The Observer - Charlottesville, Virginia March 15, 2000

 

Book Festival to include diverse cultures, politics

LORIE McCORMICK

OBSERVER CORRESPONDENT

 

Every year the Virginia Festival of the Book becomes larger and more popular, and one of this year's objectives is to appeal to a larger spectrum of the public by expanding the cultural content of the programs.

According to Program Director Suzanne Liola, the Festival, March 22-26, places a special emphasis on adult literacy efforts and outreach.

As a result, the program includes () an examination of cultural and political continentalism by an Argentine writer.

Argentine writer Diana Ferraro writes both non-fiction, concentrating on political and cultural essays, and fiction. "I have a passion for my country. for what my country is and for what it is not. I like all the national identity and cultural topics related to the condition of Argentine-Americans (Argentine and Continentally American, not U.S.-American), "she says.

Ferraro says the publishing industry in Argentina has undergone some dramatic changes. "It has been very important in the decades from 1930 to 1960, then decayed, for both political and economical reasons, and has startled its reconstruction in the 90s. But an unpleasant result of that decay is that the Argentine public lost interest for its own authors, and that is what needs to be restored now," she explains.

In addition, she says, "Fiction writers don't have the favor of the local public, and even if essay writers are luckier, none of them, if unpublished, has easy conditions to start. But hopefully, this will change now that Argentina has a competitive economy and authors have potentially huge markets if they know how to interest foreign audiences."

Ferraro says her essays, which are written in Spanish, focus on Argentine topics, so they can interest specialists in politics. However, she doesn't think those readers represent a big market share. As a result, her work has never been translated, but her books do appear in many university libraries.

Nonetheless, she believes the publishing industry in American countries has a long way to go in disseminating Spanish-language literature to the public. "I would make a difference between the Spanish books printed in Spain and the Spanish American continent, and if the industry in Spain has come a long way and is doing very well and promoting the Spanish books all over the world, I think the American countries, who have the most important contemporary Spanish literature, still have to make a big effort," she says.

"The United States should have a grater consciousness of belonging to a bicultural continent, and work side by side with the Spanish-speaking industry in American countries. German, French and Spanish companies are making editorial business with Argentina and other American countries. We would like to have a real American pool, with the U.S. and other American countries. And we must not forget Brazil, our partner in the Mercosur, which speaks Portuguese and needs also be part of that pool," Ferraro explains.

Ferraro, who was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, has been writing since she was a child. However, she didn't begin writing professionally for political magazines until she was 30 years old. She's the author of four novels and three books of short stories, as well as seven books of essays.

She says she enjoys witing because it allows her to "be a lone face to the void and see how the world births again, in a new and unexpected shape." So far, she says her biggest challenge has been "the difficulty to break the specialist circle of readers and get to a wider audience."

Ferraro will present "Cultural and Political Continentalism" (in Spanish and English) Thins.. March 23, from 2:00 - 3:30 p.m. at The Village School.

She says, "l am excited by the idea of meeting people interested in the common cultural and political topics we face as Americans, Argentine or U.S.-Americans and in the particular challenge we will face this century as a continent conscious of itself, with a common market, a common politic and a new, fascinating blended culture."

 
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