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Walking Through the Pages of Argentine Literature

Author Mempo Giardinelli takes SAS students back through the history of Argentine literature and discusses some of the motivation for his novels.

Students of John Serio’s International Short Story class were introduced to the roots of Argentine literature through a walking tour of the areas in which Jorge Luis Borges grew up and wrote some of his most notable stories.

They were also given the chance to meet in person a revolutionary Argentine author, Mempo Giardinelli.

After reading and analyzing Giardinelli’s novel, An Impossible Balance in class, students met the acclaimed author at the oldest café in Buenos Aires, Café Tortoni, where he talked of his exile during the dictatorship and gave insight into his life as an author.

“Meeting Giardinelli was a very interesting experience,” said Andrew DiGioia, a junior at Penn State University. “To finish reading his book and then the very next day have the opportunity to find out his opinion or inspiration for every detail was amazing.”

From there, the class ventured over to the district of Palermo via public subways for a walking tour led by Argentine Professor Alejandro Frango, who teaches courses in Argentine and Latin American literature.

At the corner of Gurruchaga and Guatemala Streets, which Borges refers to as the location of the “beginning of Buenos Aires,” Frango introduced the class to the neighborhood where Borges set most of his stories.

Professor Alejandro Frango reads Borges’ work to students in a park in Palermo.

Resting in a small park of Palermo, Professor Frango read a selection of Borges’ stories in Spanish, as students eagerly listened.

“Our guide not only gave us great insight to the life of Borges but also had lots of knowledge about Buenos Aires and Argentina in general,” said Gabrielle Glenn, a junior at The Ohio State University. “You could tell that he was very passionate about his country and was happy to share his enthusiasm with us.”

The tour finished with a trip to the Xul Solar Museum, which featured the collaborative works of Borges and his best friend, Oscar Solari. Of the incredible intellectual designs, an invented chess game in which 200 people could participate at the same time amazed everyone.

“Walking around Palermo and learning more about the history of Argentina really helped me visualize and understand the influences on Borges and Giardinelli’s writings,” said Emily Tomich, a junior at Elon University. “This class, and particularly this field lab, has encouraged me to understand the value of literature and its impact upon a country.”

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