Lumos Maxima: Illuminating the magical presence of Harry Potter at UVa

This week, we are pleased to feature a guest post by Penny White, Reference Librarian and Hufflepuff. Thanks, Penny, for braving our enchanted stacks and sharing these treasures with wizards and muggles alike. Happy Halloween, everyone!
Lovingly referred to as the “Harry Potter” room, the McGregor Room in Alderman Library, with its cozy chairs and caged books, is sure to make any Potter fan feel as though they have apparated right into Hogwarts. The affection for this association is clear in a clever entry from one ickle firstie who visited the room in 2012.

Although Frenchman Nicolas Flamel perished in 1417, myths surrounding his work to decipher an alchemical text that would reveal the secret of the Philosopher’s Stone live on. “Guest Book for the McGregor Room” (RG-12/36/1.141).

Now, what if I said the magic does not stop at the McGregor Room gates? What if I told you that deep under Grounds in the bowels of Archives & Special Collections, fantastic beasts hide, spells are cast, and mischief is made?

The Discoverie of Witchcraft, published in 1584 by Englishman Reginald Scot.

With a tone reminiscent of Vernon Dursley, Scot set out to prove that there was no such thing as magic. And while his text was central to debates about the implausibility of witchcraft, it also proved to be a useful if not always accurate source on supernatural beliefs and practices

Pages from “The Discoverie of Witchcraft” addressing the disposition and aspects of the planets (M 1584 .S36).

 

 

Magical botanicals

While you are unlikely to encounter the mandrake in modern medical texts, Hermione’s definition of the root as “restorative” is historically accurate. Both early Greek and Latin texts, as well as medieval naturalists document the root as being a cure for all diseases, barring death. Ground up the root could even be used in wine, which when drunk could numb patients enough for amputation.

The human-like appearance of the Mandrake in Harry Potter is rooted in first-century Greek physician, Dioscurides’ description of the root as resembling the human form. This belief was reinforced by the medieval doctrine of signatures, which claimed that when eaten, plants that looked like certain body parts could cure what ails those body parts. “The Clutius Botanical Watercolors…” (QK98 .S93 1998).

Magizoology

On the subject of magical beasts, Swiss naturalist Conrad Gessner authored one of the most widely read natural histories of the Renaissance. Historiae Animalium published from 1551-1558 is a zoological inventory and depicts everything from the mythical to the factual.  I have no doubt that this four volume set would have found a place on the shelves in Magizoologist, Newt Scamander’s library.

“Merfolk” from Gessner’s “Historiae Animalium” (QL41 .G37 1551 v.2)

A book that bites–literally

I know for a fact that we could find this uniquely bound copy of Fantasy & Nonsense: Poems gracing the shelves of our favorite “mad and harry” Professor’s library. This striking book of poetry is the embodiment of what Hagrid considered funny and Malfoy considered hand severing.

Leather bound, edged with shark teeth, and filled with literary references to fantastic beasts, James Whitcomb Riley’s “Fantasy & Nonsense: Poems” is the quintessential “Monster Book of Monsters” (PS2702 .T77 2001). Binder Gabby Cooksey dreamed up this gorgeously executed volume, which actually bites you a little bit every time you turn a page. Come check it out and feel the pain yourself!

Peevish phantoms

He may have been fond of mischief and caused all sorts of trouble, but it was hard not to love Peeves the Poltergeist. Besides, according to Lewis Carroll’s longest poem, Phantasmagoria, ghosts simply have one job to do and that job is to haunt.

Here the ghost from Carroll’s second canto “Hys Fyve Rules” shows his host just how he feels about being treated so rudely (PR4611 .P6 1869).

Horcrux or just an old cup?  

You do not need to use the Imperio curse on any of our staff to get your hands on this goblet given to Dr. Gessner Harrison by UVa students attending the 1858-59 class session. Visit the reference desk and we will happily pull it for use in the Reading Room. While we do require you to wear gloves when handling this goblet, I can assure you that it is not because it could be one of Lord Voldemort’s horcruxes.

