Family: Born January 30, 1930, in Cartago, Costa Rica; daughter of Sebastian Naranjo Prida (in business) and Caridad Cot Troyo. Education: University of Costa Rica, licentiate degree, 1953. Religion: Catholic. Memberships: Order of Alfonso X El Sabio, 1977--; Academia Costarricense de la Lengua (Costa Rican Academy of Language), 1988--. Addresses: Agent: c/o Editorial Universitaria Centroamericana, San Pedro de Montea de Oca, Calle 41 (Barrio Los Yoses), Apdo. 64, San Jose, Costa Rica.
Costa Rican poet, novelist, essayist, educator and public servant. Served as Costa Rican ambassador to Israel, 1972-74. Has taught several writer's workshops. Costa Rican Electric Company, assistant manager, 1964; La Caja, assistant manager, secretary general; served as Costa Rican Minister of culture, youth, and sports, 1974; Association of Caribbean and Central American Writers, vice president, 1976-78; Worldwide Association of Writers and Journalists, vice president; UNICEF Early Childhood Education Program for Central America and Panama, in Guatemala, 1976-78, in Mexico, 1978-80; Costa Rica Museum of Art, director, 1980-82; Editorial Universitaria Centroamericana (Central America Universities Publishing House), San Jose, Costa Rica, director, 1982-92.
Aquileo Echeverria Prize, 1967, for Los perros no ladraron (title means "The Dogs Will Not Bark"); Prize for the Novel, Superior Council of Central American Universities, for Diario de una multitud; Premio Magon de Cultura, 1986.
WRITINGS BY THE AUTHOR:
- Cancion de la ternura, Elite (San Jose, Costa Rica), 1964.
- Hacia tu isla, Artes Graficas (San Jose, Costa Rica), 1966.
- Los perros no ladraron (title means "The Dogs Will Not Bark"), Costa Rica (San Jose, Costa Rica), 1966.
- Misa a oscuras, Costa Rica (San Jose, Costa Rica), 1967.
- Memorias de un hombre palabra, Costa Rica (San Jose, Costa Rica), 1968.
- Comino al mediodia, Lehmann (San Jose, Costa Rica), 1968.
- Responso por el nino Juan Manuel, Conciencia Nueva (San Jose, Costa Rica), 1971.
- Idioma del invierno, Conciencia Nueva, 1971.
- Hoy es un largo dia, Costa Rica, 1972.
- Diario de una multitud, Editorial Universitaria Centroamericana (San Jose, Costa Rica), 1974.
- Por Israel y por las paginas de la Biblia, Fotorama de Centro Amercia (San Jose, Costa Rica), 1976.
- Cinco temas en busca de un pensador, Minsterio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes (San Jose, Costa Rica), 1977.
- Las relaciones publicas en las instituciones de seguridad social, Instituto Centroamericano de Administracion Publica (San Jose, Costa Rica), 1977.
- Mi guerrilla, Editorial Universitaria Centroamericana (San Jose, Costa Rica), 1977.
- Cultura: 1. La accion cultural en Latinoamerica. 2. Estudio sobre la planificacion cultural, Instituto Centroamericano de Administracion Publica (San Jose, Costa Rica), 1978.
- Ejercicios y juegos para mi nino, UNICEF (Guatemala City, Guatemala), 1981.
- La mujer y el desarrollo, Sep Diana (Mexico City), 1981.
- Homenaje a don Nadie, [Costa Rica], 1981.
- Mi nino de 0 a 6 anos, UNICEF, 1982.
- Ondina, Editorial Universitaria Centroamericana (San Jose, Costa Rica), 1983.
- Nunca huba alguna vez, translated by Linda Britt as There Never Was a Once Upon a Time, Latin American Literary Review Press (Pittsburgh, PA), 1989.
- (With Graciela Moreno) Estancias y dias, [Costa Rica], 1985.
- Sobrepunto, Editorial Universitaria Centroamericana (San Jose, Costa Rica), 1985.
- El caso 117.720, Editorial Universitaria Centroamericana (San Jose, Costa Rica), 1987.
- Otro rumbo para la rumba, Editorial Universitaria Centroamericana (San Jose, Costa Rica), 1989.
