Fellow: Awarded 2007
Field of Study: Fiction
Competition: Latin America & Caribbean
I was born in Córdoba, Argentina, but I lived all my childhood in Basavilvaso, Province of Entre Ríos. This is a town near to the land where my grandfathers lived when they first arrived to the country at the end of the nineteenth century, with the first wave of Jewish immigrants that escaped from Czarist Russia.
My grandfather was a Rabbi and my parents were great readers, especially my father, in whom I first saw the contemplative and distant gesture that revealed the act of meditation, with a book in hand, over the contradictory heart of man. It was because of him that I knew words couldn’t be corrupted, they weren’t things. The real world was to be lived, and fiction to be told.
During the difficult period of the military government, my life and that of my family were in peril, and when I was preparing my exile to Mexico, the French government granted me the Scholarship for Research in Literature 1977-1978, this was to work in Paris, in the International Center for Pedagogical Studies in Sèvres.
I attended to the literature courses given by Roland Barthes and Hélène Gratiot-Alphandéry; I participated in workshops led by Jacqueline Held, and I begin to work in the CRILJ (Center for Research on Children’s Literature). I took part in lectures for children and adults at the Library La Joie Par le Livres, at that time directed by Genéviève Patte, and located in Petit-Clamart. There, I was acquainted with the literary work of Maurice Sendak (United States), who in those years was making progress on children’s and young adult literature.
Sendak inspired me with a sense of freedom that was unfamiliar to me until then; it was at that point that I knew I was completely devoted to art, and what I care for the most was literature and its aesthetic value at all ages. The CRILJ named me a delegate for my country, and at my return I organized a team of professionals in the area.
With the restitution of democracy I co-founded the Center for Research on Children’s and Young Adult Literature (CEDILIJ), of which I was Director during two consecutive periods 1984-89 and 1990-94. The Center had a lot of work, and it was acknowledged for it, first in the country and then abroad.
At the CEDILIJ we received the visit of one of the OAS district representatives for Washington, and we were elected as the first Center for Research and Documentation on Children’s and Young Adult Literature in Argentina. We were given a grant in the year 1986 for our work in the promotion of literature and reading. The OAS then made us beneficiaries of a second grant in 1990; this allowed us to develop the Network Project for Documentation Centers on Children’s Literature.
In that period I coordinated the area for Research and Publishing, and I also co-directed Piedra Libre magazine, specialized in literature and reading, which has contributed, from its inception until today, to build up a reading path, to publicize books of aesthetic quality, to learn about the literature from other countries, and to create libraries. Summarizing, the magazine has formed readers in all the corners of Latin America and the Caribbean.
I spoke at conferences, seminars, and courses in Bogotá, Quito, Cochabamba, Caracas and other corners of South America. In 1988 I was invited by the Norwegian Government and the University of Oslo to the International Colloquy on Literature of the Fantastic. In 1989 Sapienza University in Rome, Italy, invited me to the International Colloquy on Aesthetic Education in Vivaro Romano. At that conference I gave a talk entitled “Writing: a trip to memory.” And that was a key moment in my work as a writer.
I participated as a workshop coordinator in the National Project for Reading concurrently with my activities in the formation of readers in Latin America. This was an initiative from the Ministry of Culture, for which I traveled from La Quiaca to Tierra del Fuego in Patagonia, working on the task of forming readers. During these years of intense work I moved from one country to another, from one continent to the other, through many different places carrying books of aesthetic quality and disseminating literature.
Words in travelling boxes defied oceans and mountains. Committed to fiction, I was knitting my own words, which I kept in the most inquisitive corner of my memory.
By that time, my first stories began to be published: EL vuelo de Barrilete (Buenos Aires: El Ateneo) in 1985, and then in 1989 Papá, Mamá, me dan permiso (El Ateneo); in 1991 I brought out the novel Memorias de Vladimir (Buenos Aires: Colihue), which was awarded in 1992 with the White Ravens prize (International Library for Youth in Munich, Germany, along with ALIJA Argentinean Association for Children’s Literature, National Branch of IBBY).
In 1990 I was invited by the OAS to the International Congress of IBBY, in Virginia, and to the meeting of the Children’s and Young Adult Literature Network Centers Committee (CEDOC-LI, OAS).
Between 1986 and 1995, I participated with works of investigation in all kinds of congresses, colloquies, round tables, and international seminars; I also spoke at conferences and led reading and writing workshops in different universities and libraries of Latin America, the Caribbean, and Europe as well, all through the OAS.
In 1992 I was invited by CERLALC (Regional Center for the Promotion of Reading in Latin America and the Caribbean, UNESCO) to the annual reunion, as a member of the Directory of the Literature Documentation Network Centers, in Bogotá, Colombia. In 1995 I was invited by the University of San José, Costa Rica, to the World Congress for Young Adult Literature. In 1996 I received the second French Scholarship for Improvement. In Paris, I worked with Janine Despinette for the CIELJ (Center for Research on Children’s Literature, Charleville, France). In that same year I became a member of the International Jury for the Octagonal Award of the best books published in France.
