The task of the writer in Latin America has never been an easy one. In some countries literacy hardly surmounts functional levels; in others, where it far exceeds them, there still is not much of a public for which one can write. There are few serious universities or literary reviews, and the book trade is one of the most perilous occupations imaginable, subject to the anomalies of paper supplies, exchange controls, price controls, and a minuscule market. It is perhaps unflattering to say so, but Latin Americans are not great readers of books: instead, they consume huge quantities of newsprint, café gossip, and conspiracy theories. This is so notwithstanding the fact that the region has also produced some world-class writers, and shows every indication of continuing to do so.

In some ways, of course, the foregoing merely describes the situation of literature in any area of the Third World. But in one important regard,...

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