The bilingual edition of Horacio Quiroga’s Cuentos de la selva/Jungle Tales forms part of the Billiken Centenary Project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).
The book launch took place in the Colegio del Arce in Buenos Aires in April 2019.
Cuentos de la selva/Jungle Tales – Text taken from the prologue of the Biblioteca Billiken bilingual edition
Horacio Quiroga is considered one of Latin America’s great writers and a master of the short story thanks to collections including Stories of Love, Madness, and Death (1917). He was identified less as a children’s writer despite returning to this genre throughout his career. In Jungle Tales, Quiroga narrates episodes of the lives of animals —and their occasional alliances with humans—from the jungle of Misiones, a province in the North East of Argentina. Jungle Tales is Quiroga’s most famous collection for children and was one of the first works of Latin American children’s literature. Today, it is still read by girls and boys from all over Latin America.
Jungle Tales for Children was published as a book in 1918 but the collection’s eight stories had first appeared in the Argentine magazines Fray Mocho, El Hogar and Caras y Caretas. Quiroga contributed to different newspapers and periodicals from 1897 every year until his death in 1937. In 1900 Quiroga had won second prize in a Latin American short story competition for ‘Story Without Reason But Tired’, which he submitted under the pseudonym Aquilino Delagoa. The interesting detail here is that the competition had been organised by Constancio C. Vigil who would go on to found the publishing house Editorial Atlántida.
QUIROGA IN BILLIKEN
In 1919 Vigil founded Billiken magazine which today is one of the world’s longest-running children’s magazines. Although Billiken is known for its educational content, it published many short and serialised stories during its first decades. Many of these had originally been published in Europe and some were by famous authors like Rudyard Kipling —one of Quiroga’s literary inspirations. In 1924 Quiroga wrote a series of ten original stories for Billiken which appeared in the magazine anonymously. The series was called Man Against the Beasts and it was published in later anthologies as Letters from a Hunter.
A LIBRARY OF CLASSICS FOR CHILDREN
In 1929 Editorial Atlántida launched The Billiken Library, a collection of books adapted for children and divided into different subseries. The green series was dedicated to ‘famous lives’. The blue series offered ‘Works, Deeds and Men of America’ including novels such as The Last of the Mohicans and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn alongside biographies of the continent’s founding fathers (like Sarmiento and Washington, for example). The red series was reserved for ‘canonical works of universal literature in abbreviated versions and within children’s reach’ and included such authors as Dickens, Schiller and Cervantes. Over one hundred titles were published within The Billiken Library and in 1999 it was re-launched in paperback format under the name The New Billiken Library.
TRANSLATIONS INTO ENGLISH
Cuentos de la selva was first translated into English in 1922. For this centenary bilingual edition we have chosen Jeff Zorrilla and Natalia Cortesi’s translation which sets out to expand the spectrum of literature for English-speaking children and teenagers and to introduce them to new cultures and a different way of seeing the world.
Our hope for this first bilingual edition of The New Billiken Library is that it will encourage students of Spanish and English, of any age, to explore Jungle Tales, a classic of Latin American children’s literature.
The prologue is based in research published in the article:
Rea, L. ‘Horacio Quiroga and Constancio C. Vigil Trajectories in Argentine Children’s Literature.’ International Research in Children’s Literature 12.1 (2019): 76–89.