One of two goblets presented to Dr. Gessner Harrison by UVa students attending the 1858-59 session (MSS 12762).

Weapons against the dark wizard

Harry Minor Wilson, Grand Commander of the Knights Templar of Virginia may not have used his regalia sword to help defeat the most powerful dark wizard of all time, but it would make a fine stand-in for the sword of Gryffindor. The sword will appear to anyone who asks for it. We cannot, however guarantee that when requested, the sword will be delivered in a magical hat by Faux the phoenix.

Harry Minor Wilson’s ceremonial sword as Grand Commander of the Knights Templar of Virginia (MSS 8977-a).

 

 

“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

– Albus Dumbledore

Like Hogwarts end of the year exams, college can be frightful. Not all of us possess Hermione’s zeal for learning, or her time-turner, which would no doubt help with the overwhelming workload. Thankfully, The Order at UVA, the University’s only Harry Potter secret society, established The Patronus Project, which seeks to educate and change the way people talk about metal illness and wellness.

Started by a group of University students who love Harry Potter, The Patronus Project’s mission is to illuminate and banish the stigma surrounding mental illness like Expecto Patronum expels Dementors (Broadside 2015 .O73 no.01).

 

These are only a few of the many Harry Potter-esque collection items at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library. Want to uncover more magical materials? Ask a staff member how! No invisibility cloak required.

Nox!

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William Styron’s “Confessions of Nat Turner” at 50

On October 9, 1967, William Styron’s novel from history, The Confessions of Nat Turner, was published to acclaim and controversy. Styron was raised in Newport News, Virginia, about a hundred miles from the site of the rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia. The novel was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, despite controversy over its characterization of Turner and other characters, and the fact that it was written in the voice of a Black man by a white writer. The novel remains in print today, and is still widely read.

The text-heavy cover of the first edition evokes broadsides of the early nineteenth century. (PS 3569 .T9 C6 1967)

Our strong holdings in the history of Virginia include some of the essential source material upon which Styron based the novel. Of particular importance was this text, first published in 1831. It is written in the form of an interview with Turner, who tells his tale in the first person:

Gray’s “The Confession, Trial and Execution fo Nat Turner, the Negro Insurrectionist” (Berlin, VA: R.M. Stephenson,  1881). (F 221 v.163 no. 15)

Also in the collections is another period narrative, shown below. this item is digitized in full and available online:

“Authentic and Impartial Narrative of the Tragical Scene Which Was Witnessed in Southampton County (Virginia) on Monday the 22d of August Last: When Fifty-Five of Its Inhabitants (Mostly Women and Children) Were Inhumanly Massacred by the Blacks! : Communicated by Those Who Were Eye Witnesses of the Bloody Scene, and Confirmed by the Confessions of Several of the Blacks While Under Sentence of Death” [New York]: Printed for Warner & West., 1831. (A1831 .W377)

Styron is also known to have depended on the following two volumes for his project, copies of both of which are likewise held in our collections:

Almost half of Frederick Law Olmstead’s” A Journey in the Seaboard Slave States: With Remarks on Their Economy” (New York: Dix & Edwards,1856) is dedicated to Virginia. (A1856 .O55)

At the turn of the century, William Sidney Drewry composed a book-length study, “The Southampton Insurrection” ((Washington: Neale, 1900). (F232 .S7 D7 1900)

Finally, Styron depended upon M. Boyd Coyner’s UVA dissertation based upon our Cocke family papers collection. As James West tells it, “Styron was alerted to the existence of the dissertation by C. Vann Woodward, and Styron secured a copy of it from Coyner, who was then teaching at Hampden-Sydney.”

The table of contents page of M. Boyd Conyer,  “John Hartwell Cocke of Bremo: Agriculture and Slavery in the Ante-bellum South.” (Diss. 992).

Thanks to donor and Styron bibliographer James West for calling our attention to this anniversary and these fantastic source materials!

