23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023

Mayra Santos-Febres

Mayra Santos-Febres was Born in 1966 in Carolina, Puerto Rico. She studied at the Universidad de Puerto Rico, where she today holds a professorship and leads a writing workshop. She gained a Master of Arts degree and a doctorate at Cornell University and as a guest lecturer, she has taught at numerous American universities, including Harvard and Cornell. Santos-Febres is director of the Festival de la Palabra, Puerto Rico/New York.

She had already attracted attention with her collections of poetry, »Anamú y manigua« (1990) and »El orden escapado« (1991). With glimpses of magic realism the fifteen prose miniatures in, »Pez de vidrio« (1994; En. »Urban Oracles«, 1997) sketch the libidinal desires and pleasures of various characters – from the beguiling use of a perfume as olfactory communication to the voyeuristic ritual of a lonely woman who watches her neighbours dress every evening. Formally diverse, these short, sometimes very short, stories gain a political and social dimension, as Santos-Febres casually incorporates issues of status, ethnicity and her subjects’ sexual identities. The latter theme was developed in her debut novel, »Sirena Selena vestida de pena« (2000; En. »Sirena Selena«, 2000), which is about a talented singing transvestite who seduces a wealthy hotel investor. The nocturnal metropolis of San Juan serves as the atmospheric setting for »Cualquier miércoles soy tuya« (2002; En. »Any Wednesday I’m Yours«, 2005). In »Nuestra Señora de la Noche« (2006; En. »Our Lady of the Night«, 2009) she traces the life of Isabel »la Negra« Luberza, who becomes a prominent and influential brothel owner after a childhood in poverty. A selection of her poems has been available in German translation since 2011. They form a lavishly illustrated cross-section of the society, history and culture of the Caribbean archipelago, incorporating remnants of the colonial era with scenes of contemporary tourism and constituting a corrective to the remote European perspective on the socio-cultural conditions of her homeland. In addition to snapshots of the urban agglomeration of San Juan’s Santurce Barrio she also captures her impressions of a visit to Berlin in a poem.

Santos-Febres’ Texts have appeared in the Argentine newspaper, »Página/12«, the French magazine, »Revue Noire« as well as in the »Review of Latin American Literature and Arts«. In addition, she wrote the screenplay for the feature film »Kabo & Platón« (2009). Her awards include the Juan Rulfo Award (1996), the Puerto Rico PEN Award (2001), Puerto Rico’s Premio Nacional de Literatura (2007). She was elected a Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation in 2009. Santos-Febres lives in Puerto Rico.