Ruby Spark El Lector/ The reader

  • Tauira / Student
    Ruby Spark
  • Kaiako / Lecturers
    Katie Kerr, Tatiana Tavares

“El Lector/ The reader” is a self-authored short story set in 1930’s pre-revolutionary Cuba. It is written in both English and Spanish, my mother tongue and the mother tongue of the characters in my story. Embedded throughout this narrative are newspaper articles from Cuban and New Zealand publications of the 1930s alongside revolutionary poems and paintings from Latin American artists from the same era. These found materials provided context as historical references to the fictional story. Footnotes translating Cuban slang and expanding upon artists and poets works capture the nuance of this cultural revolution.

The bilingual narrative was driven by a desire to connect with the characters, their wider socio-political world, and to engage with a culture and language outside of my own. This need to immerse myself as the author into the world of the characters is present in the hand-painted illustrations that accompany the revolutionary paintings. Through understanding the artists’ work I was better able to situate this story in the colour, texture and vibrancy of the Latin American revolution.

I have always been interested in the intersection between design and creative writing — how these two disciplines, which I feel a deep passion for, are intertwined. In this project, I have pulled the threads of my university experience together to create work that I can hold in my hands. The work was shaped by my semester in Mexico — the harsh contrast between my life here and there, the beauty of their language, culture and history.

The duality of publication is visible in the two points of entry. The stories flipped upon themself and divided in the center by a map of the Cuba-Florida Strait. This physical split creates a visual metaphor of the separation of cultural and political beliefs in America and its small island neighbour. It also emphasises the close physical proximity between these two worlds. The incorporation of New Zealand newspaper articles contextualises my identity as the author and draws connections between the socio-political situations of these two colonised island nations.

This publication investigates translation as a tool in both literature and design. Understanding the importance of the book as a historical and cultural marker in time, this publication is research-led, exploring themes of self-publishing, the book as a cultural device and engaging with design outside of a Western context.