Dusting off Latin America: An anthology of short fiction by 23 young Latin American writers.
Imagine the portrait one might glean of the United States if the only writers available in translation were William Faulkner, John Updike and Jack Kerouac.
For a long while, this analogy describes how the bulk of U.S. readers formed their impressions of Latin America. Three literary colossi dominated the region's dreamscape in translation: Carlos Fuentes, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Mario Vargas Llosa.
A new generation of Latin American writers is emerging, however, with different styles and concerns. Many of them are included in "The Future Is Not Ours," an anthology of 23 Latin American writers born between 1970 and 1980, chosen and edited by Diego Trelles Paz, and ably translated by Janet Hendrickson.
Here are some of the most exciting young voices of Latin America: the elegant Argentine short-story maestros Federico Falco and Samanta Schweblin, the gritty Peruvian-American Daniel Alarcon, and his half-countryman Santiago Roncagliolo.
The first story is a cracker. Argentine Oliverio Coelho tells of a middle-aged writer on holiday in the East who gets in above his dapper head in a tryst with a Korean woman.
Sex is a recurring touchstone. From the machinations of couples for whom arguments are foreplay, to the sinister seethe of a city under dictatorship, many stories revolve around the body and its carnal vibrations.
In the Mexican writer Antonio Ortuño's "Pseudoephedrine," a couple come to blows when they fall for opposing homeopaths with differing opinions on how to treat their sick children.
Federico Falco's story "Fifteen Flowers," the collection's masterpiece, has a darker tint. A young man reminiscences on pregnant teenagers who took their own lives in his small Argentine town.
Not all stories are so affecting. In "Fish Spine," the Brazilian writer Santiago Nazarian writes of a Japanese market stall worker as if he were an alien from Mars. Andrea Jeftanovic's story revolves around a cheap and disturbing imagination of incest.
And yet, for every foul tip, "The Future Is Not Ours" introduces a writer worth watching.
In an elliptically beautiful story, Dominican writer Adriana Vasquez captures the feeling of being stuck on an island and imprisoned by beauty. And the Guatemalan Ronald Flores' "Any Old Story" conjures a woman from the provinces who comes to work in a factory and loses everything.
The collection's title suggests an anthology preoccupied with the disenfranchised, but that's not the case. Even if a lot of Latin America is, indeed, poor, there are wealthy kids in these stories and impoverished ones, too.
Happily, "The Future Is Not Ours" proves itself to be false advertising on literary accounts as well. Duds aside, here are talents to whom the future rightly belongs. And now we have even less of an excuse not to have read them.
John Freeman is the editor of Granta magazine and the author of "The Tyranny of E-mail."