A Writer from the Desert

One day I just happened to see Hernan Rivera Letelier being interviewed on Chilean TV. There was something about him, something about the way he spoke, soft but confident, not pretentious, just another guy from the desert although he had gained international recognition as a writer. The book he was talking about that afternoon was called ” Santa María de las Flores Negras,” about a very well-known and shamefully dark event in Chilean history. He brought it to life with fictional characters.

The book wasn’t available in English so I was determined to read it in Spanish because I wanted to know how he told the story, to meet his characters and to experience his craft. I think I read the first three pages over and over at least twenty times and was so disappointed that I couldn’t understand it that I broke down and cried. But I persisted. A decent dictionary didn’t cover all of the northern Chilean slang but my husband helped me past some of that. Finally I finished the book. And I wanted more!

My favourite of all of his books is called “My Name is Malarrosa”, a simple story with rare types who find themselves falling into the most unusual situations. It’s the kind of story that tickles you inside, that bubbles with innocence at the same time that it amazes you with its dark turns. To say it was inspiring is an understatement. I felt it gave me permission to write the way I want to write and about what I want to write. His style is narrative, short on conversation, big on humour and overflowing with small details that make all the difference. This is where I want to take my readers – to an English version of stories packed with weird and wonderful Latin American concepts.