Untold Microcosms: Explorers, dreamers and thieves

How can storytellers inform our understanding of the past?


Explorers, dreamers, and thieves is a new book that emerges from the collaboration between Santo Domingo Centre of Excellence for Latin American Research (SDCELAR) at the British Museum and the Hay Festival, which have invited 6 Latin American authors to write short fiction stories or non-fiction texts, critically exploring the complex, compelling, and political histories of acquiring objects that make up the collections of this institution. The authors have delved into the Museum's archives, including diaries, letters, sketches, reflections, and contracts—documents that are all part of the process of acquiring the objects.

In the same spirit as Untold Microcosms, this new collaboration aims to explore unique aspects of the museum's objects and their stories. The documents associated with the collections have mostly been in the hands of specialized researchers, and by placing them at the center of this upcoming creative experiment, we seek to inspire narratives based on perceptions, social tensions, political contexts, and the adventures of explorers. We believe that these stories recounting the histories of objects can be highly relevant in the context of our present, which is extremely politicized.


Selva Almada

Compared to Carson McCullers, William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, and Juan Carlos Onetti, Selva Almada (Entre Ríos, Argentina, 1973) is considered one of the most powerful voices of contemporary Argentinian and Latin American literature and one of the most influential feminist intellectuals of the region. She has published several novels, a book of short stories, a book of journalistic fiction and a film diary (written on the set of Lucrecia Martel’s film Zama). She has been finalist for the Medifé Prize, the Rodolfo Walsh Award and of the Tigre Juan Award. Not a River (winner of the IILA Prize in Italy) is her fourth book to appear in English after her debut The Wind that Lays Waste (Winner of the EIBF First Book Award 2019), Dead Girls (2020), and Brickmakers (2021, shortlisted for the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation and the Valle Inclán Prize).

Rita Indiana

(Santo Domingo, 1977). Lives in Puerto Rico. A key figure in contemporary Caribbean literature, her second novel, Papi (Periférica, 2011), became a cult text since its first lines were made public: "Flow literature, syncopated reading, street poetry phrasing, amphetamine merengue cadence, and a strange taste of beat poetry filtered through magical realism" (Xavi Sancho, El País); "Rita Indiana constructs a narrative structure in Papi with the cadence of merengue and the gaze of a lonely girl who could be a cross between One Hundred Years of Solitude and Misery, and it ultimately becomes a pop novel, paying homage to popular culture not only Latin American but also North American" (Laura Fernández, El Mundo). Subsequently, her novels Nombres y animales (Periférica, 2013) and, above all, La mucama de Omicunlé (Periférica, 2015; Caribbean Writers Association Prize, 2017) established her as one of the most important contemporary Latin American writers. Imagen cortesía de la autora bajo la licencia Creative Commons 3.0.


Josefa Sánchez

(1991, belongs to the Zoque people of San Miguel Chimalapa, Oaxaca, Mexico) She is a researcher, activist and essayist. Doctoral researcher in Mesoamerican Studies and Master in Latin American Studies at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Degree in Sociology from the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana. Co-author of the book Colonialismo energético (Icaira, 2023), coordinator of the book Cada vez más Mökayas, pensares y sentires de zoques contemporáneos (Ce-Acatl, 2022), her essays and articles can be read in The Washington Post in Spanish, La OjarascaLa Jornada, the Revista de la Universidad de México and EstePaís. She writes about territorial defences, indigenous rights, history of rebellions and colonialism. In her activism, she is part of the Matza Collective, made up of young Zoques, from where she contributes to the defence of the rivers of the Chimalapas jungle against extractive open-pit mining megaprojects. In his academic work she is a member of the Laboratorio Investigación Acción Territorial at the University of Granada, Spain.

Philippe Sands

Philippe Sands QC is Professor of Law at University College London and a practising barrister at Matrix Chambers. He appears before many international courts and tribunals, including the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice. He is the author of Lawless World (2005) and Torture Team (2008) and several academic books on international law, and contributes to the New York Review of BooksVanity Fair, the Financial Times and The Guardian. His latest book is East West Street: On the Origins of Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide, won the 2016 Baillie Gifford Prize (Spanish translation was published by Anagrama, October 2017). The book comes with a BBC Storyville film, My Nazi Legacy: What Our Fathers Did. He is a vice president of the Hay Festival and a member of the board of English PEN.


Juan Gabriel Vásquez

(Bogotá, 1973) is the author of the two books of short stories Los amantes de Todos los Santos and Canciones para el incendio (Biblioteca de Narrativa Colombiana Prize), and six novels: The InformersThe Secret History of CostaguanaEl ruido de las cosas al caer (The Sound of Things Falling) (Alfaguara 2011, Grego von Rezzori-Città di Firenze Prize 2013, IMPAC International Dublin Literary Award 2014), Reputations (Royal Spanish Academy Prize 2014, Casa de Amèrica Latina de Lisboa Priza 2016), The Shape of Ruins (Casino de Póvoa Prize and finalist for the Man Booker International Prize) and Retrospective (Mario Vargas Llosa Biennal Prize). He has also published two books of literary essays, El arte de la distorsión and Viajes con un mapa blanco, a collection of political articles, Los desacuerdos de paz, and a collection of poems, Cuaderno de septiembre. In 2012 he received the Prix Roger Caillois and has twice won the Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize. He has translated works by Joseph Conrad and Victor Hugo into Spanish. His books are currently published in 30 languages.

Gabriela Wiener

A Peruvian writer and journalist based in Madrid. She has published the books Sexografías, Nueve Lunas, Llamada perdida, Dicen de mí and the book of poems Ejercicios para el endurecimiento del espíritu. Her texts have appeared in national and international anthologies and have been translated into English, Portuguese, Polish, French and Italian. Her first stories were published in the Peruvian narrative journalism magazine Etiqueta Negra. She was editor-in-chief of Marie Claire magazine in Spain and a columnist for the New York Times in Spanish. Today she writes a column for eldiario.es and presents a video column in lamula.pe. She won her country's National Journalism Award for an investigative report on a case of gender violence. She is the creator of several performances that she has staged with her family. She recently wrote and starred in the play "Qué locura enamorarme yo de ti", directed by Mariana de Althaus. Her most recent book is the novel Huaco retrato.