- Mujer y cultura, Editorial Universitaria Centroamericana (San Jose, Costa Rica), 1989.
- Ventanas y asombros, Editorial Universitaria Centroamericana (San Jose, Costa Rica), 1990.
- (Contributor) Relatos de mujeres: antologia de narradoras de Costa Rica, Editorial Mujeres (San Jose), 1993.
- En partes, Farben Grupo Editorial (San Jose), 1994.
- Los Poetas Tambien se Mueren, Editorial Tecologica de Costa Rica (Cartago, Costa Rica), 1999.
- En Esta Tierra Redonda y Plana, Ediciones Torremozas (Madrid, Spain ), 2001.
- Marina Jimenez de Bolandi: Recordandola, Diseno Editorial (San Jose, Costa Rica), 2002.
Carmen Naranjo's life as a Costa Rican public servant is closely linked to her work as a writer; her work in both capacities reveals the same concerns she has had as an individual. Whether expressed in her novel Los perros no ladraron ("The Dogs Will Not Bark"), or through one of the programs she espoused while serving as Costa Rica's Minister of Culture, Youth, and Sports, a position she held for two years, Naranja has always shown a concern for the Costa Rican middle and lower classes. One of the most recognized public figures in her native land, Naranja has been awarded numerous honors, both as a writer and for her public service. Two such examples are the 1967 Aquileo Echeverria Prize that she received for Los perros no ladraron, her debut novel, and the Premio Magon de Cultura, an honor bestowed on her in 1986 for her lifelong pursuit in promotion of education and culture in Costa Rica's urban centers. For the writings she produced, Naranjo is considered, by both her fellow citizens and foreign critics alike, one of her nation's most important literary figures, and certainly one of its most well known. In all she has published seven novels, as many volumes of poetry, four books of short stories, and another four comprised of essays.
Although she is most known for her poetry, Naranjo has accomplished a great deal with her novels and short stories. Oftentimes, she has used fiction as a vehicle to criticize various aspects of the Costa Rican social milieu that she perceived to be morally wrong or unjust. In her stories, she has also employed experimental and creative narrative styles, a technique that has made hers a unique voice in the Costa Rican literary scene. Her career in the political sphere hit its pinnacle when she was appointed her country's ambassador to Israel (1972-74), an experience she chronicled in her book of essays Por Israel por las paginas de la Biblia.
Though she has lived the majority of her life in the Costa Rican capital of San Jose, Naranja's career has also stretched beyond the country's borders. Between 1976 and 1980 she coordinated relief efforts for the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) throughout Central America and Mexico. Her writing career has also taken her abroad, as she was invited and subsequently participated in a writer's workshop at the University of Iowa, also teaching a Latin-American literature class at that institution. To this day, Naranjo is active in Costa Rica's literary community. Since 1993 her voice has continued to be publicly heard, as she has contributed a regular column to one of Costa Rica's largest newspapers, El Dia. She has also fostered interest in literature by conducting talleres, or workshops, for those who want to pursue a writing career. And on top of all of this, Naranja continues to work on her own projects, including a novel, mostly based on her life, called Insomnios de una adolescente que nacio vieja.
Born in the town of Cartago in 1930, Naranjo was the third of four children of Sebastian Naranjo Prida and Caridad Cot Troyo. Though her father was a businessman, Naranjo and her three brothers were forced to work at an early age to help provide a living for the family. Naranjo's life was imperiled when she contracted a severe case of polio at the age of seven, after her family had moved to San Jose. However, the disease did force her to cutback on her work, which enabled her to begin her first year of education under the direction of a personal tutor. It was also during this time that she was introduced to numerous literary works, including those by Plato and Aristotle, which undoubtedly influenced her to choose the path in life that she did.
By the time she graduated from high school, Naranjo was an avid reader, taking in the works of William Faulkner, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, and Carson McCullers. Naranjo's first writing experience, other than keeping an extensive diary, came when she began penning speeches for her father to read at the meetings of the Spanish Society, to which he was a member. Naranja attended college at the University of Costa Rica, where she studied the liberal arts, graduating in 1953. Soon thereafter, she landed a job with the Caja Costarricense del Seguro Social (Bureau of Social Security). While working for the United Nations in Venezuela, Naranjo completed her first book of poetry, Cancion de la ternura. This was the first time that she was away from her family for any extended period, and the book is reflective of the love she was feeling for them. Modest about her literary talents, Naranjo shelved the work, and it was not published until 1964, nearly a decade later.
