World Book Day is observed every April 23rd.
World Book Day is observed every April 23rd. Freepik

World Book Day, observed every April 23rd, is the perfect opportunity to peruse the bookshelf to reconnect with beloved authors and explore new ones.

That's why here at The Latin Times, we've compiled a list of five essential works of Latin American literature to delve into the rich territory that inspired Eduardo Galeano's "Las Venas Abiertas de América Latina", or "The Open Veins of Latin America", in English.

This handful of fiction novels mainly belongs to the period known as the first "boom" in Latin American literature. It occurred in the 1960s and 70s when a group of Latin American novelists, including Colombian Gabriel García Márquez and Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa, gained worldwide readership.

However, if you are in search of contemporary works, you can explore the four Latin American authors out of the 13 nominated in this year's edition of the International Booker Prize. The judges have stated that a 'second boom' in Latin American literature is currently underway.

The Latinos who made it onto that list are all from South America: Argentine poet Selva Almada, Venezuelan writer Rodrigo Blanco Calderón, Brazilian writer Itamar Vieira Junior, and Peruvian journalist Gabriela Wiener.

The list could be complemented by many amazing authors from the region, such as the Mexican writer Guadalupe Nettel, the Chilean Alejandro Zambra, the Colombian Juan Gabriel Vásquez, or the Ecuadorian María Fernanda Ampuero, among many others.

Now, let's give credit where it's due: these classics didn't earn their status by lounging on the literary sidelines. So, get ready to dive into five Latin American novels that are sure to leave you amazed.

Literary Essentials: Five Unmissable Latin American Classics

1. Latin American Books: Cien años de soledad

"Netflix is gearing up to release a series based on this iconic novel of Latin American literature in 2024, likely to be familiar to anyone who grew up in South America.

"One Hundred Years of Solitude" or "Cien años de soledad" is a novel written by the Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez, first published in 1967.

Regarded as one of the finest examples of magical realism, a literary movement known for blending magical elements into realistic settings, this masterpiece delves into the saga of the Buendía family spanning seven generations in the fictional town of Macondo.

The storyline is indeed complex, prompting many teachers to request students to create a family tree of the characters to better follow the narrative.

2. Rayuela, Cortázar

A childhood game where players hop on one foot while
"Rayuela" is a childhood game where players hop on one foot while moving across multiple squares drawn on the ground. Freepik

"Rayuela" by the Argentine-French writer Julio Cortázar is an experimental novel that breaks with traditional narrative conventions. The reader can choose to read the novel in the traditional order or in a random order, which allows for a unique reading experience, much like when children play the game of "rayuela."

The book is considered a masterpiece of avant-garde Latin American literature, featuring unforgettable characters such as "La Maga," who inspired the renowned Dominican musician Juan Luis Guerra for his song "Burbujas de amor." "La Maga says something like she wishes she could be a fish to touch her nose in the fish tank, and I loved that," he has explained.

3. El Túnel, Ernesto Sábato

"The Tunnel," written by the Argentine Ernesto Sábato in 1948, is a psychological novel narrated in the first person and framed within the existentialism of the post-World War II era.

The work garnered enthusiastic praise from Albert Camus, who not only had it translated into French but also propelled it onto the global stage. The French writer and journalist played a pivotal role in ensuring that the novel, banned from publication by Franco's regime in Spain, found its way into the hands of readers in that country.

The story follows the life of Juan Pablo Castel, a painter who murders María Iribarne, and serves as an analysis of love, obsession, and violence, making it one of the most prominent works of existentialism by Latin American authors.

4. La casa verde, Mario Vargas Llosa

"La casa verde," by Mario Vargas Llosa
"La casa verde," by Mario Vargas Llosa Alfaguara

"The Green House," published in 1965, marked the definitive consecration of Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa as one of the greatest authors of contemporary Spanish literature and as a leading figure of the Latin American literary boom.

The story unfolds in two vastly distant locations: Piura, in the desert of the Peruvian coast, and Santa María de Nieva, a factory and religious mission lost in the heart of the Amazon. At the center of the narrative is the mythical pleasure house that Don Anselmo, the outsider, erects on the outskirts of Piura.

5. La casa de los espíritus, Isabel Allende

"La casa de los espíritus," by Isabel Allende.
"La casa de los espíritus," by Isabel Allende. Penguin Libros

"The House of the Spirits," published in 1982, marks the debut novel of Chilean bestseller Isabel Allende and stands as a quintessential example of magical realism.

In this captivating narrative, the author crafts a Latin American landscape teeming with spirits and characters whose humanity is all too palpable. Among them is Esteban, the patriarch, a man both proud and unstable, driven by an insatiable greed for land and consumed by his wife's enigmatic and unattainable passion.

Clara, his wife, emerges as a mysterious figure, endowed with the ability to foresee the family's tragedies and shape the destiny of both their household and the surrounding community.

In 1993, the novel by the Chilean author was adapted into a film, starring Jeremy Irons, Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Winona Ryder, and Antonio Banderas.

© 2024 Latin Times. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.