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Miniature Books, coming to you from Facebook Live

Today, the folks over at UVA’s facebook page invited curator Molly Schwartzburg to share with them some of her favorite items in the miniature book collection on the Facebook Live streaming video platform. For those of you not on Facebook, here’s the video. We’re impressed that those teeny tiny books are actually in pretty good focus! Check out some of our beautiful and unusual minature treasures.

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On View Now: “John Burroughs: In Letters & Art”

We are pleased to announce our latest First Floor Gallery exhibition, “John Burroughs: In Letters & Art.” It runs through December 28, 2017.

Inspired by the recent conservation treatment of a portrait of Burroughs painted by Orlando Rouland, this exhibition brings an important American naturalist back to light. The painting serves as the focal point of the exhibition, tying together writer, artist, collector, and library. The exhibition showcases books, manuscripts, and other materials from the Burroughs collection. John Burroughs’ (1837-1921) essays on nature were widely read by both scholars and the reading public during his lifetime. He counted among his friends prominent men including Walt Whitman, Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Ford, John Muir, and Thomas Edison.The Burroughs collection is part of the Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature at the University of Virginia.

Here are a few tastes of the exhibition in photographs:

The portrait around which the exhibition was planned. Nearby are some of the tools used in its conservation treatment.

 

Part of the exhibition celebrates Clifton Waller Barrett’s work building the Burroughs collection.

 

We look forward to seeing you in the gallery!

 

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POSTPONED: Exhibition Opening

Please note that the exhibition opening and book launch party planned for this Thursday, August 31, has been POSTPONED due to logistical problems produced by the “Unite the Right” Rally earlier this month. We are very sorry for the inconvenience and hope you will share this email with other friends who were planning to attend.

Stay tuned for a new date for this celebration!

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John Dunlap, Charlottesville’s First Printer

The Philadelphia printer John Dunlap (1747-1812) is best known for having printed the so-called “Dunlap Broadside”—the first printing of the Declaration of Independence—of which the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library is privileged to possess two of the 26 known copies.  Less well known is Dunlap’s distinction as the person responsible for bringing printing to Charlottesville, Virginia, in 1781.  On the eve of July 4th, and in celebration of having acquired our very first John Dunlap Charlottesville imprint, here is the story of Dunlap’s brief career as Charlottesville’s pioneer printer.

Title page of U.Va.’s newly acquired 1781 Charlottesville imprint, the first and only item from Charlottesville’s first press to have entered the U.Va. Library collections.

Eighteenth-century American printers were eager for significant business and steady cash flow, which were more easily obtained through newspaper publishing and government printing contracts than through other printing work. John Dunlap did well on both accounts. He immigrated from Ireland to Philadelphia in 1757 and, after serving an apprenticeship in his uncle’s printing establishment, took over the business. In 1771 Dunlap launched the weekly Pennsylvania Packet, or the General Advertiser. Taking advantage of his Philadelphia location and the urgent need for public printing during the American Revolution, Dunlap secured printing contracts not only for the state of Pennsylvania, but also for the Continental Congress.

The two-line imprint crediting John Dunlap and James Hayes as Charlottesville’s first printers. Although undated, this work was printed during September and October of 1781.

In August of 1780, Dunlap expanded his public printing portfolio to Virginia. Directed by Virginia’s House of Delegates to engage a public printer, then-Governor Thomas Jefferson recommended acceptance of the proposal submitted by Dunlap and his business partner (and former apprentice) James Hayes. That fall a press and supply of printing types was dispatched to Richmond, where Hayes was to establish and manage a printing office. But its opening was delayed when the shipment fell into British hands. A second press was sent from Philadelphia to Richmond, and Hayes was at long last able to begin printing in April 1781.

A two-page opening from the Acts Passed at a General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia (Charlottesville, 1781).

