza’s gorgeous, propulsive novel will haunt readers long after it’s finished.

Full article here

--crg
--crg

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

THE TAIGA SYNDROME--Kirkus´ starred review



A detective travels to the heart of a mysterious snow forest in this existential mystery about desire, hauntings, and the failure of language.
When the unnamed narrator of Mexican author Rivera Garza’s (The Iliac Crest, 2017, etc.) gothic noir accepts the case of a missing couple, she feels haunted by all the cases she has failed to solve. “The case of the woman who disappeared behind a whirlwind. The case of the castrated men. The case of the woman who gave her hand, literally,” she thinks. Intrigued and alarmed by her client's tragic description of the Taiga Syndrome, in which “inhabitants of the Taiga begin to suffer terrible anxiety attacks and make suicidal attempts to escape,” she sets off with a translator to follow in the missing couple’s footsteps. When they arrive at the village where the couple was last seen, they’re brought to “a hovel...a habitable structure made from wood, cardboard, and lots of dry branches.” Here, the boundaries between prose and poetry, reality and myth—both already tenuous—begin to blur even further. A wolf spied waiting outside the couple’s cabin door might have been a wild boy captured by passing lumberjacks. A miscarriage witnessed by a village child might be the origin story of “two miniature creatures” used in a bawdy bordello show. The miniature creatures might, after all, be real. If haunting is a kind of repetition, the narrator and her translator begin their own ghost story, following in the footsteps of the couple before them, falling in love—if only briefly. This novel, in a translation by Levine and Kana, is taught, lyrical, and strange, and it fits right in with Dorothy, A Publishing Project’s commitment to work that challenges what genres and forms can do. Like the best speculative fiction, it follows the sinuous paths of its own logic but gives the reader plenty of room to play. Fans of fairy tales and detective stories, Kathryn Davis and Idra Novey, will all find something to love.
An eerie, slippery gem of a book.

Link here

--crg

THE TAIGA SYNDROME--@The_Millions



coverThe Taiga Syndrome by Cristina Rivera Garza (translated by Suzanne Jill Levine and Aviva Kana): Marguerite DurasClarice LispectorJuan Rulfo—comparisons to each have been made with regard to Cristina Rivera Garza’s novels, which are uncanny and unique, often exploring and crossing and investigating borders, including but not limited to “geopolitical borders and conceptual borders, borders of gender and genre, borders between life and death.” Rivera Garza has spent her life crossing borders, too. Born in Mexico, she lived between San Diego and Tijuana for a long while, and she now directs the first bilingual creative writing Ph.D. program at the University of Houston. The Taiga Syndrome is Rivera Garza’s second novel to be translated to English, a book which Daniel Borzutzky likens to “Apocalypse Now fused with the worlds of Clarice Lispector and Jorge Luis Borges.” Yowza. (Anne)

See "Most Anticipated: The Great Second-Half 2018 Book Preview" here

--crg

Friday, June 08, 2018

THE ILIAC CREST--The Skinny

Cristina Rivera Garza’s The Iliac Crest has been compared to a David Lynch film, and it’s easy to see why. It’s a circular, unbounded story where nothing is certain: gender, chronology, borders and death are all ambiguous, both for the protagonist and the reader.
One night, two women arrive, hours apart, at the unidentified narrator’s house. One is apparently an ex-lover, the other a stranger who claims to be Mexican author Amparo Dávila. Their appearance turns his world in on itself, as all aspects of his previously insular life are questioned. In his hunt to find out why they’ve chosen to cling to him, his masculinity is doubted to the point where he frequently has to check to remind himself of his gender, his memories blur and fade in and out of reality, and his actions are fueled by the concept of appearance, disappearance and stability.
Garza has a flair for describing intense pleasure: paragraphs where the narrator is offered first whisky, then – in later pages – a cigar are laced with a dizzying hedonism, made all the more sensuous when juxtaposed against the creeping terror of nearly every other scene. Similarly intense, the ocean’s constant presence as a character in its own right introduces the concept of borders and finality to the text, reflecting themes as relevant today as they were when the novel was first published nearly 20 years ago.
The true significance of each individual word is due to the novel’s translator, Sarah Booker. The ambiguity of translation allows themes and motifs to take on numerous façades: the term ‘turn back’ is one which recurs throughout, and it is beautifully unclear each time whether it should be read literally or metaphorically. This vagueness blurs the line between sanity and insanity even more in this fever dream of a story. [Kirstyn Smith]
Full text here.

