CARTONERAS IN TRANSLATION








Cartoneras in Translation presents a selection of texts by four cartonera publishers from Brazil and Mexico: Dulcinéia Catadora (São Paulo), Catapoesia (Gouveia, Minas Gerais), La Cartonera (Cuernavaca) and La Rueda Cartonera (Guadalajara). This co-publication is part of the broader “Cartonera Publishing” project, a multi-disciplinary research collaboration between anthropologists, literary scholars and cartonera publishers. This work is not intended to be representative of the vast panorama of cartoneras across Latin America, but rather to be generative of new relations, conversations, and exchanges – exchanges that cross borders between countries, cultures and languages.

In the spirit of a movement characterised by its lack of hierarchical structures and fixed rules, the emphasis in bringing these publishers together was on openendedness, horizontality, and autonomy. In discussions from Mexico to Brazil, it became clear that the texts should not be restricted by one central theme, but rather each collective should make a selection that they felt was most appropriate. As a research process, the implicit processuality of working with four different editorial selections, and importantly, four unique ways of creating a book, offered new insights into the diverse social and aesthetic practices of cartonera publishers, and their embeddedness in respective local contexts.

The texts offered in this edition – a mix of poems, short stories, auto-biographical snapshots and extracts from longer prose works – gesture toward the staggering diversity of cartonera literature. Yet the process of gathering a selection of key texts into a single book revealed a number of unforeseeable connections. For instance, whilst it was only Dulcinéia that chose to focus exclusively on the autobiographical form, with individual and collective stories resulting from a reflexive, creative process by its key members, this auto-biographical element recurs throughout the collection. During a discussion with Sergio Fong (La Rueda) to run through some translation queries, for example, it emerged that his short story was inspired by a real experience, and that all of the characters are based on his friends and acquaintances. Other unifying threads include the common use of the cartonera book as an act of commemoration, often of silenced or little-known local (hi)stories; the prevalence of the barrio (local neighbour- hood); and the prominence of highly local linguistic forms, which capture modes of oral expression from such barrios.

In order to give a taste of cartonera literature to English-speaking readers, the works presented here are offered in translation thanks to the hard work of Alice Swift, Elsa Treviño and Ana Frankenberg-García. The highly local references and forms of speech that characterise many of these texts make them extremely difficult to translate – and, ultimately perhaps, untranslatable. All of us – academics and translators – have gained new knowledge from the process of engaging with them, and we hope that you as readers will too.

This is the first trilingual cartonera text in Spanish/English and Portuguese/English, but we hope it won’t be the last. At a time when literary critics are celebrating the rise of the ‘global novel’, we believe these texts put forward an important coun- terpoint that must be acknowledged, read and studied: while emerging from the same globalized world, they allow us to im- agine both timeless and contemporary concerns through per- spectives rooted in smaller, more marginal, and often neglected parts of our ever more connected planet.








auflynn [at] ucla.edu



Alex Ungprateeb Flynn is an Assistant Professor at the Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance, University of California, Los Angeles. Working as an anthropologist and curator, Alex’s practice explores the intersection of ethnographic and curatorial modes of enquiry. Researching collaboratively with activists, curators and artists in Brazil since 2007, Alex explores the prefigurative potential of art in community contexts, prompting the theorisation of fields such as the production of knowledge, the pluriversal, and the social and aesthetic dimensions of form.