The following month, however, the arrival of British forces under General Cornwallis prompted Virginia’s state government to flee Richmond, first to Charlottesville, and then to Staunton. Hayes packed up his printing equipment and followed. But in late June, near Charlottesville on his way back from Staunton, Hayes was captured by the British and then released on condition that he not print “until properly exchanged.” This was soon arranged, and in July 1781 Hayes set up his press in Charlottesville. It remained in operation into October, but by early December Hayes had relocated the press to Richmond. All the while Dunlap remained in Philadelphia.

The list of acts contained in the 1781 Virginia session laws printed in Charlottesville.

In its three months of operation, the first Charlottesville press is known to have printed at least four items: two broadsides, the 52-page Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia for 1781, and the 1781 Virginia session laws. It is a copy of this last publication—a 20-page folio publication titled Acts Passed at a General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia—that has now been acquired by U.Va.  Given the constraints under which Hayes is known to have operated, it is tolerably well printed, bearing the Virginia seal on its title page above the two-line imprint:  CHARLOTTESVILLE: Printed by John Dunlap and James Hayes, Printers to the Commonwealth.

John Cook Wyllie’s bibliographical description of the 1781 Virginia session laws (Charlottesville, 1781) with (at bottom) a census of copies known ca. 1960.

All four known 1781 Charlottesville imprints were printed by Hayes in his role as public printer, and all are very rare. It is likely, however, that Hayes printed a few other items, e.g., broadsides, printed forms, and other jobbing work, during his Charlottesville sojourn. Some day we may be able to identify these through careful typographical analysis. The history of Charlottesville’s first press has yet to be written–this précis is based on unpublished research by former U.Va. Librarian John Cook Wyllie, which is available for consultation in the Small Special Collections Library.

Following Hayes’ departure, Charlottesville would remain without a printing press for another four decades, until Clement P. and J.H. McKennie established a newspaper, The Central Gazette, in 1820.

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On View Now: Fact, Fiction, Forgery: Thomas Chatterton and Literary Invention

We are pleased to announce the opening of our latest First Floor Gallery exhibition, “Fact, Fiction, Forgery: Thomas Chatterton and Literary Invention,” which will remain on view through September 1, 2017. This exhibition, curated by David Whitesell, traces Chatterton’s career and enduring influence through books and manuscripts from U.Va.’s distinguished holdings of 18th-century British literature, in particular an important collection of works concerning Chatterton recently acquired on the Martin C. and Ruthe R. Battestin Library Fund, the Battestin Fund for 18th Century British Literature, the W. Braden and Kathryn K. Kerchof Library Fund, and the Robert and Virginia Tunstall Trust Fund.

Ever since his untimely death at 17, Thomas Chatterton (1752-1770) has been one of England’s most fascinating literary figures. The “Rowley Poems”—pseudo-medieval verses presented by their “discoverer” Chatterton as the work of the 15th-century priest Thomas Rowley—are among the most famous of literary hoaxes. Their posthumous publication in 1777 initiated the Rowley Controversy: a vigorous public debate over the poems’ authenticity and the extent of Chatterton’s involvement. Finding themselves ill equipped to weigh the physical and documentary evidence, England’s leading men of letters were driven to make important advances in literary, philological, and textual analysis that stimulated the field of textual scholarship. Yet underpinning Chatterton’s forgery was prodigious literary talent, tragically silenced by his presumed suicide (more likely an accidental overdose) in the face of poverty and an indifferent world. Such credentials made Chatterton irresistible to the Romantics and Pre-Raphaelites, who mythologized him in their own poetry. Chatterton continues to inspire authors intrigued by issues of literary authenticity and invention.

Born in Bristol, England in 1752, Chatterton was apprenticed as a legal scrivener in 1767. The next year he began to publish a torrent of anonymous and pseudonymous poems and essays in newspapers and periodicals. In April 1770 Chatterton moved to London where, despite his prodigious talent and industry, literary fame proved elusive. On August 25, 1770, not yet 18, he was found dead, ruled a suicide from arsenic and opium poisoning.