--crg

Thursday, May 17, 2018

THE UNUSUAL: A MANIFESTO

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, as new generations of women worldwide forcibly expose the cruel nature of the gender hierarchies (and binaries) that structure our daily lives, while many reject the possibility of being either physically disappeared or culturally erased, the decision to only publish women authors may appear unusual, but it is urgent. I am convinced that writing is a critical practice: true, bold, brave, formally adventurous writing should have the ability to change perceptions and experience; the disordering of the senses talked about by Rimbaud, inextricably linked with the disordering of everyday life as we know it. Producing unusualness, writing expands our sense of what is possible. Imaginable. Livable. Publishing women authors is not a minor component in this process.
In Pentransmissions.com. See full text here. 

--crg

ESTAR ALERTA: Escribir en español en los Estados Unidos


U
no de los primeros actos de la presidencia de Donald Trump consistió en borrar el español de la página oficial de la Casa Blanca. No fue, como algunos lo explicaron en su momento, una medida transitoria con la que se pretendía mejorar la información contenida, sino una verdadera declaración de principios. Borrar es el nombre del juego. Hacer como que cincuenta y pico millones de hispanohablantes no viven y trabajan y producen en los Estados Unidos a los Estados Unidos, el segundo país donde viven más hispanohablantes en el mundo (sólo después de México). Los que todavía tenían esperanza de que el bravado nacionalista que caracterizó la campaña de Trump se transformaría, ya en la presidencia, en la toma de medidas más moderadas, entendieron que el verdadero invierno apenas estaba por empezar. Los ataques de Trump contra los inmigrantes, especialmente contra inmigrantes pobres y morenos de América Latina y, entre ellos, sobre todo los de México, son la firma de una agenda que promete devolver la grandeza blanca y homogénea a los Estados Unidos. Esa nostalgia por un mundo que nunca existió en esta nación de migrantes es la que lleva a cientos de miles a formar parte de esos coros demenciales que piden la construcción de grandes muros fronterizos, la proliferación de armas en las calles y el castigo a lo diverso y diferente.
Tal vez no fue una mera coincidencia entonces que inauguráramos el Doctorado en Escritura Creativa en Español en la Universidad de Houston sólo unos meses después de que Trump llegara al poder, en el semestre de otoño de 2017.

En Revista de la Universidad Nacional. Ver artículo completo aquí.

--crg

Saturday, March 24, 2018

NEW WORKSHOP SERIES 2018


Este domingo el esperado taller de Samanta Schweblin para el PhD en Escritura Creativa en Español. Y el lunes, martes y miércoles de la próxima semana seguimos con el taller de la gran María Negroni.
Si desean inscribirse gratuitamente manden mensaje a: agendauh.ece@gmail.com

--crg



CONGRESO TRANSATLÁNTICO

En Monterrey, Nl
Viernes 23 de marzo
¡Ahí nos vemos!

