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New bilingual edition of Gabriela Mistral´s first book

New bilingual edition of Gabriela Mistral´s first book

Posted by José Peralta on September 30, 2014

Almost a century after launching Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral (1889-1957) into the limelight, her first book “Desolación” (“Desolation”) was re-launched in a new English edition Thursday.

The launch celebrates the world-renowned writer and took place in New York, where Mistral lived for many years.

“We live in a globalized world and in order to allow people to get to know the life and works of a person, that information has to be translated into English,” Gloria Garafulich-Grabois, director of the Gabriela Mistral Foundation in New York, said at the book launch.

“Desolación” was first published in 1922 and contains the famous poem “Los sonetos de la muerte” (“Death Sonnets”), for which Mistral was awarded the Juegos Florales prize in 1914, in Chile.

“It’s the book that many consider her masterpiece,” Garafulich-Grabois said.

Liliana Baltra, a retired Universidad de Chile professor and Michael Predmore, professor at Stanford University in the U.S., spent six years translating the 553-page book.

Love and death are central themes in “Desolación,” and it is said that while writing the book, Mistral was influenced by the suicide of her 18-year old nephew, Juan Miguel Godoy Mendoza — often referred to as Yin Yin — whom she took care of as her own son.

After reaching international recognition, Mistral moved to New York and spent most of her life abroad. In 1945, she became the fifth woman and the first and only Latin American to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Despite an incredibly successful career outside Chile, it was not until the military dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990) that she was recognized as a “national icon” on home soil, when her face appeared on the Chilean pesos’ highest note.

Her lyricism was further incorporated into school curricula, with much emphasis put on the poems that focused on children and motherhood. Her political essays, that speak up against fascism and promote feminism, remain shadowed by her poetry.

However, the appreciation of her work has grown in Chile, and the Gabriela Mistral Center (GAM) was opened in her honor in 2010, centrally located on one of Santiago’s main streets, Bernardo O’Higgins — colloquially referred to as Alameda.

Mistral — who was christened Lucila Godoy Alcayaga — was known not only as a globally successful writer, but also as a diplomat, culture minister and university professor.

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