Spanish-Argentinian author Andrés Neuman discussed and read from his newest book, How to Travel without Seeing: Dispatches from the New Latin America, at the first event at new café-bookstore Bird in Hand. The reading, co-sponsored by the Alexander Grass Humanities Institute (AGHI) and the Program in Latin American Studies, took place on Thursday, Nov. 10.
Professor William Egginton, director of the AGHI, expressed his excitement to begin a relationship with the local bookstore.
“This is our first collaboration and I am so excited for this beginning of a new, long relationship between Hopkins and Bird in Hand,” Egginton said. “The Grass Institute is delighted to be in this space and to inaugurate it this way with Andrés Neuman, who happens to be one of the shining lights in Latin-American literary arts, is wonderful.”
Egginton spoke about the partnership between the University and Bird in Hand moving forward.
“The idea... of having a true collaboration between the humanities and literary arts on campus is one of the things I’ve been most excited about,” Eggington said.
Ed Berlin, curator for the Ivy Bookshop, also noted the café’s role as the main local venue for events in the future because of its close proximity to the University.
Before getting into the content of his book, Neuman acknowledged how he felt honored to be a part of Bird in Hand’s first event.
“I’m surprised and moved to be the first one to take part of a long list, I hope, of wonderful events that you are going to have very soon in this beautiful place,” he said. “It is in places like this, as I have found all over the world, that we can really come together and celebrate literature and what connects us in so many ways.”
How to Travel without Seeing, Neuman’s latest nonfiction work, features his experience on a fast-paced tour of 19 Latin-American countries after winning the Premio Alfaguara de Novela, a prominent Spanish-language literary award.
Neuman explained the purpose of his trip as trying to experience each country to the best of his ability in one single stroke.
“In this crazy whirlwind of a book tour, I realized that I was going to do a hyperbolic version of what we call postmodern tourism,” he said. “It is spending a weekend in an unknown place, taking a cab, checking into the hotel, getting excited to go out and then maybe having one day to see the place and then [coming] back home and wondering whether you saw something or not.”
On his journey, which he details in his book, he sought to observe and compare the environments of the several different countries through an idea French anthropologist Marc Augé coined as “non-places.”
“It’s a theory about places that are the same everywhere, just normal, places like the airport, station, hotel or even a taxi,” Neuman said. “So, I didn’t have to be a genius or someone who had already traveled the world to write the content of this book, I just needed to be very good at seeing things and paying attention.”
Junior Princess Sutherland enjoyed Neaman’s talk and reading, as she appreciated the central message of the book and his telling of a few specific events that occurred on his trip.
“It’s really cool how he visited all of those different countries and kept to the theme of his book to pay attention to everything,” Sutherland said. “The different comparisons he made between things in different countries were really interesting, like the taxi drivers in Argentina talking about their political views right away, while the ones in Bolivia wouldn’t even be saying anything until he had them open up.”
Junior Kailyn Fiocca also appreciated having the new café bookstore as an event space.
“It’s awesome to have a place like this where we can hold events and have it not be on campus,” Fiocca said. “By having university events held here, it feels like something not purely academic in a way but just another way that Hopkins can interact with the local community in a more personal, laid-back setting that also has coffee.”