A Hay Festival of meat and bone in Cartagena | Culture


Wole Soyinka, Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986, photographed during an interview with EL PAÍS, in Madrid.
Wole Soyinka, Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986, photographed during an interview with EL PAÍS, in Madrid.bald elm

Writers and readers will meet again these days at the Hay Festival in Colombia, after two years marked by the restrictions of the pandemic. Conferences on-line will give way to the events of flesh and blood. Cartagena de Indias hosts from this Thursday to Sunday the literary event that brings together some of the best authors in Spanish, to which are added recognized signatures such as the first African Nobel Prize for Literature, Wole Soyinka, or the North American Jonathan Franzen.

El Hay will once again try to unravel the world, or at least illuminate some of its darkest corners. The theme will revolve around four axes: climate emergency, equality, democracy and well-being. The Caribbean city also brings together key thinkers, journalists, economists and philosophers in the narrative of our time. Visitors will be able to see them live and recover the warmth of human contact, although with the security measures imposed by this virus that refuses to go away completely.

The list of authors is immense. The poet Piedad Bonnett and the writers Fernanda Trías, Juan Gabriel Vásquez, Leonardo Padura, Ricardo Silva and Yaa Gyasi, among many others, will pass through here. In the appointment in which one day they reigned as authentic rock stars Carlos Fuentes and Gabriel García Márquez will appear a dozen new voices that shine in today’s literary world, where women and stories told by writers belonging to minorities are strongly imposed.

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One of the authors who is having the most impact these weeks on this side of the world is the Spanish Irene Vallejo, who is replicating in Latin America the success she had in her country infinity in a rush, a journey through the history of books. From Aristophanes of Byzantium, one of the most important booksellers in Alexandria, to Borges and Twain. The volume appears highlighted in all Colombian bookstores. Smells like a bestseller. On Friday the 28th he will talk with Juan Villoro (no introduction needed) about reading habits and public libraries and their key role in our often forgotten society. He will also talk about his acclaimed essay on Saturday the 29th with Colombian Yolanda Reyes.

Authors from the Colombian Pacific, hitherto in the background, will have the visibility that readers now give them, in increasing numbers. Pilar Quintana’s success is the most evident, with two works that have marked contemporary literature, The dog Y The Abysses. Both titles have received critical acclaim. Quintana explores motherhood, poverty and misogyny in her writing, on one occasion in the jungle through a woman who wants to have children and cannot, and another in the city, in the skin of a woman who does not want to have them and who Due to social conventions, she ends up pregnant. On Saturday Quintana will participate in a table with the chronicler Felipe Restrepo Pombo, a journalist who has written two initiatory novels in recent years. From these same regions of the Pacific, black Colombia and farther from the centralist power of Bogotá, comes the writer Velia Vidal, who has put Afro narrative on the shelves. Vidal, like Juan Cárdenas, a prominent writer from the city of Popayán, will participate in various events.

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EL PAÍS América, partner of the Hay Festival in Latin America, organizes one of the main talks. Its director, Jan Martínez Ahrens, will talk with the Nicaraguan novelist Sergio Ramírez, exiled due to the persecution of President Daniel Ortega. His last novel Tongolele did not know how to dance, addresses the citizen protests of 2018, the trigger that has led the Managua regime to issue an order to arrest him. The deputy director of the newspaper, Javier Lafuente, will talk with Padura about love, exile and political polarization in Cuba. the writer of The man who loved the dogsalready a classic of the Latin American novel, is one of the most acclaimed by readers at the event.

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Although he missed his flight from New York on Tuesday, Patrick Radem Keefe was able to catch one three hours later to Cartagena. The journalist from The New Yorker, perhaps the best non-fiction narrator today, will be one of the star guests. the author of Do not say anythingwhere the disappearance of a widow in Northern Ireland is investigated with all the terrorist conflict in the background, and The Empire of Pain, the secret history of a powerful family in the pharmaceutical industry, will chat with the anthropologist Wade Davis, one of the intellectuals who knows Colombia best. His are two fundamental books to understand this country, The river Y Magdalena, Stories of Colombia.

The present will not be left aside. The Russian threat to Ukraine will surely have its place in a forum entitled The degradation of war, in which Radem Keefe himself, Pablo Montoya and veteran reporter Jon Lee Anderson will participate. There, they will talk about the consequences that a conflict leaves for generations, as is the case in Colombia. In a debate this week between presidential candidates, six of the ten had been victims of violence. They themselves had been kidnapped or their parents and children killed. The authors in Cartagena, experts in armed conflicts, will talk about the trauma of suffering these experiences.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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