Lucía Charún-Illescas left Peru 20 years ago because she could not make a living as a writer.
She resides in Hamburg, Germany, and said she felt the solitude of being an Afro-Hispanic author in a small Latin American community.
“I live very much in my language,” she said during one of the sessions.
On Friday and Saturday, Charún-Illescas discussed her writings and her solitude at “Transnational Identities: Afro-Hispanic Literature of European Exile,” a conference sponsored by MU’s Afro-Romance Institute.
Marvin Lewis, director of the institute, and Mary Jo Muratore, a French professor at MU, invited Charún-Illescas; Donato Ndongo-Bidyogo, a visiting professor at MU and exiled author from Equatorial Guinea; and Afro-Hispanic scholars from 10 universities to the conference.
The conference focused on the works of the two black exiled authors, both of whom write in Spanish.
Charún-Illescas discussed Afro-Peruvians in past and present Peru during one of the conference’s plenary sessions.
She also answered questions about her novel, “Malambo,” which has recently been translated into English.
Muratore said the conference served to expose the works of exiled Afro-Hispanic writers, and it marked the first stage of a mini Midwest book tour for Charún-Illescas.
Ndongo-Bidyogo presented at the conference and spoke on exile and the literary process.
He also answered questions about his novels, such as how to obtain copies of the book and about the complexities of its characters.
Muratore said Ndongo-Bidyogo had almost finished the third part of his trilogy, though the conference focused on the first installment, “Las tinieblas de tu memoria negra,” which means “the darkness of your black memory.”
Olga Arbeláez, a professor of Spanish and Latin American literature at Saint Louis University, came to the conference to listen and present, despite being in the middle of her semester.
“There are few times in your life that you can get to meet some of these writers,” she said.