Manrique, Jaime 1949–
Manrique, Jaime 1949–
(Jaime Manrique Ardila)
PERSONAL: Born June 16, 1949, in Barranquilla, Colombia; naturalized U.S. citizen; son of Gustavo (a farmer) and Soledad Manrique. Education: University of South Florida, B.A., 1972; attended Columbia University, 1977. Politics: Democrat. Religion: "Lapsed Catholic." Hobbies and other interests: Hiking, travel, the movies.
ADDRESSES: Home—New York, NY. Office—School of the Arts, Columbia University, 415 Dodge Hall, Mail Code: 1804, 2960 Broadway, New York, NY 10027. Agent—Malaga Baldi, 2112 Broadway, Suite 403, New York, NY 10023.
CAREER: Eugene Lang College, New York City, part-time faculty member, 1988–92; Goddard College, Plain-field, VT, associate professor, 1992–94; School of the Arts, Columbia University, New York, NY, member of adjunct faculty, MFA program, 1998–99, currently associate professor. Writer-in-residence, New School for Social Research, 1989–91; visiting professor, Mt. Holyoke College, 1995.
MEMBER: International PEN (chair of AIDS Committee at American Center), PEN American Center.
AWARDS, HONORS: Colombian National Poetry Award, 1975; grant from Foundation for Performance of Contemporary Arts, 1999; fellowship in fiction, New York Foundation for the Arts, 2000; Guggenheim fellowship in general nonfiction, 2000.
Colombian Gold: A Novel of Power and Corruption, C.N. Potter (New York, NY), 1983.
Latin Moon in Manhattan, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1992.
Twilight at the Equator, Faber (Boston, MA), 1997, University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 2003.
Our Lives Are the Rivers: A Novel, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2006.
Scarecrow, Groundwater Press (Hudson, NY), 1990.
My Night with Federico Garcia Lorca, Painted Leaf Press (New York, NY), 1997.
(Translator with Joan Larkin) Sor Juana's Love Poems: In Spanish and English, Painted Leaf Press (New York, NY), 1997.
Tarzan/My Body/Christopher Columbus, introduction by Reinaldo Arenas, translation by Edith Grossman and Margaret Sayers Peden, Painted Leaf Press (New York, NY), 2001.
The Autobiography of Bill Sullivan, Groundwater Press (Hudson, NY), 2006.
Also author of the poem Christopher Columbus on His Deathbed.
Los adoradores de la luna, Instituto de Cultura y Bellas Artes (Cucuta, Colombia), 1976.
El cadaver de papa; y, versiones poeticas, Colcultura (Bogota, Colombia), 1978.
Notas de cine: Confesiones de un critico amateur, Carlos Valencia Editores (Bogota, Colombia), 1979.
Mi Cuerpo y otros poemas, Casa Silva (Bogota, Colombia), 1999.
(Translator with Larkin) Juana Inés de la Cruz, Sor Juana's Love Poems, University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 2003.
(Editor, with Jesse Dorris) Besame Mucho (short story collection), Painted Leaf Press (New York, NY), 1999.
Eminent Maricones: Arenas, Lorca, Puig, and Me (nonfiction), University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 1999.
SIDELIGHTS: Jaime Manrique is a Latino author whose works challenge the homophobia and machismo that are so deeply ingrained in the Latin culture. Born in Columbia, he came with his family to Florida as a teenager, eventually taking up residence in New York City. He once told CA: "I think of myself as a bilingual, bicultural writer…. In my fiction, I am trying to reflect the two cultures that have shaped me…. What I want to do, as a writer, is to explore the two cultures, the two countries, from the perspective of a gay Latino living in New York City."
Manrique was born out of wedlock to a woman from the Colombian countryside and a member of the country's white ruling class. Although his father gave him and his sister some financial support, their existence was far from secure. As he entered adolescence, Manrique slowly became aware of literature and his homosexual orientation. The intense homophobia of his homeland caused him to lead a life filled with guilt, secrecy, and self-loathing. Moving to the United States enabled him to finally "come out" and begin to accept himself. His first major literary work, the 1978 novella El Cadaver de Papa; y, versiones poeticas, features a gay protagonist who murders his father and then, dressed in drag, attempts to seduce his macho father-in-law. El Cadaver de Papa was "denounced and acclaimed," according to George de Stefano in the Nation; the novel became a best-seller in Colombia. Colombian Gold: A Novel of Power and Corruption, published in English in 1983, was a partial reworking of El Cadaver, with elaboration on the themes of political corruption and masculine oppression.
Manrique described his early years in Eminent Maricones: Arenas, Lorca, Puig, and Me. In this collection of short pieces, he presented his own story and that of three other gay Latin writers who profoundly influenced him: Argentine novelist Manuel Puig, Cuban exile Reinaldo Arenas, and Federico Garcia Lorca, the Spanish dramatist and poet. All of them experienced political persecution; Lorca was murdered under Francisco Franco's regime, while Arenas and Puig died AIDS-related deaths. De Stefano praised Manrique's portraits, noting that "though [they] come to bad ends, he never depicts them as exemplars of gay victimhood. They are brilliant, groundbreaking artists who live outsized, even epic, lives. Each is heroic in his own way, and each experiences triumph as well as tragedy. Manrique brings to their stories a novelist's eye for the telling detail and a poet's gift for metaphor and condensation." Similarly, Barbara Hoffert, writing in the Library Journal, felt that Manrique relates the experiences of these gay artists "with sensitivity and imagination." Noting that Man-rique's title echoed that of Lytton Strachey's Eminent Victorians, George Monteiro, writing in Melus, felt "it is an act of courage and bravado for this too-readily pigeonholed writer to link up his autobiographical and biographical work to the most famous title by a male predecessor who was as white and as Anglo-Saxon and as gay as he could possibly be."
