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Spanish-language, graphic novelists visit New Orleans

This article is reposted from the literary news site Press Street: Room 220.

Mexican novelist Carmen Boullosa will give a presentation related to her new Spanish-language novel, Tejas, at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 7, in Nunemaker Auditorium on Loyola University New Orleans’ campus (6363 St. Charles Ave.). Boullosa is one of Mexico’s leading novelists, poets and playwrights. Her presentation Thursday will focus on the Mexican-American War and Mexico’s loss of the Texan territory, key events in her latest book.

Boullosa is a distinguished lecturer at City College in New York, and has been a fellow at New York Public Library and the Guggenheim Foundation. Some of her other novels are translated into English, including They’re Cows, We’re PigsLeaving Tabasco, and Cleopatra Dismounts.

From the BOMB magazine interview with Boullosa:

Ruben Gallo: A number of your books, including They’re CowsLlanto and Duerme [1994] are stories set in specific historical settings. How do you weave historical material into your fiction? What books did you read to get a sense of what life was like in the period you were describing? Do you use documents from archival sources?

Carmen Boullosa: In the three novels you mention, fiction and reality were equally important to me. Each of these novels was born as a powerful and seductive imaginary world—a universe I yearned to enter, where I could give free rein to my imagination. At the same time, I was fascinated by the historical context, and with each project, I began to explore and research the period. My curiosity pulled me in two opposite directions: I read original documents and historical commentaries, and I thought about the past constantly, 24 hours a day—I wanted to give new life to those events and bring them into the present. At the same time, I needed to transform history into fiction: characters and events had to be worked through, elaborated, fine-tuned, and adapted to the imaginary world of the novel. After reading documents and historical treatises, I began to write the novel, and this, for me, is a craft not unlike bricklaying. I’m not thinking of American construction workers, who arrive with ready-made walls and simply put them in place, but about Mexican bricklayers who painstakingly erect a building stone by stone, brick by brick. If you place a rock in the wrong place, it all comes tumbling down. And in a novel, if you put a sentence in the wrong place, the fictional building comes tumbling down.

I never feel that I have to be true to history: I have to be true to my story, so that it holds up. My novels use historical scenarios, but they are not at the service of history: they are neither memoirs nor testimonies. Like all novelists, I like reality, and I also like to betray reality by correcting its flaws and ultimately reinventing it.

This event is free and open to the public. 

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Alison Bechdel, author of the critically acclaimed graphic novels Fun Home and Are You My Mother? and the syndicated comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, will give a multimedia presentation about her work and process at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 6, in the Kendall Cram Lecture Hall on Tulane University’s campus.

Bechdel wrote and drew the comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For for 25 years. Time magazine named Fun Home one of the best books of 2006 and called the graphic memoir about her father, which won an Eisner Award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, “A masterpiece about two people who live in the same house but different worlds, and their mysterious debts to each other.”

From the New York Times review of Fun Home:

If the theoretical value of a picture is still holding steady at a thousand words, then Alison Bechdel’s slim yet Proustian graphic memoir, “Fun Home,” must be the most ingeniously compact, hyper-verbose example of autobiography to have been produced. It is a pioneering work, pushing two genres (comics and memoir) in multiple new directions, with panels that combine the detail and technical proficiency of R. Crumb with a seriousness, emotional complexity and innovation completely its own.

This event is free and open to the public.

Room 220 is a content partner of NolaVie.