Feds Spend $12,500 Translating Spanish Novel on ‘Heterosexual Privilege’

NEA grant to translate novel ‘El gato de si mismo,’ or ‘The Cat Himself’

• February 26, 2015 5:00 am


The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) spent $12,500 to translate a Spanish novel on "homophobia," which "examines heterosexual privilege and queer resilience."

El gato de si mismo, or The Cat Himself, is a 2005 novel by Uriel Quesada, the director of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at Loyola University, New Orleans.

The NEA issued the grant because of the book’s subject matter.

"One of the few Spanish-language novels that addresses homophobia, Quesada's book examines heterosexual privilege and queer resilience in 21st-century Latin America through allusions to literary history and Hispanic Catholic culture," the federal agency said in a description for the grant. El gato de si mismo received Costa Rica's National Literary Award in 2006."

A Google translation of the book’s Amazon description said the novel is like a "science fiction detective story," that journeys "into schizophrenia" and "repressed" discourse.

"Uriel Quesada's narrative could be defined as a written ‘from the closet’, understood as a place of identity, law enforcement, mental and linguistic space," it said.

"The main character is recognized by several names and personalities, and can only deal with the surrounding reality ‘alegorizándola’ through the language of fairy tales," the description continues. "…[T]he return home—a reality—is an equally schizophrenic world and a reaffirmation of parental homophobia despite the elapsed time."

Amanda Powell, a poet and translator who teaches Latin American and Spanish literature and literary translation at the University of Oregon, is translating the book for the NEA.

The NEA said Powell has, "traveled extensively in Spain and Mexico and is currently the director of Mundo a Mundo/World to World, a summer workshop on literary translation in Queretaro, Mexico."

Powell often collaborates with Electa Arenal, a translator and specialist in 16th to 18th century Hispanic women's culture, after the two met on an elevator three decades ago heading to a "meeting of Feministas Unidas of the Modern Language Association."

"Their thirty-plus year collaboration, still going strong, set off a change in the study of ‘golden age’ Spanish and Latin American literature by presenting ‘missing’ women writers presumed nonexistent," the Feminist Press writes.