San Juan: Memoir of a City conducts readers through Puerto Rico's capital, guided by one of its most graceful and reflective writers, Edgardo Rodriguez Julia. No mere sightseeing tour, this is culture through immersion, a circuit of San Juan's historical and intellectual vistas as well as its architecture. In the allusive cityscape he recreates, Rodriguez Julia invokes the ghosts of his childhood, of San Juan's elder literati, and of characters from his own novels. On the most tangible level, the city is a place of cabarets and cockfighting clubs, flaneurs and beach bums, smoke-filled bars and honking automobiles. Poised between a colonial past and a commercial future, the San Juan he portrays feels at times perilously close to the pitfalls of modernization. Tenement houses and fading mansions yield to strip malls and Tastee Freezes; asphalt hems in jacarandas and palm trees. ""In Puerto Rico,"" he muses, ""life is not simply cruel, it is also busy erasing our tracks."" Through this book - available here in English for the first time - Rodriguez Julia resists that erasure, thoughtfully etching a palimpsest that preserves images of the city where he grew up and rejoicing in the one where he still lives.
Edgardo Rodriguez Julia teaches literature and creative writing at the University of Puerto Rico. Among his many books are La renuncia del heroe Baltasar (1974, translated into English in 1997 as The Renunciation), El entierro de Cortijo (1983, published in a bilingual edition in 2004 as Cortijo's Wake), La noche oscura del Nino Aviles (1984), and Sol de medianoche (1999). Peter Grandbois is assistant professor of English at California State University, Sacramento.