From the magic realism of the tropics to the ‘gritty city’, Latin American literature is as rich and beguiling as the region itself
A sense of place often has a political edge in Latin American writing. Even magic realism – which takes fantastic liberties with the contours of cities and pueblos, jungles and rivers – is rooted in the living, breathing, dying and warring world of its characters. Over five centuries, Hispanic authors have loaned from and contested European ideas about their world, adapting imported traditions (from naturalism to crime fiction to stream-of-consciousness) and reworking them to bring to life the vibrancy and vicissitudes of their youthful continent. The best novels are as alluring and stimulating as the most atmospheric places. To choose just 10 was only possible by imagining I was packing for a long road trip with limited baggage. I would take these, a comfortable hammock and a sturdy pillow.