We are excited to share a guest post by Jeff Zorilla, author of a new English translation of Jungle Tales, as part of the Día de los Niños, Día de los Libros Blog Hop. The blog hop is part of an initiative by Latinas4LatinoLit.org, a collective of Latina bloggers who hope to shine a light on published Latino authors and books that represent the diversity and experience of Latinos. Follow along on Twitter via the #L4LL hashtag and @Latinas4LatLit twitter account.
Guest post by Jeff Zorria
Jungle Tales was created for two reasons; the love of reading and a search for Latin heritage. I moved to Argentina two years ago to learn about the culture of Latin America that my father turned his back on when he left Cuba to start a life in the United States. I was raised with the understanding that Latin America was nothing more than a collection of underdeveloped countries, something like a failed and impoverished version of the United States. And though this is what I had been taught, I had always felt the urge to learn the truth about the culture and, most of all, to learn the language that had been kept from me.
My father never set to teach me his mother tongue but I clearly remember hearing it through the walls as he spoke with business clients from Mexico. Hearing the language in muffled, low tones of snatched conversations through walls created an aura of forbidden knowledge about the language. I was determined to learn Spanish even if I had to do it on my own.
I chose to move to Buenos Aires because of its fame as a cultural hub and for my own interest in the literature of Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortazar. When I arrived, the city bewitched me. I studied Spanish during the days at the University of Buenos Aires and at night I would read book after book, at first not caring about how much I understood but instead just savoring the words in my mouth.
It was actually my passion for literature that brought me to meet the love of my life. I met my girlfriend, Natalia, when I submitted a short film I adapted from a story by Borges to the film festival where she worked. As we got to know each other more and our relationship grew, she helped me to learn Spanish by sharing her favorite authors with me. This was how I was first introduced to Horacio Quiroga’s Cuentos de la Selva.
As we read the stories together, I basked in how beautifully the long, complicated sentences were delicately weaved to ignight a child’s imagination; I wondered at the complex development of these anamorphic animals; and I was taken aback by the progressive environmentalist message that the book carried (far ahead of its time for a book written in 1917). I found that the stories were just as interesting and engaging as the ones I had read in my own youth, only from a point of view of a different culture.
An English Translation of Jungle Tales
When my Spanish advanced to the level where I could start translating texts, I chose Cuentos de la Selva simply because I wanted to live out the stories through writing. I wanted to immerse myself into the world that Quiroga created by fighting with his long sentences and weighing the different meanings of his words and then finally choosing the one that best fit the feeling he meant to convey. It was not until I had translated three of the eight stories that Natalia and I began to research if there was an English version of the book or not, and when we learned that there was only one out-of-print version of the book (a loosely translated collection of Quiroga’s stories titled South American Jungle Tales from 1921), we decided that the stories deserved to be read by an English speaking public.
We soon finished the translation of the book and as I had to return to the US to finish up my degree, I used the time to look for publishers. At publishing house after publishing house, I was met with the response that it would be too difficult to find an American market that would be interested in stories about animals in the jungles of South America written by an author from Uruguay that no one has ever heard of. But instead of letting all these rejections get us down, we decided to raise the money through the crowdfunding website Kickstarter and publish the book ourselves.
When we began to reach out to the public for support on the project, we found the exact opposite of what the publishing houses had been telling us. As a matter of fact there was a plethora of different organizations that gave the support for the book- from Latin American groups, to literature buffs, and even a few biologists who wanted to see the book printed in English.
After many long nights of reaching out for support to fund the book, and the later, even longer nights of proofreading sessions and galley corrections, the book is now printed. Natalia and I could not be happier. We worked hard to create a book that can create that sense joy and intrigue that makes a person want to read and reread a book. We excitedly thumbed over paper stocks and binding styles all in the hope that these small details would one day be integrated into that joy that comes from these stories. After all the hard work, we are happy to be able to say that we have made a beautiful book that can be enjoyed by children for a long time to come.
The work of translating this book helped to bring me closer to a heritage I had always felt deprived of. Now that these stories are available to an English-speaking public, I hope that other Latino children in the United States may be able to understand a little bit more about Latin American culture and and can feel the pride that was so difficult for me to discover.
About the author
Jeff Zorrilla is a filmmaker and English teacher. He was born in Orange County, California and moved to Buenos Aires two years ago where I live with my girlfriend. Jungle Tales is Zorilla’s first translation. Currently, he is working on his second translation, The Flamethrowers by Roberto Arlt. Learn more about Jungle Tales: www.jungletales.com.ar
ENTER THE GIVEAWAY
#L4LL has put together a wonderful collection of Latino children’s literature to be given to a school or public library. Many of the books were donated by the authors and illustrators participating in this blog hop. You can read a complete list of titles (as well as the blog hop schedule) here: Official #L4LL Blog Hop & Giveaway Post
To enter your school library or local library in the giveaway, simply leave a comment below this post.
The deadline to enter is 11:59pm EST, Monday, April 29th. The winner will be chosen using Random.org and will be announced on the Latinas4LatinoLit.org website on April 30th, 2013 – Día de los Niños, Día de los Libros. Winners will be contacted via email, so be sure to enter a valid email address when you comment.
By entering this giveaway, you agree to the Official Sweepstakes Rules. No purchase required. Void where prohibited.