October 23, 2015 Marie Arana Named Kluge Chair in Countries and Cultures of the South

Press Contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639
Public Contact: Jason Steinhauer (202) 707-0213

Author and journalist Marie Arana has been named the John W. Kluge Chair in Countries and Cultures of the South at the Library of Congress. Her four-month tenure started this week.

A prior distinguished visiting scholar at the Kluge Center in 2009, Arana is an author of both fiction and non-fiction. Her most recent work, which she researched at the Kluge Center, is “Bolívar: American Liberator,” a 2014 biography of the South American revolutionary leader. Other books include two acclaimed novels, “Lima Nights” and “Cellophane”; a memoir “American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood”; and a collection of essays, “The Writing Life.” From 1999 to 2008, Arana was editor-in-chief of Book World, the literary section of The Washington Post. She currently serves on the Library of Congress Scholars Council.

At the Kluge Center, Arana will research a new book about three obsessions that, she asserts, have held Latin Americans in their grip for the past thousand years. The first is a passion for excavating precious metals. According to Arana, it is an obsession that “burned brightly in pre-Columbian times, consumed Spain in its relentless conquest of America, drove a cruel system of slavery and colonial exploitation, sparked a revolution, addled the region’s stability for centuries, and has morphed into Latin America’s hope for the future.”

The second passion she calls “the sword,” a culture of violence. Arana says it is “the proclivity—as Gabriel García Márquez, José Martí, Mario Vargas Llosa and other Latin American thinkers have put it—to solve problems by unilateral and alarming shows of power.”

The third obsession that she will explore is “the stone.” Arana describes this as the “region’s fervent adherence to religious institutions, whether they are temples, churches, elaborate cathedrals, or simple piles of rock meant to honor the earth goddess, Pachamama.

Arana will deliver a public lecture on her work as part of her residency.

In addition to her books, Arana has written cultural commentary for the New York Times, the National Geographic, the International Herald Tribune, Spain’s El País and Peru’s El Comercio, among many publications. She has chaired juries for the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle and the National Book Award. Her biography of Simón Bolívar won the 2014 Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and her memoir was a finalist for the 2001 National Book Award and the PEN/Memoir Award.

The Kluge Chair in Countries and Cultures of the South is a distinguished senior research position in residence at the Library, appointed by the Librarian of Congress. Using research facilities and services at the Library, the scholar is expected to explore the history of the regions of Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia, and the islands of the Pacific including Australia and New Zealand, using the immense foreign-language collections of the Library of Congress.

Through a generous endowment from John W. Kluge, the Library of Congress established the Kluge Center in 2000 to bring together the world’s best thinkers to stimulate and energize one another, to distill wisdom from the Library’s rich resources and to interact with policymakers in Washington. For more information about the Kluge Center, visit loc.gov/kluge/.

The Library of Congress, the nation’s first-established federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, holds more than 160 million items in various languages, disciplines and formats. The Library serves the U.S. Congress and the nation both on-site in its reading rooms on Capitol Hill and through its award-winning website at loc.gov.


PR 15-191
ISSN 0731-3527