I collaborated on several national magazines: La Mancha (Association for Children’s and Young Adult Literature in Argentina, ALIJA, National Branch of IBBY); and in international magazines as well: AAL (Reading Association of Argentina) magazine, Latin American Magazine of Children’s and Young Adult Literature (International Board of Books for Young People, IBBY); Reading and Life (International Reading Association, IRA); El Chasqui (Portales Centre, Cochabamba, Bolivia); Centre for Young Adult Literature Diffusion Magazine (University of Comahue, Patagonia, Argentina); Parapara (published by Ekaré); and Cuentacuentos (University of San José, Costa Rica). I also collaborated on articles in newspapers, for instance in La Voz del Interior (Córdoba, Argentina), and Página 12 (Buenos Aires, Argentina), with stories, book comments, and attempts to find my own path as a writer.
I translated to Spanish the French book Une petit flamme dans la nuit by François David (Paris: Bayard Presse, 1998).
I continue writing and I published the novel Dimitri en la tormenta (Buenos Aires: Sudamericana, 1993), selected by ALIJA and Fundalectura (Bogotá, Colombia) as one of the best books for young adults.
The travels and the intense work that I have done with literature of aesthetic quality have been decisive in my literary enrichment; it’s been a true lesson in life, which has led me to concentrate more and more in writing for the past years, defying the rough situation of my country.
In 1997 I won the Scholarship from the Canadian Government for my work as a writer. In that same year my parents died, and so I started to feel how powerful memory is, the invaluable legacy that they left me: the stories of the Talmud and the Cabbala, and those of their own life. From then on, writing has become a way to remember.
In 1995, two of my novels came out: Cuento del Pajarito (Colihue) and El Árbol de los Flecos (Buenos Aires: Sudamericana), this last one was awarded with a special mention by the White Ravens of the IJB (International Library for Youth, Munich, Germany). ¡Blum! El Peluquero was released the following year (Buenos Aires: El Quirquincho, 1996), and in the year 2000, ¡Blum! (Buenos Aires: Alfaguara). I was distinguished in many competitions, and in 1993, I received a Special Mention by the Argentinean Commission of Israeli Women for the tale “Aaron y la Cabra.” In 1997 I was also granted with the Special Mention of the Children’s and Young Adult Literature World Awards José Martí for my complete work.
In January of 2000 I was a finalist for the Children’s Literature World Award Apel Les Mestres, with Tan Lejos, tan cerca (Barcelona: Destino), recently published in a new volume among other tales, such as “Un golpe de buena suerte” published by Ediciones e.d.b., in 2006.
In the year 2005, my novel Complot was a finalist for the International Award for Novel Grinzane Cavour in Montevideo.
In 2001 I published Letargo (Buenos Aires: Norma), which was a finalist for the International Award for novels Rómulo Gallegos (2001). Letargo was translated into English by Rhonda Buchanan and into Italian by Luigi Cojazzi; what is more, it has aroused great interest among the critics. In that same year I brought out my novel El Arresto (Norma). In 2004 I published Complot and these three novels were edited in a single volume under the name of La Trilogía de Entre Ríos (Norma: 2006). Simultaneously, The University of New Mexico Press had published it in English as The Entre Ríos Trilogy, translated by Rhonda Dahl Buchanan, University of Louisville, Kentucky.
In June of 2008, The Entre Ríos Trilogy won the International First Prize “Grinzane Cavour” by the Grinzane Cavour Foundation from Turin, Italy, alongside the Montevideo City Council, and was published by Alacran Edizione, Milan, Italy, under the name of Il fiumi della memoria in April of 2009. The Entre Ríos Trilogy is now being translated into German and French.
More of my stories were also published: El señor de los globos (Córdoba, Argentina: Educando, 2006), and Los tres pajaritos (Buenos Aires: Sudamericana, 2007).
Throughout February and March of 2007 I was invited by different universities of the United States to speak at conferences (University of Louisville, Kentucky; University of New York, City Tech University, Brooklyn, New York; University of Reno, Nevada; and University of Virginia).
In June of 2007 I received the Guggenheim Fellowship, in recognition of my work as a writer.
In October of 2008 I was invited by the Argentinean Chancellery to the Book Fair of Monterrey, Mexico, and to the Floral Games of Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico. There I participated in conferences and round tables.
In 2008 my novel La Pasajera was published by Norma, and in 2009 I presented the tale Arciboldo, an album-book illustrated by Jorge Cuello (Córdoba: Comunicarte, La Vaquita de San Antonio Collection, 2009).
Dimitri en la tormenta was again distinguished with the Special Award by ALIJA, within the framework of the International Book Fair of Buenos Aires in 2009, and it is now being translated into German by a prestigious publishing house from Hamburg, Germany.
I continue with my nomad writer life, with the conviction that fiction strengthens my existence. The memories from the past, the search of my origins, the tolerance and the respect for human rights, have been my priorities through the past years, and they still are.
To conclude this story of my life, I want to say that I am convinced that in this uncertain world we live in, where words have been torn from their meaning because of the violence and abuse of human stupidity, writing and reading from the literary reasons exposed in this story, will continue to be the acts that justify my way through life.