In his 1997 novel Twilight at the Equator, Manrique wove an episodic story of a young writer who leaves Colombia for Madrid, New York, and Barcelona. He frequently finds himself feeling homesick for his hometown, which he has romanticized as a peaceful paradise instead of the repressed, drug-ridden city that it is. "This eloquent work, like its characters, has more in common with stoic American literary traditions than its ardent Latin counterparts," commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer. "It draws upon the American voice of loneliness and a soul at once adrift yet locked into the United States…. Much more than the semiautobiographical story the novel claims to be, this boisterous and tragic work addresses issues of solitude, exile and self-discovery with generous feeling and honest emotion."
Manrique published Our Lives Are the Rivers: A Novel, in 2006. A work of historical fiction, Our Lives Are the Rivers, chronicles the life of Manuela Saenz, proto-feminist, a fighter for South American independence from Spain, and the lover of Simon Bolivar. Reviewing the novel in the Library Journal, Sofia A. Tangalos called it a "compelling (if a tad long) and plausible interpretation." Similarly, Booklist contributor Marta Segal Block found the book "occasionally repetitive," but commended the "fascinating history" and "characters [that] move the story along at a quick pace." Higher praise came from a Publishers Weekly critic who called the same work an "epic page-turner that swells with ecstatic love and righteous anger."
Manrique is also a highly praised poet. His 2001 collection, Tarzan/My Body/Christopher Columbus, gathers work originally published in Spanish as well as material composed in English. Ray Olson, reviewing the volume in Booklist noted that "U.S. poets seldom essay a manner as magisterial and romantic as Manrique's." Olson went on to note that Manrique's poetry "brings [Egyptian poet Constantine P.] Cavafy to mind." David Rosen, writing in the Lambda Book Report, had further praise for the same collection: "Manrique's poems spring from a fiery emotion-filled core; they glow from within. They are fueled by both real and imagined events in history and in this poet's Latino heritage and Anglo life experience."
Manrique commented to CA: "Perhaps the main reason I was drawn to writing is that I was still a child when I realized that I shared the same last name with Jorge Manrique, the medieval Spanish poet, widely considered to be the most influential and profound poet in the Spanish language. I was an asthmatic child, often unable to attend school. I read voraciously, with the intensity of an addict. By the time I finished reading the great European novels of the nineteenth century (beginning in my teens), my life was irrevocably changed. I was fiercely attached to these books and their heroes.
"The other great love of my life, my first passion, is the cinema. I've been a fanatic movie-goer since age seven, when I would skip school and go to the movies by myself. It was at the movies that my sexuality and my love for writing came together. I must have been fourteen when I discovered Oscar Wilde through the movie The Man with the Green Carnation. I can say that I started writing when my homosexual feelings exploded in me. It didn't occur to me to give a name to my sexual feelings, and it didn't enter my mind that it could be possible to write about these feelings. Therefore, my first poems, stories, and plays were about rain, fog, death, meaninglessness: subjects which mirrored my confusion and pain.
"In my novel Latin Moon in Manhattan, I wanted to give shape in fictional terms to my experience of several years as a Spanish interpreter in the American court system. The metaphor also worked for me in the sense that, as an expatriate, an adopted son of this country, I began to perceive my role as that of someone who essentially is trying to illuminate for Colombians, here and in the old country, what it means to be an immigrant in the United States as we approach a new millennium. I also wanted to interpret for Americans what it means to be a new immigrant: the kind that skips the ghetto altogether, the kind that learns English and the customs of the new country, the kind that is doubly marginalized because of his endangered sexuality."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Advocate, February 25, 1992, Sarah Schulman, review of Latin Moon in Manhattan, p. 82; April 25, 2006, Eduardo Santiago, review of Our Live Are the Rivers: A Novel, p. 64.
Booklist, June 1, 1999, Brad Hooper, review of Eminent Maricones: Arenas, Lorca, Puig, and Me. p. 1784; July, 1999, Brad Hooper, review of Besame Mucho: New Gay Latino Fiction, p. 1920; May 15, 2001, Ray Olson, review of Tarzan/My Body/Christopher Columbus, p. 1724; February 1, 2006, Marta Segal Block, review of Our Lives Are the Rivers: A Novel, p. 30.
Lambda Book Report, July, 2001, David Rosen, review of Tarzan/My Body/Christopher Columbus, p. 25.
Library Journal, July, 1999, David S. Azzolina, review of Besame Mucho, p. 138; August, 2001, Barbara Hoffert, review of Eminent Maricones, p. S75; February 1, 2006, Sofia A. Tangalos, review of Our Lives Are the Rivers, p. 73.
Melus, spring, 2001, George Monteiro, review of Eminent Maricones, p. 241.
Nation, September 6, 1999, George de Stefano, "Living La Vida Loca," p. 28.
New York Times Book Review, October 10, 1999, Daniel Mendelsohn, review of Eminent Maricones, p. 38.
Publishers Weekly, April 8, 1983, review of Colombian Gold: A Novel of Power and Corruption, p. 49; February 17, 1997, review of Twilight at the Equator, p. 211; May 31, 1999, review of Eminent Mari-cones, p 74; January 16, 2006, review of Our Lives Are the Rivers, p. 37.
School Library Journal, September, 2001, Barbara Hoffert, review of Eminent Maricones, p. S75.
HarperCollins Web site, http://www.harpercollins.com/ (September 29, 2006), "Jaime Manrique."
School of the Arts, Columbia University Web site, http://wwwapp.cc.columbia.edu/ (September 29, 2006), "Jaime Manrique."