Chatterton’s most ambitious literary project—the Rowley Poems—remained unpublished at his death. He presented these mock-medieval English verses—some written on old parchment, most being manuscripts in Chatterton’s hand—as long-lost works by the fictional 15th-century Bristol priest Thomas Rowley. Until their publication in 1777, the Rowley Poems circulated privately in manuscript among England’s literati—embraced as genuine by many, suspected as forgeries by some.

From 1777 to 1782 the Rowley Poems’ authenticity was vigorously debated in print. Their literary merit was undisputed. But could the poems, written in stilted “Rowleian dialect” in a diversity of styles, be genuine 15th-century works? If forgeries, could they truly be creations of a teenage apprentice? Stoking the debate were the tragic circumstances of Chatterton’s death, personal rivalries, the differing perspectives of antiquaries and scholars, and the inability of existing scholarly methods to settle the matter. The controversy prompted significant advances in textual scholarship.

Ever since Chatterton’s death, his life and literary works have provided inspiration to poets, novelists, dramatists, biographers, artists, and composers. For the Romantics and Pre-Raphaelites, Chatterton was a seminal figure: a precocious and original literary talent, and—though not factually true—the very model of the “neglected genius” who, rather than compromise his art, plunges destitute and despairing into suicide. Others have honored Chatterton’s powers of literary invention by invoking their own in reimaginings of his life and legacy.

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Faulkner in the RAF

William Faulkner adopted various personae throughout his life—poet, father, Mississippi gentleman, Nobel Prize winner— but the persona that required his ability to invent and create the most was William Faulkner, Englishman. Most of Faulkner’s childhood was spent making flying contraptions with his brothers and taking turns being the flight-test dummy. He never gave up on his dream of flying. Years later, when World War I broke out, Faulkner saw his opportunity to get into a plane and to get into the air. Worried about his size, Faulkner stuffed himself full of bananas and water before going to Air Force recruiting station. Despite his preparations, he was rejected for being under regulation height and weight. After this rejection, Faulkner went with his childhood friend and mentor, Phil Stone, to Yale for several weeks. While at Yale, Faulkner was persuaded by some of Stone’s friends to try the Canadian RAF rather than wait for the draft. To join the RAF, however, they had to be British subjects.

Faulkner and Stone went to work. They practiced English pronunciation. They forged documents. They invented a fictional vicar, the Reverend Mr. Edward Twimberly-Thorndyke, and wrote letters of reference from him on their behalf. They even enlisted the sister of Phil Stone’s British tutor at Yale as a “mail drop.” When he presented himself at the RAF recruiting station, his name was William Faulkner—not Falkner— and he claimed that he was born in Finchley, UK, and that his mother had emigrated to Oxford, Mississippi years before. Despite his height—five foot five and half inches— and his weight, he was accepted as an applicant for pilot training.

Though Faulkner’s time in the RAF was limited to 179 days in Canada, (and it is debatable whether he even flew a plane during his training), Faulkner dressed as a conquering war hero when he returned to Oxford after the war. He purchased an officer’s uniform right before his discharge, which he wore, and posed for photographs in, all over town even though it was against regulation to wear a uniform after being discharged. (He was belatedly promoted to Honorary Second Lieutenant in March 1920). Since he was already dressed for the part, he invented tall tales about flying and seeing combat too.

Here Faulkner poses in his uniform with a cigarette.

Here Faulkner poses in his uniform with a cigarette (MSS 6271).

His most often-told tale was that he crashed a plane during training, which resulted in either a fictitious silver plate in his head, or a fictitious leg injury that made him walk with a limp. Faulkner told this tale for decades. Even some of his own family members believed his story of the plane crash, though they knew he had not seen combat. It was not until 1950 that Faulkner admitted in a letter to Dayton Kohler that he had not seen combat and had not been injured in a plane crash.

