By Javier González * / Translated by Albeiro Rodas
Barcelona. “La Otra Orilla”, a publishing house of Norma Group, published recently in Spain “La aldea de las viudas” (The Village of the Widows) of the Colombian author James Cañón.
The novel has been regarded as “an important contribution to the Latin American literature” by the international critic and it is set in the social circumstances of the Colombian political conflicts.
As its title indicates, “The Village of the Widows” centralizes in the problematic of women in wars.Cañón describes a fictional town, although its name is the same of a real one in the Tolima State, Mariquita. In the fictional Mariquita all the men were enlisted in the communist guerrillas by force letting the town inhabited only by women.
The Cañón’s work runs through a society that becomes estrictly dominated by women and educates the reader about the national and real situation of Colombia with a touch of humor and optimism.
Mariquita, regarded as a meaningless “town of widows in the land of the men” shows to be an ideal scenary where the human nature is made evident and the society must reform itself.
Although it assumes the Colombian reality, the novel of Cañón keeps an universal dimension that has been recognized internationally. This is the reason why this novel has been translated already in eight languages and published in North America, Europe and Asia.
About “The Town of the Widows” the French newspaper Le Monde says:
“A novel so magic as realistic. An utopia elaborated with wisdom and joyfully optimistic.”
The New Yorker wrote (translation from Spanis):
“The solid and simple writing of Cañón does not weak at any time, like when he describes the use of the arepa of maiz to comulgate ‘sometimes sweet, other times salty and, when it was possible, with a taste of chees’.”
Other critics refer to the Cañón’s work as “hipnotizant, exhuberant, fantastic, ingenuos and sensual.” The Village of the Widows has been rewarded twice in France. In November it got the prestigious Prix du Premier Roman Étranger, as the best foreign novel published in 2008. That price is given every two years in Vincennes.
In United States the work became one of the finalist in the Edmund White aware and the Lambda aware.
James Cañón was born in Ibagué. He went to US to study English in the 1990s and got a master of literature in the University of Columbia. He lives currently in Barcelona.
* Javier González is the director of “Colombians in Barcelona”