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The Book of Emma Reyes: A Memoir in Correspondence

Emma Reyes

5 Reviews

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Colombia, Diaries, letters & journals, Memoirs, Prose: non-fiction

The extraordinary, posthumously published memoir in letters of a Colombian artist whose writing was championed by Gabriel Garcia Marquez - 'startling and astringently poetic' The New York Times

In this startlingly original memoir, composed of twenty-three letters written over the course of thirty years, Emma Reyes describes in vivid, painterly detail the remarkable courage and limitless imagination of a young girl growing up with nothing. Hailed as an instant classic when first published in Colombia in 2012, nine years after the death of its author, the portrait that emerges from this clear-eyed account inspires awe at the stunning early life of a gifted writer and artist who was encouraged in her writing by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but whose talent remained hidden for far too long.

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Praise for The Book of Emma Reyes: A Memoir in Correspondence

  • The moment I finished this memoir I read it again - one simply can't abandon Emma. And I've been speculating ever since about how she made it once she'd escaped her terrible childhood. One is deeply grateful to know as a fact - an almost inconceivable fact - that she triumphed, but longs to know how. No other book I've ever read has left me so deeply involved with its author, and so grateful for that involvement

  • Unadulteratedly good, interesting and important. Emma's letters remind me what reading and writing are for

  • A jewel of a book. Emma is a mesmerising storyteller and her letters had me completely gripped from beginning to end

  • What an astonishing book - I read it in a single gulp. Emma Reyes had a childhood of staggering deprivation but her humour and resilience shine through, and suddenly we have a modern classic

  • As poetic as it is horrific. The young Emma injects magic into the realism and vice versa - not for nothing is Reyes a compatriot of Marquez . . . an act of freedom both intimate and epic - OBSERVER

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Emma Reyes

Emma Reyes (1919-2003) was a Colombian painter and intellectual whose letters were first published in 2012. She grew up in extreme poverty and escaped a convent for orphan girls at age nineteen. Illiterate, she travelled wherever she could and dedicated most of her life to painting and drawing, slowly breaking through as an artist and forging friendships with some of the most distinguished European and Latin American artists, writers and intellectuals of the twentieth century. She lived in Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Jerusalem, Washington and Rome before settling in Paris. The year she passed away, the French government named her a Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters.