LAUREN MICHALEC ’17
The 2017 Patricia C. and Charles H. McGill III ’63 Lecture, hosted by the International Studies Department on Wednesday, April 19 in McCook Auditorium, featured Colombian novelist Santiago Gamboa, as he presented a lecture on “The Art of Narration and Travel Writing (a Latin American Writer in India).”
As a novelist, a good part of his talk focused on the writing process and how words, phrasing, and literature have transformative power. He gave praise and spoke about many other famous Latin American novelists, poets, and literary movements, such as the “boom latinoamericano” that drew and shifted global attention to Latin American writers over their European counterparts.
Within Latin America, many literary movements and much of academia was rooted in Buenos Aires, as it quickly assumed the title of the “Paris” of South America. The concentration of culture and intellectuals within the Argentine capital produced a sentiment and trademark of an era in which many famous Latin American writers such as Borges, Martí, García-Marquez, and Neruda all benefitted from Their essays and works all were produced by and out of Latin America.
Gamboa proposed and explored writing Latin American fiction about the culture’s struggles and daily life, but through writing from a framework outside of Latin America. That framework, for him, was the time he spent in India from 2008 to 2010. The latter part of the lecture shifted towards the importance of time and space and how both influence perceptions and understandings of concepts.
Gamboa made sure to stress that while he was a delegate from Colombia to India, he was not residing in India to produce journalism about the country. He was there to absorb culture and embrace the differences in ways of life through his daily interactions with people. This would gradually influence his writing and perception of his own home country.
Living in a country so deeply engrained in a caste system made him think differently about politics and the struggles within Colombia such as Guerillas and the State army. Moreover, ideas such as modernity and urban development take new meaning when they are presented in a different context, challenging previous definitions one may have held true.
Living abroad in India did not change Gamboa’s identity as a Latin American, but it changed and enriched his previous notions of culture, modernity, and humanity, giving his writing more depth and perspective by the mere impact of a change in location. Born in Bogota, Colombia, Gamboa studied literature at the Javerian University of Bogota. After that, he lived in Spain until 1990. During that time, Gamboa earned a degree in Hispanic philology from the University of Alcala de Henares.He then moved to Paris, where he studied Cuban literature at the Sorbonne. Over the course of his career, Gamboa has written 8 novels and served as a diplomat in the Permanent Delegation of Colombia to UNESCO.