Amherst College Professor Ilan Stavans Publishes A Critic’s Journey

December 11, 2009
Contact: Peter Rooney, Director of Public Affairs, AmherstCollege

AMHERST, Mass. — Ilan Stavans, the Lewis-Sebring Professor in Latin American and Latino Culture at AmherstCollege and FiveCollege 40th Anniversary Professor, has published A Critic’s Journey (University of Michigan Press, 2009, $60 hardcover, $24.95 paperback). The book is a collection of essays, many originally published in The Nation, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and The Chronicle of Higher Education, in which Stavans, a Mexican-Jewish immigrant to the United States, brings his unusual autobiographical perspective to criticisms of Spanish-language fiction, the interactions between Jewish and Hispanic cultures and related issues.

Ilan Stavans

The 33 essays date from as early as 2001 and take as their subjects the work of Gabriel García Márquez, Susan Sontag and Edmund Wilson; Stavans’ work on his autobiography, On Borrowed Words; “The Holocaust in Latin America”; “Teaching Spanish”; “Betraying Latino Students”; and more. The author’s own favorite essays, he says, are “The Translators of Don Quixote,” in which he discusses nearly two dozen full English translations of Miguel de Cervantes’ masterpiece, and that essay’s sequel, “Don Quixote at Four Hundred.” Among the recurrent themes in his writing, Stavans lists “translation as misinterpretation, the Jew as symbol, the centrifugal beat of Hispanic civilization, languages in transition, autobiography as fiction and vice versa [and] North-South hemispheric relations.”

Stavans’s vigorous engagement with Hispanic, American and Jewish traditions makes him an ideal critic and mediator for these cross-cultural times,” says Morris Dickstein, author of Dancing in the Dark. Ariel Dorfman, author of Heading South, Looking North, describes A Critic’s Journey as a “literary feast of astonishing variety.” Esther Schor, author of Emma Lazarus and Professor of Judaic Studies, states that “For Stavans, criticism is a way of life: risky, gorgeous, heart-stoppingly urgent. He does it brilliantly, and not without a little mischief.” (Hear the author discuss the book in a podcast from the University of Michigan Press.)

In addition to teaching courses at AmherstCollege, Stavans has written numerous works of fiction and nonfiction, including The Disappearance, Resurrecting Hebrew and The Hispanic Condition. He is the editor of such other collections as The Oxford Book of Jewish Stories, The Poetry of Pablo Neruda, Isaac Bashevis Singer: Collected Stories and, earlier this year, Becoming Americans: Four Centuries of Immigrant Writing. His many awards and honors include an Emmy nomination, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Pablo Neruda Medal, the Latino Literature Prize, the Antonia Pantoja Award and Chile’s Presidential Medal.




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