The Book of Emma Reyes

The Book of Emma Reyes

by Emma Reyes, Daniel Alarcón, Daniel Alarcón

Price: $24.00(Hardcover)
Published: August 08, 2017
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From the Publisher: A literary discovery: an extraordinary account, in the tradition of The House on Mango Street and Angela’s Ashes, of a Colombian woman’s harrowing childhood
This astonishing memoir of a childhood lived in extreme poverty in Latin America was hailed as an instant classic when first published in Colombia in 2012, nine years after the death of its author, who was encouraged in her writing by Gabriel García Márquez. Comprised of letters written over the course of thirty years, and translated and introduced by acclaimed Peruvian-American writer Daniel Alarcón, it describes in vivid, painterly detail the remarkable courage and limitless imagination of a young girl growing up with nothing.
Emma was an illegitimate child, raised in a windowless room in Bogotá with no water or toilet and only ingenuity to keep her and her sister alive. Abandoned by their mother, she and her sister moved to a convent housing 150 orphan girls, where they washed pots, ironed and mended laundry, scrubbed floors, cleaned bathrooms, and sewed garments and decorative cloths for church. Illiterate and knowing nothing of the outside world, Emma escaped at age nineteen, eventually coming to have a career as an artist and to befriend the likes of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera as well as European artists and intellectuals. Far from self-pitying, the portrait that emerges from this clear-eyed account inspires awe at the stunning early life of a gifted writer whose talent remained hidden for far too long.
For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

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What We Say

Why are we so fascinated by stories of brutal, difficult or just plain desperately poor childhoods? Think Angela's Ashes or The Glass Wall or a million other titles. Many reasons, perhaps, but when they're written so well as this, perhaps it doesn't matter. The Colombian artist Reyes was indeed desperately poor as a child and then escaped (!) a life in a convent at 19 years old. Her memoir in letters was discovered after she died and has become a critically acclaimed sensation in Latin America.

What Others Say

“Some works of art feel more unlikely, more miraculous than others, and Emma Reyes’s remarkable epistolary memoir is one of them. . . . I don’t think I’ve read many books of such power and grace, or that pack such an emotional wallop in so short a space. . . . There is no self-pity, only wonder, and that tone, so delicate and subtle, is perhaps the book’s greatest achievement. . . . The very fact that this book exists is extraordinary. Everything about it . . . is astonishing.” —Daniel Alarcón, from the Introduction

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About The Author
Emma Reyes, Daniel Alarcón, Daniel Alarcón
Emma Reyes (1919–2003) was a Colombian painter and intellectual whose letters were first published in 2012. She grew up in extreme poverty and escaped a convent for orphan girls at age nineteen. Illiterate, she traveled wherever she could and dedicated most of her life to painting and drawing, slowly breaking through as an artist and forging friendships with some of the most distinguished European and Latin American artists, writers, and intellectuals of the twentieth century. She lived in Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Jerusalem, Washington, and Rome before settling in Paris. The year she passed away, the French government named her a Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters.
Daniel Alarcón (translator/introducer) is a Peruvian-American writer and one of The New Yorker’s “20 under 40” best fiction writers. His books include the novel At Night We Walk in Circles, which was a finalist for the 2014 PEN/Faulkner Award; the story collection War by Candlelight; and the novel Lost City Radio, and his writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Granta, n+1, and Harper’s Magazine. He is Executive Producer of Radio Ambulante and teaches at the Columbia University School of Journalism.
Release Info
  • $24.00 (Hardcover)
  • August 08, 2017
  • Penguin Classics
  • 208
  • 0143108689
  • 9780143108689