Marcos Aguinis: A Passion for Literature

Article excerpt

Analytical and polemic, Marcos Aguinis is the epitome of the contemporary Latin American intellectual. He is in tune with the world, always investigating, digging deeper to expose contradictions and challenges. Faithful to his humanistic and cultural heritage, Aguinis responds to problems with a universal worldview in which ethical values and human dignity are paramount. The topics he covers include the clash of cultures, violence, political changes, corruption, love, and religion.

Marcos Aguinis was born on January 15, 1935 in Cordoba, Argentina into a Jewish family that practiced the biblical traditions "but wasn't very religious." His passion for literature was born in the town library where, encouraged by his mother, he read the classics. Soon he was immersed in Jules Verne, Stefan Zweig, Joseph Conrad, and Jorge Luis Borges.

In 1995, the Argentine Society of Writers (SADE) awarded Aguinis its Gran Premio de Honor for his life's work. He has also been awarded the Spanish Premio Planet; the Silver Plaque of the EFE News Agency; the Mexican "Fernando Jeno Literary Award"; the Swami Pranavananda Award; the National Literature Award; the National Sociology Award; the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of France; and honorary doctorates from the University of Tel Aviv in Israel and the University of San Luis in Argentina.

"I have had several careers," the author confides. "I am a surgeon. I studied psychology, music, painting, and history. And I am a writer. Writing used to be the way I took a break from medicine. Now literature is my passion."

He began in 1969 with Refugiados [Refugees], a story that took him inside the life and experience of a Palestinian Muslim, but it was his novel La cruz invertida [The Inverted Cross], published in 1970, that established him internationally as a writer. Since then, he has continued to publish novels, stories, essays, and articles. Translated now into several languages, his books are often best sellers that create a stir because of their subject matter and wealth of information.

Aguinis says that La cruz invertida foretold the future of his writing. "After that novel, I dedicated myself to historical research. Many of my topics come from history and from real events of history."

As he de-mystifies history, he also puts it into the postmodern context, taking note of social transformations and multi-ethnic processes. Aguinis is inter-disciplinary; elements of sociology, psychology, and history all converge in his works. His stories are set in a variety of scenarios in Latin America, the United States, and Europe, and his characters move in a global network where they are connected to each other. He writes about multiple topics and geographies framed within a context of globalization.

Aguinis is an omnipresent author who makes use of various angles to tell his stories. With fluid language and a Hemingway style of action, he introduces the reader to scenes with dramatic events and characters developed within revealing situations and dialogues. "I try to understand my characters. In an essay, an author can express his opinion. But in a novel, he has to get out of the way and let the characters do the speaking. I try not to have a Manichaean view of reality. Human beings are complex and nothing is black and white. I get inside all of my characters, but at the same time I also try to step aside to keep the consistency of the character and the plot."

The books that followed La cruz invertida, he recalls, "came out during the time of the military rule in Argentina. Back then, writers were very elliptical about expressing things. Many of my books were censored, including La conspiracion de los idiotas [A Conspiracy of Idiots], published in 1978."

"With the return of democracy, I was insolent enough to express myself with complete freedom, and I published the essay Carta esperanzada a un general [Hopeful Letter to a General] which caused a bit of a stir. …