10 of the best Latin American novels – that will take you there

Plaza Fernández de Madrid (The Cartagena pictured in Gabriel García Márquez’s novel Love in the Time of Cholera

“A sense of place often has a political edge in Latin American writing. Even magic realism – which takes fantastic liberties with the contours of cities and pueblos, jungles and rivers – is rooted in the living, breathing, dying and warring world of its characters. Over five centuries, Hispanic authors have loaned from and contested European ideas about their world, adapting imported traditions (from naturalism to crime fiction to stream-of-consciousness) and reworking them to bring to life the vibrancy and vicissitudes of their youthful continent. The best novels are as alluring and stimulating as the most atmospheric places. To choose just 10 was only possible by imagining I was packing for a long road trip with limited baggage. I would take these, a comfortable hammock and a sturdy pillow. … Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez. The Colombian city of Cartagena, once a major Spanish garrison and key port of Spain’s Caribbean fleet, is now often swamped by cruise ship passengers and, in the modern parlance, is possibly Latin America’s most Instagrammable location. Love in the Time of Cholera, published in 1985, taps this romanticism in its story of a late-requited love, its fictional location evoking Cartagena’s pastel-painted facades, as well as sections of the nearby city of Barranquilla on the Magdalena River. With its aromatic mangos, riverboats and loquacious parrot, it’s an archetypal South American tale, but it’s also highly inventive, laced with delicious irony while riffing on multiple literary genres. … Captains of the Sands by Jorge Amado. The six ‘Bahian Novels’ of Brazil’s best-known writer mix a kind of social realism with elements of fable, but are free of the sentimentalism and exoticism of his later works. This story, the final work in the cycle published in 1937, follows the pursuits of a gang of homeless orphans and urchins around the cobbled squares and slums of Salvador, a ‘city black and old’. While rich in local colour – no one knows a city like a street kid – the novel, as Colm Tóibín writes in the introduction to the Penguin Classics edition, ‘is not written for tourists; it is written to give substance to shadows, to recreate the underlife of the city, to offer the dispossessed and reviled an inner life.’ …”
Guardian: Fiction and hyper-reality
Guardian: The undefeated

Pelourinho, the historic centre of Salvador. Captains of the Sands by Jorge Amado

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