The books of Óscar Barrientos Bradasic were the subject of a presentation at this year’s Interliber book fair by translator Željka Lovrenčić and editor Grozdana Cvitan, who lauded in particular his short stories.

Up-and-coming Chilean writer of Croatian extraction Óscar Andrés Barrientos Bradasic (39) saw the translation of his first novel and six short stories jointly published recently in Zagreb by AGM of Zagrebački Holding and the Croatian Heritage Foundation.
The translation is by Željka Lovrenčić DSc, an authority in Chilean literature, who last year defended her doctoral dissertation at Zagreb’s Croatian Studies faculty in the field of the Hispanic Croatica. The book is a fascinating piece of contemporary prose entitled El Viento En Un País Que Se Fue (The Wind In A Country That Was), the plot of which describes the events in a town in the deepest south of Chile called Pilgrim’s Port, where a powerful wind sweeps everything away. The hero of the tale is the cursed poet Aníbal Saratoga, who lives there and endeavours to learn of its mythical roots with the aim of better coping with the challenges of the present day. Saratoga learned of the legendary epic Azimuth and sets out in search of it. The central character in the epic is the hero, León de Abril, joined by his warriors who believe in the avenging nature of the wind. This novel offers a unique warning that the contemporary world has lost its illusions.
University professor and writer of Croatian extraction Oscar Andrés Barrientos Bradasic, was born in Punta Arenas in 1974. He earned his doctorate at the University of Salamanca. He lives in Valdivia where he works as a university professor of literature. He is the recipient of awards for his poetry and prose. He has to date published five volumes of short stories.

Recognising a rising literary star in Bradasic, the chief editor of Zagreb-based publisher AGM Grozdana Cvitan embraced the CHF initiative for his further affirmation among homeland readers of the contemporary prose of writers of Croatian extraction.

To date this praiseworthy literary initiative has seen the publication of translations of the novels of German-Croatian author Jagoda Marinić (2009), Chilean-Croatian writers Ramón Díaz Eterovic (2010), Juan Mihovilovich (2007) and Eugenio Mimica Barasi (2006) and Australian writer of Croatian extraction Morgan Yasbincek (2011). The initiative is the direct result of the CHF’s six-year Croatian Books Abroad project, which aims to present recent literary production among the Croatian emigrant communities in overseas countries, the Croatian minority communities in Central and Southeast Europe and the Croatians of Bosnia-Herzegovina at Zagreb’s Interliber international book fair in the frame of our literary activities.

At this year’s 36th Interliber translator Željka Lovrenčić and editor Grozdana Cvitan spoke of the book from Óscar Barrientos Bradasic, who works in Valdavia as a university professor.

Speaking at the Interliber fair, translator Željka Lovrenčić observed: “Óscar Barrientos Bradasic is the author of two, even for the Hispano-American scene, very unusual novels. The first of these, which we have translated for this occasion, is entitled El Viento En Un País Que Se Fue (The Wind In A Country That Was, 2009), and takes us through distant mythical regions that may be travelled only from Pilgrim’s Port. From this fictive town we follow the adventures in the other Bradasic novel Quimera de nariz larga (The Long-Nosed Chimera, 2011).
The hero of this tale, like in Bradasic’s brilliant short stories collected in the Pilgrim’s Port Trilogy, is the inveterate drunkard and poet, a bohemian enamoured of the nightlife and epic poetry, Aníbal Saratoga. The character is also a waggish entertainer and tireless explorer of the streets of this town, situated likely in the Strait of Magellan.
The novel is simultaneously a part of the regional and national literature, and, in which I agree with Chilean critic Marcelo Mellado, also a ‘symbol of Hispano-American unity, a sort of analogue to the Panama Canal that emphasises the unity of the cultural history of Latin America.’ But given that it follows in the best tradition in literature of global renown of seafaring adventure, and not only that tradition, Bradasic’s translated novel El Viento En Un País Que Se Fue is more than that – it is a universal work. It is somewhat reminiscent of the books of Melville and Conrad, of the works of Francisco Coloane, and of Homer’s Odyssey. It has similarities with Kazantzakis, with the work of Borges and with Edgar Allan Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. This imaging journey is an ode to Chile and its beauty, a critique of its society and a look back at the not always pleasant history of the country. Or, as the author Óscar Barrientos Bradasic notes, ‘a tale of one book, one woman and one ship.'”

“Bradasic’s other novel, Quimera de nariz larga, continues on the fantastic setting from the author’s short stories and his first novel. The chief characters are a rather portly ufologist, a femme fatale with a cat on her shoulder, a crazed saxophonist neighbour, an eminent economist, a cruel operetta dictator and a poet living near Antarctica,” notes the translator Lovrenčić.

In other words the novelist Bradasic endeavours to create recognisable and stylistically attractive bridges between poetry and fantasy, between tales of seafaring adventure and science fiction and between the Gothic novel and a diary. In this novel too, the poet Aníbal Saratoga wanders the streets of the city in the deep south of Chile, in a region of the many legends that have always existed in the Magellan area. But this work again speaks of more than just this mysterious ludic space. It too references Chilean history and reality and the eternal struggle for power.

The Croatian translation of Óscar Barrientos Bradasic’s novel El Viento En Un País Que Se Fue (AGM & HMI, 2013), also includes six selected short stories: The Man With Two Shadows; The Muse and the Scarecrow; Death Has A Sparrowhawk’s Wings; Breaking Woeful Mirrors; Flight Past the Island and Symbolic Carrion, notes the volume’s editor Grozdana Cvitan.

The novel El Viento En Un País Que Se Fue consists of four parts: Azimuth, The Land of Fifty Furious Winds, Kerguelen and the Epilogue. After Aníbal Saratoga’s adventures in Azimuth, in the Epilogue our poet returns to his point of departure – Pilgrim’s Port. His return closes the novel with multiple layers of symbolism, signalling to the reader that only myth survives in literature; only through myth may utopia be sustained. As this is a magical and pioneering journey, the city at the end of the world, Pilgrim’s Port, represents a portal to the myth we learn about in the book Azimuth, the protagonist of which is León de Abril. Myth is renewed through this book.

Critic Adolfo Couve feels that this work speaks above all of the discussion between Chilean literature and its archetypes. It is a work that in very lyrical form discusses art and the artist, while immortal mariners, lost cities and bars in which dance the odalisques such as the one in which the poet Saratoga falls in love with pass before our eyes.

Text by: Vesna Kukavica; Photos by: Snježana Radoš