Faulkner eventually did learn how to fly, however, and did so recreationally for the rest of his life, even after the death of his brother, Dean, in a plane crash in 1935. In addition to the tall tales he made up, his own experiences in the air inspired a number of Faulkner’s works. His first published short story, “Landing in Luck” and his novels, Soldier’s Pay and Pylon, are a testament to his love of flight.

 

Our exhbition case dedicated to Faulkner’s RAF experience and love of flight.

 

For a chance to see Faulkner’s RAF uniform and the letter correcting his tall tales in person, come see “Faulkner: Life & Works,” on view at the Albert & Shirley Small Special Collections Library from February 6, 2017 to July 7, 2017.

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What is the efficacy of the Faulkner prize?: Faulkner and Venezuela, Part 2

This week, we are pleased to feature a second guest post by Ethan King, one-time Special Collections graduate student assistant, who is now pursuing his Ph.D. in English at Boston University. Ethan takes a strong interest in Faulkner, and has generously written for us about Faulkner’s fascinating later-life work as a cultural ambassador, a subject featured in our current exhibition, Faulkner: Life and Works.

In my previous post, I examined the divergent geopolitical visions of William Faulkner and the U.S. State Department as manifested in their practices and attitudes before, during, and after Faulkner’s trip as a cultural ambassador to Venezuela in the spring of 1961. Impressed by those he met in Venezuela, and his sympathy elicited by stories about the difficulties for Latin Americans of publishing fiction in and outside of Latin America, Faulkner proposed the Ibero-American Novel Project, a competition administered by the Faulkner Foundation through which Latin American books could seek translation into English and publication in the United States. The plan was to identify the best novel written in each Latin American country since the end of World War II and not yet translated in English and reward those winners with a Certificate of Merit from the William Faulkner Foundation, with the overall winner receiving a plaque. The Foundation’s statement regarding the project is as follows:

Many novels of the highest literary quality written by Latin-American authors in their native languages are failing to reach appreciative readers in English-speaking North America; and accordingly the William Faulkner Foundation, at the suggestion of William Faulkner himself, is undertaking a modest corrective program in the hope of contributing to a better cultural exchange between the two Americas, with an attendant improvement in human relations and understanding (MSS 10677).

However, as Faulkner died soon into the Project’s infancy, the Project ran into a host of challenges and difficulties created by the market forces of the United States. Without the ability to offer a cash prize to the winners from each of the represented regions of Latin America, Project officials had hoped Faulkner’s prestige would be enough for publishers to take on Latin American novels to be translated and published in the US, but unfortunately, publishers often refused, citing lack of commercial interest.

Before his death, Faulkner chose Arnold del Greco, an associate professor of Romance Languages at the University of Virginia, to direct the Project. In del Greco’s own words in a 1974 letter to Martha Murray, a teaching assistant at Southern Methodist University, his role as Project director “entailed all aspects of [the] project: preparing program and announcements, appointing judges in each country (usually after receiving wide recommendations from critics, etc.), reviewing decisions through the home board, seeking publishes for the American editions, etc” (MSS 10677). Under del Greco’s tutelage, the Project sought to compose panels of three judges from each country, none of whom, the Foundation’s statement reveals, was “to be older than twenty-five years of age on the grounds that youngsters are best able to evaluate the work of their contemporaries.” Each panel of judges was to read all submitted novels from their nation and identify the best “on the basis of literary distinction and achievement” (MSS 10677). Although this part of the competition was supposed to be completed by the end of 1961, it was not until February of 1963—half a year after Faulkner’s death—that the prizewinners were announced.

List of prizewinners (MSS 10677).