Soon after returning to her homeland, Naranja enrolled into a writer's workshop, and began making a name for herself in the literary community when she published two volumes of poetry. After she wrote Los perros no ladraron, Naranja began reading the works of other Latin American writers, including those by Carlos Fuentes, Juan Rulfo, Jorge Luis Borges, and Octavio Paz, and she began to see herself in the same light. Her first three novels, includingLos perros no ladraron, and followed by Memorias de un hombre palabra andCamino al mediodia, both published in 1968, all concentrate on the lives of unnamed, middle-class men as they weave their way through urban Costa Rica. Each of the novels is somewhat critical of the political environment of Costa Rica at the time, a world that was dominated by a patriarchal mentality.
With Los perros no ladraron, Naranja wrote a story that takes place on a typical Friday in urban Costa Rica. Middle-class in nature, the book revolves around the point of view of several characters, each of whom comes from a different segment of the country's social makeup: a junk man, a domestic servant, a professional, a madman, government worker, and an entrepreneur. Through their dealings, the reader is able to get a look at the entire Costa Rican hierarchy, from the homeless street person, who is ultimately the main character, to the upper echelon of society. It also shows the discrepancies in what each member of society is able to attain, despite that fact that each is interconnected and relies on the others in some way. The narrative style that Naranjo employs is innovative, a series of inner monologues, which represent the protagonist's inner thoughts and feelings.
Because of the success of her first three novels, Naranjo began to earn a reputation outside of her native land, ultimately leading to the invitation by the University of Ioa, which she accepted. While in Iowa, Naranja completed her next novel, Diario de una multitud, probably her most critically lauded effort. During this time, her political life was also on the rise. After a series of jobs in the public sector, she served as the ambassador to Israel, and wrote weekly essays that were published in various Costa Rican newspapers. Through these essays, Naranjo became a popular individual among her people. In fact, she became so popular that, after her term in Israel was up, President Daniel Oduber Quiros appointed her as Minister of Culture, Youth, and Sports, a position she held for two years. Many critics have suggested that Naranjo's notoriety as a public servant fanned the flames of her literary career, and gained her a wider audience than she probably would have otherwise had. Still, the impact of her work has been profound in her native land, as it has often shed light on many of Costa Rica's social problems. In a 1993 interview with Ardis L. Nelson, reprinted in Reinterpreting the Spanish American Essay, Naranja described some of the motivations behind her work. "It is as if with a pencil you can draw blood. As if in your desire to find yourself you find all humanity," Naranja told Nelson.
Critics have not missed that point. "Her work is intellectual, original, linguistically innovative, psychological, and compassionate. Her poetry is metrically free and structurally lyrical; her narrative exhibits a mixture of fantasy and reality, a preoccupation with the Spanish language, and a search for identity, both individual and cultural," Arlen O. Schade remarked inWomen Writers of Spanish America. "The verbal style that characterizes the author, in prose as in poetry, is that of an amazing abundance of words, images, concepts, metaphors, and enumerations," asserted Aura Rosa Vargas in Kanina. Since the late 1970s, Naranja has lent her time to a number of projects, including a stint as the director of the Costa Rica Museum of Art, and another in a similar position with EDUCA (Central America Universities Publishing House). She also published several more literary works, including Nunca hubo alguna vez in 1984, a book of short stories directed towards children, and a work that she conceived while working with the Costa Rican youth.
FURTHER READINGS ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
- Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 145: Modern Latin-American Fiction Writers, second series, edited by William Luis and Ann Gonzalez, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1994.
- Reinterpreting the Spanish-American Essay: Studies of Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Women's Essays, edited by Doris Meyer, University of Texas Press (Austin), 1994.
- Women Writers of Spanish America, edited by Diane E. Marting, Greenwood Press (New York, NY), 1987.
- Kanina, July-December, 1977, pp. 33-36.*