Book News: Professor co-edits book about her father

From the The Dallas Morning News Co.:



Dictionaries bring Rhina Toruno-Haensly fond memories of her father.

When she was a child, if she didn’t know how to spell a word, Juan Felipe Toruno would tell his daughter to find a dictionary — which, the Spanish professor remembers, would make her throw an angry fit.

Several years later, in newer editions of many Spanish dictionaries, her father is listed as one of the most influential writers in Latin American literature.

The recognized author, who was born in Nicaragua and spent much of his life in El Salvador until his death in 1980, wrote 33 major works, including two novels, eight poetry books and many essay collections, the University of Texas of the Permian Basin professor said.

To celebrate her father’s accomplishments, Toruno-Haensly has co-edited with Ardis L. Nelson the book “Juan Felipe Toruno en dos mundos: Analisis critico de sus obras” (Juan Felipe Toruno in Two Worlds: Critical Analysis of His Works). The book includes 22 analytical essays of her father’s works, many of which contributed a great deal to the creation of a literary Central American language, Toruno-Haensly said.

“I’m very pleased, and I wish he were alive so that he could see how amazing it is that so many writers have understood his poetry and narrative,” she said.

Among the contributing essayists are poets and professors from Latin America, the United States and Europe, she said.

The book covers a wide literary range, Nelson said, adding that she wanted to be part of the publication because she wants to make sure he gets the credit he deserves.
“I really respect his writing. It’s been a very important and emotional project for both of us,” Nelson said. “I’m particularly fascinated with his esoteric beliefs.”
Nelson wrote three essays for the book.

William O. Deaver Jr., Spanish professor at Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah, Ga., contributed one essay.

“It was an unexpected pleasure to contribute an article … especially since the author fomented Hispanic letters not only as an editor, but also as a producer of creative and critical works that are as valid today as they were in his epoch,” he said.

The idea came about at an international congress in 1998 to honor the 100th anniversary of Toruno’s birth. Many writers from different parts of the world attended. One year later, Toruno-Haensly thought about putting together a collection of essays about her father’s writings.

“More than anything, he was a promoter for generations of writers,” she said. “All these people that were influenced by him attended the congress.”
Most of the work for “Dos mundos” took place in the last two years before its publication in August, Toruno-Haensly said.

She contributed two essays and wrote the introduction, where she shared anecdotes about her father’s personal and family life.

In one occasion, Toruno-Haensly remembers the time she was studying in Belgium and complained to her father about the weather and the people. His answer was “Your destiny is in your hands. If you want, you can become a tourist or you can come back with a degree,” she recalled.

“He had very high expectations. He would tell us that education was the window for progress.”
Such advice didn’t come in vain — the writer is the father of a doctor, an engineer, an accountant, a medical school professor with a degree in chemistry, a travel agency owner and Toruno-Haensly, who has published four books (including one with two editions) and has two doctorate degrees.

“He would tell us, ‘You can do whatever you want; you’ve got your destiny in your hands,'” the professor said. “I believe in God and have a strong self-will, but also because of him I have done whatever I wanted with my life.”

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