PALABRA Archive Launches 50 Previously Unpublished Audio Recordings

The following is a post by Catalina Gómez, reference librarian in the Library’s Hispanic Reading Room. It originally appeared on 4 Corners of the World: International Collections.

The Hispanic Reading Room is happy to announce the release of 50 previously unpublished recordings from the PALABRA Archive for online streaming. Every year, as is tradition, a brand new batch of material from this historic literary collection is made available for online listeners worldwide during National Hispanic Heritage Month, which spans from September 15 to October 15. With this new launch, 370 of the archive’s 818 recorded sessions are now accessible to anyone with an internet connection.

Logo of the PALABRA Archive. Text reads PALABRA Archive 2021 digital release

PALABRA Archive. Library of Congress Hispanic Reading Room.

This year’s batch of recordings includes a wonderful array of literary figures from all over Latin America, the U.S., the Iberian Peninsula, and the Caribbean, including award-winning Mexican author Elena Poniatowska; esteemed Cuban-American author, poet, and anthropologist Ruth Behar; and renowned Portuguese author Dulce María Cardoso.

Also included in this new group of recordings is a rare interview by Scottish poet, scholar, and translator Alastair Reid with Jorge Luis Borges. One of four recordings that Borges did for the archive, the interview was recorded during his last visit to the Library in 1984, two years before his death. Offering a valuable addition to the history of Luso-Hispanic studies and the history of the Library, another recorded interview features preeminent historian Lewis Hanke discussing his roles as the first director of the Hispanic Foundation (now the Hispanic Reading Room) of the Library of Congress and the founding editor of the Handbook of Latin American Studies.

The PALABRA Archive is a collection of original audio recordings of 20th- and 21st-century Luso-Hispanic poets and writers reading from their works. With recorded authors from all over Latin America, the Iberian Peninsula, the Caribbean, and other regions with Hispanic and Portuguese heritage populations, the archive has to date more than 800 recordings, a portion of which are available for online streaming.

Historically known as the Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape (AHLOT), PALABRA has been curated by the Library of Congress Hispanic Reading Room since 1943. It includes sessions with figures such as Nobel Laureates Gabriel García Márquez, Pablo Neruda, Gabriela Mistral, Juan Ramón Jiménez, and with other noteworthy figures like Jorge Luis Borges, Isabel Allende, and Julio Cortázar.

The majority of the recordings from this collection are in Spanish, English and Portuguese, but the archive also includes sessions in Catalan, Basque, French, Dutch, Creole and Indigenous languages, including Náhuatl, Zapotec, Quechua, and Aymara. Today, curators in the Hispanic Reading Room continue to capture voices of contemporary literary figures for the collection.

We hope you enjoy our 2021 release!

“Novels Arise Out of the Shortcomings of History”: An Interview with Juan Gabriel Vásquez

The following interview with Juan Gabriel Vásquez was conducted in 2016 as part of the Poetry and Literature Center’s online Interview Series. The series featured emerging and established literary writers in dynamic and thought-provoking conversation. Though the series is no longer active, From the Catbird Seat is reprinting these interviews to bring them new light.