Writing Workshops and Jewish Writers in Santiago de Chile

My final week in Chile, I walked into one of Pía Barros’s literary talleres (workshops) and to my surprise, an announcement had been posted on the white board calling for submissions for the 2011 libro objeto (book object).  When I began this research trip, with the hopes of learning more about the libros objetos, I had no idea that I would get to see one in the steps of production!

July 21, 2011, Taller with Pia Barros

One participant in the taller reads his work while Barros (in the far right corner) and the other participants listen, before offering their critiques.

Helping to polish other writers’ submissions, reading my own short stories in front of some of my favorite Chilean authors, and listening to their criticism of each other’s work has given my research an unexpected realness, for which I am incredibly grateful.  Though several surprises, like this one, have taken my research in exciting directions, I realized this week that I still had not conducted a few of the interviews I had hoped to have done at this point.  Two individuals I had hoped to meet are Rodrigo Cánovas, a literary scholar, and Jorge Scherman, a Chilean author of Jewish descent.  They co-authored Voces judías en la literatura chilena (2010), the first book devoted to analyzing literature by Chilean Jewish authors.

My attempts to get in touch with them had not been successful, so I headed to the Universidad Católica’s Department of Literature, where Cánovas works.  Thankfully, one of the staff members took pity on me and helped me look for him.  About twenty minutes later, he appeared looking slightly flustered (to my embarrassment, I learned he had been pulled from a meeting).  Still, he graciously spoke with me for a bit and put me in touch with Jorge Scherman.

A few days later, I met with Scherman.  Perhaps one of the most curious parts of my interview with him was his description of the release party for Voces judías.  Though the book represents a significant contribution to Jewish cultural and literary studies in Chile, few members of Chile’s Jewish communities came to the event.  It had been advertised within the community and it took place at the Círculo israelita, a central Jewish community center in Santiago, but less than ten community members attended.  Scherman says it was winter and maybe people did not want to go out in the cold, but he doesn’t seem convinced.  He hints at a second explanation that many people, like the reviewer of the book from La palabra israelita (one of the leading Jewish newspapers in Chile), may not have understood their work or the authors in it.

While each of the authors I interviewed (as well as the authors in Cánovas and Scherman’s study) have explored aspects of their Jewish identity, most have not done so as participants within the Jewish community in Chile.  Their decisions for not participating in these communities are the focus of my research (more so than the Jewish communities’ reception of their writing).  Even still, I am intrigued by this disinterest.  Though I head home, shortly, with far more questions than answers (and many more resources), I am so grateful for all that I have gotten to do here.

Many thanks to Pía Barros for allowing me to participate in the workshops (and to the other authors for their patience in teaching me about writing), to all of the people that put me in touch with so many contacts and resources, to those who invited me into their homes for great conversation and food, to all of the writers and other individuals who agreed to interviews with me (see some highlights in the slideshow below), and especially to Susana Sánchez Bravo, a friend and an amazing author who always takes a moment to share a new short story with me. 

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Posted by Rae Wyse – MA Candidate at CLACS

One response to “Writing Workshops and Jewish Writers in Santiago de Chile

  1. Joel Rosenthal

    I found this very interesting. My wife and I are working on an interesting research project involving her late Uncle Carlos Hermosilla Alavarez whom we believe was of Jewish ancestry. Carlos was a famous professor of art and drawing as well as an illustrator. In fact, he illustrated the first two books published by the Jewish Chilean author and critic Efraim Smulewicz. We’re interested in any reseach being done on conversos in Chile and other Latin American countries.

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