publisher has apologised for promoting a novel by the late Mexican
writer Elena Garro on the basis of her relationships with some of the most famous male Latin American writers of the 20th century rather than as an author celebrated in her own right.
-based Drácena recently published Garro’s 1982 novel Reencuentro de Personajes (Character Reunion) to mark the centenary of her birth. But its choice of wording on a band around the new edition has been criticised for being “hyper-sexist”, misogynist and offensive.
It says Garro, who died in 1998, was “Octavio Paz’s wife, the lover of [Argentinian
writer Adolfo] Bioy Casares, an inspiration to [Gabriel] García Márquez and was admired by [Jorge Luis] Borges”.
Camila Paz Obligado, a creative writing teacher from Madrid, posted a picture of the book on Facebook on Wednesday, asking whether a publisher would use a male author’s relationships with women to market his work.
She pointed out that Garro had written magical realist fiction before García Márquez and wondered whether the American writer Paul Auster wouldever be described “in big letters as Siri Hustvedt’s husband and Lydia Davis’s ex”.
Nacho Wilhelmi, a spokesman for Drácena, said the publisher had never sought to be sexist or offensive and had only been trying to bring Garro’s work to a wider audience. He apologised and said a request had gone out to distributors and bookshops to remove the band immediately.
“All we were trying to do was put it in context as we tried to rescue a writer whose life and work is not well known in Spain,” he said. “We wanted to put it in the context of the writers she knew, who were, like her, some of the greatest writers of the 20th century. But we’re sorry about the huge clumsiness of putting it the way we did.”
Wilhelmi said the firm had also been criticised for some of the phrasing on the book’s back cover, which says the novel was born from Garro’s hatred of her ex-husband, the Nobel-winning poet Paz, who she split up with at the end of the 1950s.
“Garro herself said that everything she did was driven by hatred for Octavio Paz: she had breakfast hating Octavio Paz; she had lunch hating Octavio Paz and she wrote hating Octavio Paz. Those are her words; not ours. That’s why we put that phrase on the cover – Elena Garro said that was where the book came from, not us.”
Garro, who was also a social activist, has not been widely translated into English but remains among the best known Mexican writers of the past 100 years.
After her death 18 years ago, a New York Times obituary noted that “while male voices predominate in Latin American literature, Ms Garro, through acerbic intelligence and lyric intensity, achieved a level of recognition and importance usually barred to women”.