Javier Sinay Believes We Have to Make Our Stories More Complex
In this interview, Catapult’s head instructor, Gabrielle Bellot, talks with instructor Javier Sinay about a Latin American literary genre called “crónica.”
Gabrielle Bellot: Your Catapult class focuses on the literary genre known as the “crónica,” which has a long history in Latin America for both Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese writers. How would you define a crónica for someone unfamiliar with the genre, and what makes it special to you?
GB: What makes a crónica different from any other form of journalism or creative nonfiction?
GB: If you had to select one of your favorite examples of the crónica, what would it be and why does it stand out to you?
Midnight in Mexico: A Reporter’s Journey Through a Country’s Descent into DarknessDallas Morning News
GB: How did you start writing crónicas yourself?
Rolling Stone ArgentinaGatopardoEtiqueta NegraLos suicidas del fin del mundoEl interior
GatopardoSangre joven: Matar y morir antes de la adultez(Young Blood: Killing and Dying Before AdulthoodThe Murders of Moisés Ville: The Rise and Fall of the Jerusalem of South America
GB: Crónicas can be intensely personal, and they can also be very playful, as in the crónicas of Clarice Lispector; Lispector’s crónicas sometimes pushed the boundaries of nonfiction and fiction. In 2022, though, there seems to be such a high demand for simple, unadorned facts in journalism—that is, for presenting a clear truth, as opposed to, say, a dangerous conspiracy theory. A crónica can do this, but they are often more complicated than a simple retelling of facts. Why do you think it’s important for us—as readers, journalists, and writers—to study the crónica today, in 2022?
GB: When critics outside of Latin America talk about the region’s literary traditions, it’s very common for them to focus on twentieth-century fiction and poetry, particularly the so-called Latin American Boom period exemplified by writers like Gabriel García Márquez, Carlos Fuentes, and other novelists. While the crónica has received some attention, it’s not nearly as widely known. With the recent surge in interest in personal essays and memoir in North America, do you think the crónica will finally get the critical attention that it deserves as a powerful, fascinating Latin American genre?
Operation MassacreI Can’t Think of Any TitleHungerThe Trace in the BonesHorizontal VertigoSeñor Socket and the Señora from the CaféSexographiesMidnight in MexicoCarlos SlimThe Hollywood KidAn Ounce of Gold and Máxima Acuña Atalaya
Gabrielle Bellot is a staff writer for Literary Hub and the Head Instructor at Catapult. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times, The Atlantic, The Cut, Gay Magazine, Tin House, Guernica, The Paris Review Daily, them, and many other places. Her essays have been anthologized in Indelible in the Hippocampus (2019), Can We All Be Feminists? (2018), and elsewhere. She holds both an MFA and PhD in Creative Writing from Florida State University. She lives in Queens.
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