After broadcasting these winners throughout the US and Latin America on the “Voice of America,” the Project moved into the next phase—the selection of the best overall novel. Based at the University of Virginia and composed of six doctoral students and two assistant professors, as well as del Greco himself, the final panel of judges selected Díaz Sánchez’s Cumboto to be the most outstanding novel. Despite its meritorious achievement, Cumboto followed an agonizing trajectory in its quest for translation and publication. In her essay on Faulkner’s Ibero-American project that appeared in The Southern Quarterly (Winter 2004), Deborah Cohn characterizes Cumboto as being a novel about “a rural black community and the problems of race relations and mestizaje in Venezuela” (12). Shortly after receiving the Project’s highest honor, the novel was initially considered for publication by the University of Virginia Press and Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. However, both rejected it outright. Over the next few years, del Greco offered the manuscript to over twenty different publishing companies, all of whom denied publication for the novel based on their readers’ active dislike of the novel as well as on the difficulties of finding a market for it in the U.S. For example, Frank Wardlaw, Director of the University of Texas Press, rejected del Greco’s request for them to consider the novel because the “principal advisors on our Latin American translation program […] are emphatic in their recommendation that we do not publish it. Quite frankly, they do not have a very high opinion of the novel” (MSS 10677). Another example from Eric Swenson, Vice President and Executive Editor at W.W. Norton & Company Inc.: “I am afraid [Cumboto] would elicit very little response from a broadly-based North American audience, which I suppose is another way of saying it does not seem to us to be important enough to be worth the time and effort of translation and publication” (MSS 10677). Though none of the editors indicated precisely why the novel would not be of interest to readers in the U.S., Cohn surmises that it had to do with the novel’s intense regionalism: that because of its “emphasis on local color, […] it was even less likely to be of interest to a US audience” (13). Or in other words, while Faulkner’s regional focus on the US South was critically lauded, regionalism employed by writers from Latin American countries struggled to reach a US audience.

Certificate of Merit for a Notable Novel (MSS 10677)

In a letter written to José Antonio Cordido-Freytes—a member of the Faulkner Foundation—Díaz Sánchez scathingly and articulately expressed his frustrations with the competition’s outcome, pointing out the very hierarchic geopolitical climate that the Project sought to break down:

The resistance of North American publishers to publish Latin American literary works is well known to me, which is more than sufficiently explained by the contempt with which the people of North America look down on our Southern countries, on their institutions, their history and their language. I had thought that the prize for a novel granted by the William Faulkner Foundation was actually aiming to help break down this barrier of contempt and inexorable utilitariarism [sic] which the North Americans have created between the two racial zones of the New World and to lend a bit of ethical and aesthetical dignity to the relationship between the greatest power of modern history and our small and under-developed nations. […] The only satisfaction and the only positive value that such a tournament could give us, the writers of Latin America, would be the publication in the U.S. of the books produced in our countries and which carry a message of good faith, because besides this there is nothing very attractive about the giving away of a metal disk not any more important or honoring than those distributed for propaganda purposes for international industrial products. By this I don’t intend to say that I consider the Faulkner Prize to be a mere artifice invented for advertising of one of these products, but the truth is that up to this moment, it looks quite a bit like it. […] Considering these circumstances, please tell me frankly: What is the efficacy of the Faulkner prize? (MSS 10677)

Charged by this letter to up the ante in seeking Cumboto’s publication in the US, the Foundation finally authorized a $2,000 allotment to bankroll its English publication, but this money didn’t help until two years later, when Wardlaw inexplicably agreed to review the novel again. Likely incentivized only by this money, Wardlaw commissioned its translation and publication in 1968. Heartbreakingly, however, Díaz Sánchez died a few months before its publication, never seeing his translated work circulating in the United States, nor his nomination for the National Book Award that year.

Iber0-American Novel Plaque (MSS 10677).

While the Ibero-American Project set out to “contribut[e] to a better cultural exchange between the two Americas,” it is hard to see anything but its unfulfilled potential from the sad tales of its outcome. Although Coronación and El señor presidente, as well as novels not entered into the competition by Mallea and Marqués, were published in English, Cohn points out that “no work by any of the other prizewinning authors has ever been published in English” (11). One wonders, then, as Díaz Sánchez did, “What is the efficacy of the Faulkner prize?” Perhaps if Faulkner himself had lived past the Project’s infancy, he could have wielded his tremendous literary weight among US publishing to better effect in achieving its goals.

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