A country – and a language – is inseparable from its literary traditions, especially in a nation like Chile, blessed with some of the world’s most celebrated and beloved writers.
Last year, more than 15 million works by Chilean authors – including fiction, art, history and gastronomy – were downloaded for free from around the world, thanks to the Memoria Chilena project by the national digital library.
For a student of the Spanish language at any level, this treasure trove of Chilean work promises hours of exploration. To get started, click “catalogo” in the top left-hand corner to search for material by a specific Chilean author or subject.
No clue where to start? Take a tip from the top downloads in 2011, and make your pick between graphic novels, social commentary, or a good old-fashioned page-turner.
Heading to the beach (or ski slopes) for the weekend
Chilean novelist Roberto Bolaño scooped two places on the top-10 list in 2011, including first place, with Putas asesinas (“Murderous Whores”) and sixth place, with Estrella distante (“Distant Star”). His novel Amuleto (“Amulet”) made the top 20, and in total, his work was downloaded nearly a million times.
For a bittersweet look at the Chile of yesteryear, try Eduardo Barrios’ novel El niño que enloqueció de amor (“The Boy Who Went Mad With Love”), published in 1915 but still a contemporary favorite. Another Chilean classic evoking the romance and tragedy of the early 20th century can be found in La sangre y la esperanza (“The Blood and The Hope”), by Nicómedes Guzmán.
Preparing for your semester abroad
Settle in with your dictionary and highlighter for the latest work by celebrated professor Gabriel Salazar, from the Universidad de Chile. Labradores, peones y proletarios: formación y crisis de la sociedad popular chilena del siglo XIX (Laborers, Peons and Proletarians: Formation and crisis of popular Chilean society in the 19th century) offers a vital introduction to the country’s fascinating history and identity. Over 427,000 people downloaded the book last year, making it the third-most popular title and a great preparation for your classes next semester.
Brushing up on your Spanish – ahem, “Chileno” – before traveling
For an advanced lesson in Chilean idioms, check out the work of Chile’s reigning graphic artist, Lukas (aka Renzo Pecchenino). Bestiario del reyno de Chile (“Bestiary of the Chilean Kingdom”) made the top-20 and epitomizes wicked Chilean humor and the national love of word play.
Searching for an escape from a cold winter’s day
For readers in the northern hemisphere, brighten up the snowy landscape with a peak at one of the two art books by Gaspar Galaz and Milán Ivelic that broke the top- 0: Chile, arte actual (“Chile, contemporary art”) and La pintura en Chile: desde la Colonia hasta 1981 (“Chilean paintings: from the colonial era to 1981”).
Looking for more?
The library features several handfuls of recommended e-books, here (or click “e-libros” from the home page). Selected genres range from graphic novels to music theory to books on the environmental impact of mining. Dig in!
This post is also available in Spanish