Dr Valdi Astvaldsson, Senior Lecturer in Latin American Studies, has recently published an article entitled ‘Traducir la cultura: Reflexiones sobre la obra y el bilingüismo de Humberto Ak’abal’ (Translating culture. Reflections on the work and the bilingualism of Humberto Ak’abal) which is featured in the journal Centroamericana, 22.1/22.2. Dr Astvaldsson tells us more about the paper below:

In the prologue to one of his books of poems, suggestively entitled “Una poesía de confluencias”, the Guatemala-Maya-K’iche’ poet Humberto Ak’abal explains: “El castellano que uso como puente de comunicación tiene como base la cosmogonía de mis raíces. El bilingüismo me ha dado la oportunidad de ver mi entorno desde otra perspectiva […]”. As his words indicate, while his Mother Tongue is Maya-K’iche’, he has felt the need to translate his work into Spanish in order to communicate his world. But Ak’abal has had to undertake a previous operation, which could also be described as “translation”: to express – read and write – a world that is characterised by an epistemology that is different from that with which most of his readers are familiar, which forms part of and is nourished by a natural language. In other words, it is an expression of the world that relies heavily on a highly poetic language. The purpose of the paper is to try to delve into the complex relations that what has been outlined above implies and, in particular, analyse what it means to talk about nature’s expressive capacity.

Another and slightly longer version of this study, which compares aspects of Ak’abal’s poetry with similar aspects in the novel Los ríos profundos by the Peruvian novelist José María Arguedas, has also recently been published. It is entitled ‘Un mundo sonoro: naturaleza, lenguaje y resistencia en la poesía de Humberto Ak’abal’ and appears in José Carlos Rovira and Eva Valero Juan (eds.), Mito, palabra e historia en la tradición literaria latinoamericana (Madrid/Frankfurt: Iberoamericana/Vervuert): 133-151.

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