--crg

Friday, March 16, 2018

University of Michigan

Friday, March 16th
5:30 - 7:00 pm
Keynote address: Writing with Communities Today: Disappropriation and Shareng

Saturday, March 17th
2:00 - 3:00 pm
The Iliac Crest: Reading and Conversation

--crg


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Desde HABÍA MUCHA NEBLINA O HUMO O NO SÉ QUÉ

 Abigail Cortés escribió "Reescritura de Rulfo o no sé qué" para Libroamérica:

El cintillo del nuevo libro de Cristina Rivera Garza Había mucha neblina o humo o no sé qué (2017), anuncia: “Un personalísimo homenaje y visión de Juan Rulfo. Obra experimental que rompe los límites de los géneros, Cristina Rivera Garza demuestra una vez más su fascinante habilidad literaria”. Yo, después de tremendas promesas, leí con ansia mi ejemplar y, a lo largo de sus páginas, sentí emoción, melancolía, sorpresa; también, logré sostener un interesante diálogo con las ideas que el libro despliega sobre el autor de Pedro Páramo (1955).
   “Cada quien tiene su Rulfo Privado. El mío, mi Rulfo mío de mí está tan interesado en producir una obra como preocupado por ganarse la vida”, dice nuestra escritora en la contraportada del libro. Sí, es cierto, cada quien guarda para sí a sus autores más queridos y los cuida de la mejor manera que puede. Por ejemplo, he de confesar que yo también tengo un Rulfo privado. Uno mío de [1]. Actualmente, me dedico a estudiar la obra del autor de El llano en llamas (1953), en particular, su correspondencia amorosa;[2] sin embargo, me atrevo a opinar sobre el estudio de Rivera Garza con el conocimiento previo de que ella me supera en lecturas e investigación.
   Primeramente, he decidido hablar sobre Había mucha neblina o humo o no sé qué ahora que ha pasado la euforia, y es que publicar un libro, el cual habla sobre los aspectos biográficos de Juan Rulfo en el año de su centenario fue una proeza que causó diversas opiniones, algunas más amables que otras. No obstante, me niego a profundizar en la polémica pues no la considero relevante.
   La autora recorre los mismos caminos que Rulfo y escribe un “libro viajero” conformado por seis capítulos tan diferentes como interesantes; apuesta por una escritura biográfica de Juan Rulfo diferente a lo que se ha hecho antes pues, al contextualizar al autor, lo desacraliza para exponer que Juan Nepomuceno Carlos Pérez Rulfo Vizcaíno, aunque no lo parezca, fue humano. Además, Rivera Garza crea un texto híbrido, toma recursos biográficos e históricos y los entrevera dando como resultado imágenes nítidas sobre acontecimientos que dislocan las prácticas de lectura pues en este libro la realidad participa de la ficción y viceversa.
Artículo completo aquí 


Friday, January 12, 2018

Desde VIRIDITAS

Roberto Cruz Arzabal publicó "Archivos potenciales: domiciliación y colindancias en Viriditas de Cristina Rivera Garza" en Letras Femeninas Vol. 42, Num. 2, 2016, pp.35-43

Tomando como punto de partida el concepto de archivo según fue problematizado por Jacques Derrida en su muy conocido Mal d'archive, propongo leer las prácticas de archivo dentro de la obra de Cristina rivera Garza, no sólo como elementos referenciales dentro de los textos, sino como procedimientos artísticos en relación con la acumulación y la domiciliación que delimitan el interior y el exterior de la textualidad. En especial, propongo la lectura del libro Viriditas que, aunque poco atendido por la critica, resulta un objeto ejemplar para entender el movimiento entre domiciliación y trazo arqueológico en la obra de Rivera Garza. Además, utilizo el concepto de escrituras colindantes, propuesto por la propia autora, para relacionar las formas intermediales del libro con los movimientos del archivo que la producen.

Ensayo completo aquí.

--crg

12 ESSENTIAL FEMALE AUTHORS

I wrote "12 Essential Female Authors" for Publishers Weekly:

Some of them are cult writers in their respective countries; some have gained recognition across the Spanish-speaking world but have yet to be fully accounted for in English; some are translated into several languages, figuring prominently in trans-border literary conversations in languages other than English; most defy easy classification; all deserve a place in your reading list. This is but a small selection of the many women writers from the Spanish-speaking world who have ceaselessly questioned the status quo, refusing to comply with gender and other hierarchies. Their voices are more necessary than ever. Long live too their fearless and irreverent translators!

See full article here

--crg