The Buenos Aires Review just turned two, and we’re celebrating with champagne and a dossier on one of our favorite writers: Mario Bellatin.
Bellatin is a luminary of contemporary Latin American literature, a creator who connects writing with performance art. From the haunting, critically acclaimed Beauty Salon to the apocryphal (but meticulously documented) biography of the Japanese writer Shiki Nagaoka, Bellatin builds complex literary systems with his characteristically spare prose. His aesthetic project also extends beyond the page: in 2003 he organized a Conference of Doubles in Paris, at which the invited authors listed on the marquee (including Sergio Pitol and Margo Glantz) were replaced by stand-ins trained to answer questions in their stead.
Though he cuts a mischievous, unpredictable figure within the literary establishment, there is also a consistency to Bellatin’s work, certain ideas and gestures that resonate between texts. This is why we’re thrilled that more and more of his books are beginning to appear in translation, and why we’re so pleased to share this dossier with you.
Inside you’ll find:
David Shook‘s lucid, witty translation of a piece Bellatin has yet to write, accompanied by a series of emails clarifying the finer points of the text.
Craig Epplin‘s reflections on doubles, Converse, and the author’s search for Frida Kahlo.
Mat Chiappe‘s interview with the author featuring, among other things, Kamikaze Taxi, the (near omni-) presence of Japan in Bellatin’s work, and the adaptation of Bola negra for the stage.
Edmundo Paz Soldán‘s uncanny encounter with The Uruguayan Book of the Dead, for which Bellatin won the prestigious José María Arguedas prize.
Andrea Rosenberg‘s elegant rendition of Bellatin’s Bola negra.
To top things off, the pieces are all bedecked with images from the great Sebastián Freire and a few from Bellatin himself, together with Ben Rodkin and David Shook for the film Barú.
We hope you’ll enjoy reading this collection as much as we’ve enjoyed putting it together.
Oh, and if you’re inspired to dig for more, here are a few places to start:
The Transparent Bird’s Gaze tr. David Shook (Phoneme Media 2014)
Image: Ben Rodkin with Mario Bellatin and David Shook for Barú.