Mutual Impressions

Writers from the Americas Reading One Another

Mutual Impressions

Book Pages: 344 Illustrations: Published: December 1999

Editor: Ilan Stavans

Contributor(s): Ilan Stavans, John Barth

American Studies, Latin American Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism

It is commonly assumed that the United States and Latin America, culturally so different, move artistically to very different rhythms. Also common is the assumption that, with rare exception, the literary figures on one side of the global North/South divide have had little interest in the work of their counterparts. With Mutual Impressions Ilan Stavans dispels these notions by showing how solid the bridges between writers and across borders have been, at least since the early days of this century, and how crucial they are likely to become as we enter the next millennium.
Divided into symmetrical halves—South reading North and North reading South—the book presents essays by leading novelists, poets, and other writers that focus on the work of another literary figure from across the divide. Borges, for example, finds in Hawthorne the perfect precursor to his own interest in allegories; Katherine Anne Porter examines José Joaquín Fernández de Lizardi as a rascal whose picaresque views of life in The Itching Parrot served to launch the Latin American novel; Cortázar’s study of the plots and style of Poe shows an affinity that left an indelible mark on the Argentine’s short fiction; Susan Sontag views Machado de Assis as the ultimate mirror, a proto–postmodernist.
With other essays by Thomas Pynchon, William H. Gass, John Updike, Gabriel García Márquez, Alejo Carpentier, John Barth, Robert Coover, Pedro Henríquez Ureña, Grace Paley, Juan Carlos Onetti, and Mark Strand, among others, Mutual Impressions offers a remarkable view of the connections that comprise a literary tradition of the Americas. It is a book that will surprise and enliven its readers as it informs and awakens in them a sense of wonder.

Contributors. John Barth, José Bianco, Robert Bly, Jorge Luis Borges, Alejo Carpentier, Hiber Conteris, Robert Coover, Julio Cortázar, Ezequiel Martínez Estrada, Waldo Frank, Carlos Fuentes, William H. Gass, Nicolás Guillén, William Kennedy, Mario Vargas Llosa, Gabriel García Márquez, José Martí, Pablo Neruda, Victoria Ocampo, Juan Carlos Onetti, Grace Paley, Octavio Paz, Katherine Anne Porter, Thomas Pynchon, Kenneth Rexroth, Antonio Benítez Rojo, Barbara Probst Solomon, Susan Sontag, Ilan Stavans, Mark Strand, John Updike, Pedro Henríque Ureña, Derek Walcott, Paul West


“[A] fascinating anthology . . . valuable to anyone interested in inter-American cultural relations, comparative literature, and good writing. Each author and subject is introduced with a brief biography and there is an excellent index.” — Bernard Mergen , American Studies International

“[T]his anthology offers sharp, eclectic perceptions about writing and place in the limpid language that all critics, even academics, could emulate.” — Jason Wilson , TLS

“Academics may have studied Whitman’s impact on Latin America and so forth, but Stavans offers a sample of the lived connections between two cultures as revealed by what writers north and south of la frontera have made of each other. . . . It’s a neat idea. Since the Macondo of One Hundred Years of Solitude replicates the Yoknapatawpha of The Sound and the Fury, what could be better than to hear Márquez on Faulkner?” — Geoff Dyer , Bookforum

“This anthology probes literary connections between North and South American authors. . . . Readers encountering these essays for the first time will be inspired, no doubt, to read the bodies of literature represented here.” — , Library Journal

“This exquisite collection of literary criticism . . . offers beautifully rendered pieces by and about the most distinguished writers from the Americas.” — , Publishers Weekly

“This is not a boring textbook of ivory tower papers, but a spirited journey into the world of writers enjoying one another and having an impact on each other. The book would be sure to spark interesting dialogue in a Latin American or cross-cultural literature class or seminar.” — Christine Canfield , Foreword Reviews

“This wonderfully complex volume compels us to think about linguistic borders, narcissistic reading, and selfish reflections. I salute Stavans; he recognizes that we ‘bridge’ word and world.” — Irving Malin , Review of Contemporary Fiction

"This masterfully chosen collection of essays on various authors and their works shows just how solid these connections have been, at least since the early days of the twentieth century." — Latin American Research Review

Mutual Impressions is a delight and a revelation, a treasury of insight and enthusiasm from both sides of the principle linguistic divide that defines this hemisphere.” — Steven Kellman, author of The Plague: Fiction and Resistance


Availability: In stock
Price: $28.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Ilan Stavans, public intellectual, National Book Critics Circle Award nominee, recipient of the Latino Literature Prize and a Guggenheim Fellowship, is Professor of Spanish at Amherst College. Among his works are Growing Up Latino, The Hispanic Condition, The One-Handed Pianist and Other Stories, and A Cartoon History of Latinos in the United States. He is also the editor of The Oxford Book of Latin American Essays and The Oxford Book of Jewish Stories.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Introduction: Coincidence and Dissidence / Ilan Stavans 1

I. South Reading North 11

Prologue: Pedro Henríquez Ureña 13

José Martí on Walt Whitman 31

Victoria Ocampo on John Steinbeck 44

Alejo Carpentier on Herman Melville 56

Carlos Fuentes on William Styron 59

Jorge Luis Borges on Nathaniel Hawthorne 66

Gabriel García Márquez on William Faulkner 85

Hiber Conteris on Raymond Chandler 87

Ezequiel Martínez Estrada on Henry David Thoreau 107

Ilan Stavans on Julia Alvarez 113

Derek Walcott on V. S. Naipaul 119

José Bianco on Ambrose Bierce 129

Antonio Benítez Rojo on Lafcadio Hearn 135

Juan Carlos Onetti on Vladimir Nabokov 140

Mario Vargas Llosa on Ernest Hemingway 143

Nicolás Guillén on Langston Hughes 151

Octavio Paz on William Carlos Williams 155

Pablo Neruda on Robert Frost 165

Julio Cortázar on Edgar Allan Poe 168

II. North Reading South 177

Prologue / John Barth 179

John Updike on Augusto Roa Bastos 191

Grace Paley on Clarice Lispector 195

Katherine Anne Porter on José Joaquín Fernández de Lizardi 198

William H. Gass on Jorge Luis Borges 228

Mark Strand on Nicanor Parra 239

Paul West on Alejo Carpentier 242

Waldo Frank on Ricardo Güiraldes 249

Barbara Probst Solomon on Teresa de la Parra 252

Robert Bly on Pablo Neruda 260

Kenneth Rexroth on Homero Aridjis 267

Robert Coover on Julio Cortázar 269

Susan Sontag on Machado de Assis 272

Thomas Pynchon on Gabriel García Márquez 282

William Kennedy on Ernesto Sábato 289

Acknowledgments 299

Index 303
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2423-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2400-3
Publicity material