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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Smashing Snow Globes: A Writer On Essays, Novels And Translation

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Valeria Luiselli was born in Mexico City, but she'll admit with a laugh that where she's from is a complicated question. She lived there for only two years before packing up for, at various times, Costa Rica, South Korea, South Africa, India, Spain and France.
These days, Luiselli lives in Harlem. And that's the neighborhood where her novel Faces in the Crowd is set: both the Harlem of the recent past and the Harlem of the Harlem Renaissance, along with present-day Mexico City.
The story follows a young translator living in New York, who is trying to convince an American publisher to release the poems of a real-life Mexican poet named Gilberto Owen, Luiselli explains: "She does so by faking a series of translations and saying that they're written by a famous American poet."
In a slim 146 pages, Faces in the Crowd swaps perspectives every few pages or paragraphs between three main narrative threads: the present-day narrator living in Mexico City with her husband and two young children, that narrator's semi-autobiographical novel-within-a-novel, and the fictionalized experiences of Gilberto Owen himself living in 1920s New York City. Each gradually becomes more indistinguishable from the others.
Faces in the Crowd was released this year in the United States, along with Luiselli's collection of essays Sidewalks. (Both books had been previously released in Spanish and were translated into English.)
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