Guatemalan Authors

by Diana Pastor

Continuing on from last month’s recommendations of Latin American authors this month we will be recommending some of the most significant writers from Guatemala.

The first is Humberto Akabal, an Indigenous poet born in Momostenango Totonicapán. His poetic style is simple but powerful and profound. His poems are always written in Quiché, and afterwards translated into Spanish and other languages??. Among some of his best poems are The Animalero and The Dance of Terror. Interestingly ,Akabal rejected the Miguel Angel Asturias National Literature Prize, as he considered that this author had racist tendencies.

However, Asturias became famous thanks to books like Men of Maize and The Banana Trilogy, where he explores the injustice and exploitation of Indigenous peoples. Asturias’ work was a precursor to magic realism, as was his colleague and friend Luis Cardoza y Aragón. Essayist and poet, he was the author of: Guatemala, the Lines of your Hand, considered as one of the country’s best descriptive essays. Another of his best works is the Small Symphony of the New World, which he wrote during his stay in New York. Cardoza y Aragon was not permitted to return to Guatemala by the dictatorial regime of the 1980s, neither was the writer Manuel José Arce .

Arce lived in exile in France after 1980. Before his exile he had spent two years visiting the country, during which he wrote The Coffee of Ghosts, which is a collection of short sardonic stories. But he did not only write fiction. He also ventured into drama, with his principle work in this genre being Crime, Sentencing and Execution of a Chicken. In this play, he conceals a critique of a society confronted by the bloody killings that occurred during the repression.

Critiques in this vein were also written by the classic novelist José Milla with his work Pictures of Traditions, but in a different way, for he used wit and playfulness to describe the country and Guatemalans during the XVIII century. Arguably this author was the precursor to the narrative genre in the country with novels like The History of Pepe and The Nazarenos.

Finally, we have the writer Augusto Monterroso, who has been characterized by his excellent collection of fictional tales. His collection of stories The Black Sheep and Other Fables are not to be missed. In the meantime, we leave you with his very brief story of the dinosaur, which has only eight words: “And when he woke up … the dinosaur was still there”.


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