Fantastic voyages of “professional foreigner”

Eduardo Garcia Aguilar’s newly translated work discovers the lessons of global exploration

PHOTO COURTESY EDUARDO GARCIA AGUILAR

Ashley Goetz

PHOTO COURTESY EDUARDO GARCIA AGUILAR

âÄúThe Triumphant VoyageâÄù AUTHOR: Eduardo García Aguilar, translated into English by Jay Miskowiec PUBLISHER: Aliform Publishing PAGES: 272 PRICE: $15.95 To Eduardo García Aguilar, writing a novel requires a deep investment of personal experience. It isnâÄôt something that happens without the intimate commitment of the author. âÄúA good writer must build up strength and momentum to create a good novel,âÄù he explains in Spanish through his longtime friend and translator Jay Miskowiec. Miskowiec recently translated his novel âÄúThe Triumphant VoyageâÄù into English after it was awarded the 2008 National Translation Grant from the Colombian Ministry of Culture . Given AguilarâÄôs life as a âÄúprofessional foreigner,âÄù it isnâÄôt surprising that his novel is a story of global adventure not unlike his own. Ever since he was a little boy in Colombia, Aguilar has had the dream of experiencing all that the world has to offer. âÄúI dreamt of snow,âÄù says Aguilar, who had become enchanted with the world outside of his conflict-stricken home. Aguilar left Colombia in the early âÄô70s when he was 19 to attend school in Paris . Since then, Aguilar has become a man of letters and multiple homelands, roaming the globe to pursue his writing and the adventures of life. âÄúThe Triumphant VoyageâÄù follows Arnaldo Faría Utrillo, a precocious foreign correspondent and poet at heart as he travels around the world taking part in all kinds of colorful escapades. Arnaldo finds himself traveling to San Francisco, Mexico, Africa and Asia as one thing leads to another. The character of Arnaldo lives as a âÄúprofessional foreigner,âÄù a global citizen who does not believe his country of origin to be his only home. Though the story operates in turn-of-the-century settings, the character of the fantastic literary adventurer is far from extinction, believes Aguilar. In fact, modern technologies have made it easier for people to connect with one another, making âÄúprofessional foreignersâÄù out of all of us. Aguilar uses President Barack Obama as a prime example of a modern âÄúprofessional foreigner.âÄù Obama, born in Hawaii to parents from Kansas and Kenya, spent time in California and Indonesia before becoming president. âÄúLatin Americans are happy with the election of Obama,âÄù says Aguilar, who hopes the president can work to bring his own experience of internationalism to the White House and break down nationalistic barriers. âÄúThis is the great dream of the enlightenment, that we would be a world without borders,âÄù says Aguilar. Much like VoltaireâÄôs epic story âÄúCandide ,âÄù âÄúThe Triumphant VoyageâÄù has the feel of a tragic comedy. ArnaldoâÄôs adventures take him with the best and the worst of society, and although his character is decidedly hedonistic, he is forced to deal with some heavy issues. Aguilar draws parallels between ArnaldoâÄôs story and the world today. âÄúThe world we are living in right now is a tragic comedy in some ways,âÄù says Aguilar, pointing to the current economic crisis and players such as Bernie Madoff . âÄúThereâÄôs someone who gambles with the lives of many.âÄù AguilarâÄôs style of writing is rich. He creates vivid portraits of ArnaldoâÄôs locations and compatriots, though he does not stray far from a maxim of Baltasar Gracián that he is fond of: âÄúLo bueno, si breve, dos veces bueno âÄú âÄî âÄúwhatâÄôs good, if short, is twice as good.âÄù Both Aguilar and his character Arnaldo share a love for the art of literature that is laid clear in âÄúThe Triumphant Voyage.âÄù Literature is powerful, explains Aguilar; it is how the records of our world are made. âÄúBesides,âÄù he adds, âÄúI owe the realization of my dreams to literature.âÄù