Former leading New Zealand publisher and bookseller, and widely experienced judge of both the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, talks about what he is currently reading, what impresses him and what doesn't, along with chat about the international English language book scene, and links to sites of interest to booklovers.
Wednesday, September 13, 2017
An Astonishing Memoir
The Book of Emma Reyes
achette New Zealand |28 August
2017 TPBK $37.99 RRP | EBK $19.99 RRP
This astonishing memoir of a
childhood lived in extreme poverty in Latin America was hailed as an instant
classic when first published in Colombia in 2012, nine years after the death of
its author, who was encouraged in her writing by Gabriel García Márquez.
Comprised of letters written over the course of thirty years, it describes in
vivid, painterly detail the remarkable courage and limitless imagination of a
young girl growing up with nothing.
Emma was an illegitimate child,
raised in a windowless room in Bogotá with no water or toilet and only
ingenuity to keep her and her sister alive. Abandoned by their mother, she and
her sister moved to a convent housing 150 orphan girls, where they washed pots,
ironed and mended laundry, scrubbed floors, cleaned bathrooms, and sewed
garments and decorative cloths for church. Illiterate and knowing nothing of
the outside world, Emma escaped at age nineteen, eventually coming to have a
career as an artist and to befriend the likes of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.
Far from self-pitying, the portrait that emerges from this clear-eyed account
inspires awe at the stunning early life of a gifted writer whose talent
remained hidden for far too long.
Emma Reyes (1919-2003) was a Colombian painter and intellectual whose letters were
first published in 2012. She grew up in extreme poverty and escaped a convent
for orphan girls at age nineteen. Illiterate, she travelled wherever she could
and dedicated most of her life to painting and drawing, slowly breaking through
as an artist and forging friendships with some of the most distinguished
European and Latin American artists, writers and intellectuals of the twentieth
century. The year she passed away, the French government named her a Knight of
the Order of Arts and Letters.