Authorship and Critique: What are the ethical dimensions of writing about ‘those from below’?

reyes 2aAlejandro Reyes was born in Mexico City. He’s a writer, journalist, and translator. His novel La reina del Cine Roma was awarded the Lipp Prize (México) and was among the finalists for the Premio Leya (Portugal). It has been published in Portugal, Brazil, Mexico, and France. He’s lived in the U.S., Brazil, and France. He holds an M.A. in Latin American Studies and a PhD in Latin American Literature from the University of California at Berkeley. He’s the author of Vidas de rua (Street lives), Cuentos mexicanos (Mexican Story), Sueños en tránsito: crónicas de migración (Dreams in Transition: Chronicles of Migration), Vozes dos porões (Voices from the Basements: Essay about Marginal Literature in Brazil). His novel La reina del Cine Roma was awarded the Lipp Prize (México) and was among the finalists for the Premio Leya (Portugal). It has been published in Portugal, Brazil, Mexico, and France. He currently lives in Chiapas, Mexico.

Cornelia Graebner, associate of the Authors and the World hub, met with Alejandro in Mexico in 2013. You can read an account of their meeting and a discussion of Alejandro’s novel La reina del Cine Roma here on Cornelia’s blog. Below is a short excerpt from the blog:

“What’s the story with La reina? It’s Alejandro’s second book, published after the short story collection Vidas da Rúa (Lives from the Street). The stories and the novel are set in Salvador de Bahia in Brazil. In La reina, Alejandro tells stories about dignity that comes from the embrace of identity even when it’s difficult, from the tenacious commitment to love in a situation that has been created to annihilate the very possibility of dignity and love. It’s a novel on children who live in the streets and don’t have parents, or their parents abuse them or are unwilling or unable to protect them from abuse. Betinho and Maria Aparecida, Creuza and Chico, are the ‘marginal’, those who the Zapatistas call ‘those from below’ – marginalized, pushed out, stepped on because of class, race, gender identity, sexuality. Who are the ‘marginal’ and ‘those from below’?”

In November 2014, Alejandro and Cornelia discussed the ethical dimensions of writing about ‘those from below’ from an authorial perspective. What kind considerations became necessary when writing about marginalised subjects from a position of ‘authority’? What can you show? From whose perspective? In whose voice? Are there things which are best left unwritten? Alejandro generously allowed us to republish some excerpts from the novel here, in English and in Spanish and Portuguese.

 

 

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