Fascinated by the idea of Western civilization as being a sequence of numerous misinterpretations and misrepresentations, these nineteen essays cover a broad range of topics with the unifying theme being the crossroads where politics and the imagination meet. An essay on linguistics and culture discusses the shaping of Latin America's collective identity; Peru's modern history is approached as a bloody battle between enlightenment and darkness; and in critiques of Octavio Paz and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Stavans reflects on the dichotomy between pen and sword in the Hispanic world. In 'Letter to a German Friend', Stavans returns to his fate as a Jew in the Southern Hemisphere, and in 'The First Book,' he connects his passion for literature to his initiation into Jewishness. Finally, in a meditation on Columbus's afterlife, he reflects on the many ways in which we reinvent ourselves in order to make sense of the chaotic world that surrounds us.
ILAN STAVANS is Professor of Spanish at Amherst College and the author/editor of over twenty books including The Hispanic Condition (sold over 30,000 copies, 7th printing) and Growing Up Latino (sold over 50,000 copies, 9th printing). In the next year, Stavans's upcoming books include On Borrowed Words: A Memoir of Language (Viking 01) and The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature (02). The editor-in-chief of Hopscotch: A Cultural Review, Stavans has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Latino Literature Prize, and was nominated to the National Book Critics Circle Award.