Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Eye of the Heart: Short Stories from Latin America, edited by Barbara Howes

This book was released in 1973, and by all rights it should still be in print. But it's not, and it's not difficult to see why. Marketing. The copy I have is from the first printing (I found it at an estate sale/gold mine), and aside from the terribly uninspired title, it bears on the cover the inexplicable image of a young brown-eyed Latina (one gathers, from the context) wearing a crucifix. Her thick brown hair completely obscures any background, and although the image ends just above her breasts the suggestion is that she is naked. So: for an anthology of short stories by the most important Latin American writers of the one hundred and twenty-odd years preceding the release of the book, a cover befitting a romance novel with some literary aspirations. This is puzzling, to say the least, and I can't understand the thinking behind the cover or the title.

Bad marketing or no, this is a landmark collection. All the big names are here (Jorge Luis Borges, Pablo Neruda, Juan Carlos Onetti, Jorge Amado (who doesn't have a decent web profile in English, that I can find), Julio Cortazar (ditto), Octavio Paz, Juan Rulfo, Gabriel Garcìa Marquez, Carlos Fuentes and Mario Vargas Llosa. Whew. That's a lot of names, but it's not one-quarter of the names represented herein. This is a wonderful primer on the Latin American fiction scene before, during and after El "boom." If you can find a copy, ignore the cover and snap it up.


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