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Argentine poet lauds Latin literature

By Kathleen McWilliams
On April 5, 2012

Wednesday afternoon, Argentine poet Sergio Chejfec served as this year's Eyzaguirre lecturer. The lecture took place at the Dodd Center, and was presented by the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies. Chejfec lived for 10 years in Caracas, Venezuela, before moving to New York in the early 2000s.

The annual lecture features a prominent Latin American writer to commemorate the life of late UConn emeritus professor of modern and classical language, Luis Eyzaguirre. Eyzaguirre was born in Chile in 1926 and emigrated to the United States in 1958. He taught at UConn for 32 years, after receiving his PhD in languages from Yale University, and worked with the Latino community in Hartford promoting Hispanic writing and leading poetry workshops. The Eyzaguirre family requested that his life be continually remembered on campus by bringing in guest lecturers to spread the beauty of Latin American writing in the same way Eyzaguirre shared his passion.

Marcos Overmeyer-Velasquez, director of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, welcomed audience members by expressing how truly passionate Eyzaguirre was about his teaching career and how the lectures are "an opportunity to experience the excitement and humanism behind the poetry and writing."

Chejfec's work is written entirely in Spanish and has only recently been translated in French, German and Portuguese. Up until 2011, Chejfec's novels had not yet been translated into English, but that changed when the University of Rochester Printing Press decided to translate and print his novel "My Two Worlds." Although Chejfec's novels garner most of the international attention, he has published works in all genres. According to Dr. Osvaldo Pardo, who teaches upper level Spanish classes at UConn, Chejfec writes "novels, essays, poetry and works that defy classification." Pardo also noted that Chejfec "is one of the most prolific Argentine writers of the modern time."

Chejfec read an essay he wrote, "The Music of Anomalies," that described both Argentine emigration literature and his own experiences as a writer abroad. He began the reading - which he did completely in Spanish as he is less comfortable reading in English - by saying, "I am not linking both topics to offer a neat account but, rather, something of a disorder; a biased partial look aimed at connecting the way I understand my literature." The essay discussed Chejfec's time spent in Venezuela and how it influenced him as a writer, and compared his experience to the idea of exile in literature. Although Chejfec's emigration to Venezuela was voluntary, many writers have been forced into exile by the politics they embrace or by their sheer force of influence. Chejfec used the Polish writer Gombrowicz's work as an example of how his personal experience differs from many writers who choose to live abroad. Chejfec, unlike many ex-patriot writers, does not fear his return to Argentina because he stills feels that he is a part of Argentina.


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