A Celebration of Zama, with Esther Allen & Álvaro Enrigue
September 7, 2016, 7:00 PM
Co-hosted by NYRB Classics
Antonio di Benedetto’s Zama is a masterpiece of Argentine literature translated into English for the first time. Don Diego de Zama is an official of the Spanish crown at the end of the 18th century in Paraguay. Consumed by pride, lust, pettiness, and paranoia, he does little but dream of a transfer to Buenos Aires and a better life. Benedetto’s stark, spare description of Zama’s slow drift into perdition has been praised by Borges, Bolaño, Cortazar, and many more. Translator Esther Allen discusses Benedetto’s opus with author Álvaro Enrigue.
[Di Benedetto] has written essential pages that have moved me and that continue to move me.
—Jorge Luis Borges
Di Benedetto is the rare novelist who doesn’t seek to reconstruct the past to prove a point. He lives the past, and exposes us to experiences and forms of behavior that retain all their weirdness.
Scattered in various corners of Latin America and Spain, [Zama] had a few, fervent readers, almost all of them friends or unwarranted enemies.... [It is written with] the steady pulse of a neurosurgeon.
—Roberto Bolaño, from his story “Sensini”
Antonio di Benedetto (1922–1986) was an Argentine journalist and author of five novels, of which Zama is the most well known. His first book, the story collection Mundo Animal (1952), appeared in English translation in 1997 as Animal World.
Esther Allen has translated Javier Marías, Jorge Luis Borges, Felisberto Hernández, Flaubert, Rosario Castellanos, Blaise Cendrars, Marie Darrieussecq, and José Martí. She currently teaches at Baruch College (CUNY) and has directed the work of the PEN Translation Fund since its founding in 2003. Allen has received a Fulbright Grant and two National Endowment for the Arts Translation Fellowships, and in 2006 was named a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters.
Álvaro Enrigue was a Cullman Center Fellow and a Fellow at the Princeton University Program in Latin American Studies. He has taught at New York University, Princeton University, the University of Maryland, and Columbia University. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Believer, The White Review, n+1, London Review of Books, ElPaís, among others.His novel Sudden Death was awarded the prestigious Herralde Prize in Spain, the Elena Poniatowska International Novel Award in Mexico, and the Barcelona Prize for Fiction, and has been translated into many languages. Enrigue was born in Mexico and lives in New York City.