The Genius of Moritz Thomsen

thomsen-mA new publication from Quito, Ecuador, is out with a scholarly look at the writings of Moritz Thomsen (Ecuador 1965–67). It is the online publication LiberArte, from the Universidad de San Francisco de Quito. Contributors to LiberArte are primarily professors and students at the university. The journal, first published in January, 2005, features articles on literature, film, and critical trends in Ecuador.

Last year there was a conference on Thomsen’s writing held in Quito. If you are interested in any reports from that conference, contact Martin Vega ( Martin also welcomes comments and critiques of Thomsen from those who knew him.

I asked Martin if he knew Moritz and he said he didn’t, but that Alvaro Aleman, who heads up their journal, did know Moritz and often visited him in Guayaquil and spoke with him at length about authors and books.

[Thomsen, for those who don’t know, died of cholera in Guayaquil, Ecuador on August 28, 1991. In RPCV Writers & Readers newsletter we had an interview and several essays about Moritz. I interviewed him in the July 1990 issue.]

After Thomsen’s death, Alvaro was able to obtain some original writings from Thomsen’s niece Rashani. Mary Ellen Fieweger, an author and translator, who has lived in Ecuador for over two decades, knew Thomsen and his work. Alvaro and Mary Ellen, both being in the literary circle in Ecuador, knew each other. Mary Ellen provided Alvaro with an essay she wrote on Thomsen in the early 1990s. The literary journal LiberArte seemed, Martin Vega said, “like a great place to present the materials provided by Rashani and Mary Ellen to a wider audience.”

According to Martin, Thomsen has received significant attention abroad, particularly in France, yet he is relatively unknown in the Americas. Nonetheless, his first book, Living Poor, has been recognized as one of the best examples of writing on the Peace Corps experience.

In the nearly three decades Thomsen lived in Ecuador, he wrote three books (one still unpublished) depicting the realities of the country, especially the conditions of the marginal people with whom he lived and worked. Martin said, “we think Thomsen deserves a place alongside the notable authors of Ecuador. His expatriate status allows readers a distinctive view of Ecuador. That view is one that demands a consciousness of the connections between Ecuador and the U.S. and a more expansive idea of American-ness.”

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