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  HOME | Arts & Entertainment

Juan Sebastian Cardenas: “Colombian Literature Is Minor”

By Carmen Sigüenza

MADRID – Colombian writer Juan Sebastian Cardenas, who has just published “Zumbido” (Buzz) in Spain, a narrative that makes a singular descent into various hells, believes that Colombian literature “is minor. It exudes optimism, and the sooner it accepts that characteristic, the richer and more interesting it will be.”

Cardenas, who was born in Popayan, Colombia, in 1978 and has lived in Madrid since 1998, when he received a scholarship from the Students’ Residence, is one of the emerging talents of Colombia, a country he visits constantly and with which he remains in close contact.

He identifies his style as realism, but in his latest work, “Zumbido,” published by 451 Editores, it can appropriately be described as singular, odd and different, as it tells a dreamlike tale of an anonymous leading character who gets the news in hospital that his sister has died.

From that moment he runs away on an escapist trip, with a woman who unexpectedly consoled him at the hospital, that takes them to the heart of an oppressive Latin American city and deep into its slums. A 24-hour trip that accumulates different characters in perplexing situations along the way.

The writer apparently used a computer program to create the different time sequences of a story that he calls “a succession of caprices.”

“There is no internal journey. It is pure realism,” the writer told Efe. “I’m very interested in the relationship between literature and politics, but at the same time I abhor any hint of demagogy. These days in Colombia to talk about what is happening, writers adopt a kind of journalistic language whose rhetoric and syntax slant what is happening there.”

“I’m not interested in testimonial literature. I’m interested in art,” said the author, whose articles on popular culture and niche literature have been published in Letras Libres, Revista Numero, Minerva, Los Noveles, El Perro and the Antioquia University Magazine.

Sebastian Cardenas is aware of what is going on in his country, and like the recent Velazquez Prize winner, Doris Salcedo, he stands by the victims and is involved in what occurs on the fringes of society.

“I’m interested,” he said, “in what happens to people, in the elements that characterize my country, but not the more esoteric elements. I find religion, popular art and iconography interesting. It’s an aesthetic that I find very rich as a form of opposition to all the established powers that oppress the people so brutally.”

For the author of “Carreras Delictivas” (Criminal Careers), published in 2008, the influence of William Burroughs is a constant. “His presence in the reality he portrays is filtered through creative devices at the service of expressive language.”

An admirer of Latin American authors like Rodrigo Rey Rosa, Cesar Aira, Fogwill, Mario Bellatin and the Colombians Tomas Gonzales, Evelio Rosero o Fernando Vallejo, Cardenas believes that Latin American literature has explored other paths of creativity richer and more interesting than those of the so-called “boom.”

“Zumbido” was one of the books that sparked enormous curiosity at the Madrid Book Fair, which closed last Sunday. EFE

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