They can burn books, destroy libraries, forbid languages, ban beliefs, delete past times,
draw new present times, order future actions, torture and execute people...
But they still don´t know how to kill the intangible and bright
bodies of ideas, dreams and hopes.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

- And... What are you going to do now with all that money?...

– And... What are you going to do now with all that money?

By Sara Plaza

... Frin's father asked him kindly. And this question meant several things: they won't ask him for the money, he would spend it and nobody will tell anything, and they won't meddle in whatever he did with that money. He went three days without knowing how to spend it.

–See, Frin, if you save it you'll get more each time (his father explained to him).
–And, what for?
–For being able to buy more once you have save enough.
–(Frin shook his head)... no, I prefer to go buying and I'll buy more likewise.

Lynko did not get tired of making suggestions:

–See that ball, Frin!
–See that fishing pole!
–A backpack for going camping!
–And, what are we going to take with us on Sunday, then, Frin?!

Finally he saw the volume of an encyclopedia in a bookstore and knew what he wanted. It was an encyclopedia that also came out in installments and Arno always took it with him when they had to look something up in class. He went into the bookstore and bought the first volume. To his great surprise it cost less than he believed. The money was enough for buying another book. One about rare phenomena happened through history. That way he spent his first wage.

When we arrived at home placed the volume of the encyclopedia in the small library in the dining room and sat down in the courtyard to read the other book. A bit later Alma came in through the courtyard door. She liked to see him with that book open, which he hold with a hand while the other resting on his head. Since he didn't notice her presence she went on looking at him for a while. It was beautiful that he was so concentrated. He looked more important. He was so serious. Never had she seen anybody to read that way: it seemed as if he was in a different world.

–Hello, Frin.
–... eh? Hi.
–What are you reading?
–Look! In 1953 a ship with all its crew disappeared.

Alma sat beside him. Frin kept on reading aloud and she paid attention to what he was saying; but it was also nice to be there with Frin. Close, while he was reading aloud to both. Frin's voice wasn't unpleasant. A ship has disappeared with all its crew. Moreover, it was a very nice voice. And it didn't sink. And he read very well.

These lines belong to the children book titled "Frin" by the Argentinean writer, actor and musician Luis María Pescetti. A fantastic work that captivated Edgardo and me the first time we got our hands on it and our eyes could witness, page after page, what this young character did, thought and felt while he was at school, met a new friend, liked a girl from his classroom, got his first job... We thought it was a magnificent history and almost devours it when we took it from the library of the Centro de Difusión e Investigación de Literatura Infantil y Juvenil (CEDILIJ, Diffusion and Research Center on Children and Young Literature). With the same illusion as Frin spent his first salary on the first volume of that encyclopedia, which was even enough for buying a second book on rare phenomena, we wrote to The Three Wise Men asking for his adventures in print. When we opened our presents the 6th of January, nobody was more surprised than us noticing that they had brought us not only "Frin" but also "Lejos de Frin" (Far from Frin) by the same author and "Los selk'nam. La vida de los onas en Tierra del Fuego" (The selk'nam. Onas' life in Tierra del Fuego) by the French anthropologist Anne Chapman. Edgardo had asked for Pescetti and Chapman was my election, but we never imagined that we would get everything we wanted to.

That morning we begun to read our presents and like Alma, we spent a few minutes looking at each other in silence, observing his/her seriousness, his/her smile, his/her surprise... Each one in his/her world, in a different world, in another world... While one of us was remembering his childhood, the other recovered the memory of an extinct people; both of us turning back our faces, Edgardo a few years only and I a couple of centuries (Chapman's informers were born in the XIX century and all of them died during the XX). In a way, we both were looking back, to the own past and to the past of a people who knew about their defeat at the hands of white men from the very moment that they arrived at the Island with the aim of staying (around 1880). The newcomers smoothed the path for themselves by destroying an original culture and killing the people who, along the centuries, kept it alive and passed it down from generation to generation. There was nostalgia in Edgardo's eyes and I could listen to his laugh from time to time. In my case, not a word passed my lips all morning and my sight was lost in any of the four "skies" that selk'nam people knew.

A couple of days later, we interchanged our books not allowing them to rest even a night next to the other books that are part of our beloved library. My smile reappeared in a moment and Edgardo's lips froze walking across any of the haruwen (pieces of land) in which the Island was divided were the onas (the name that first travelers gave to the self–named selk'nam) lived there.

Is it not fascinating how books can take us with them, their power to catch us, to draw us into new places, different times, unknown cultures, our own childhood...? Is it not incredible to follow other steps through their pages and discover horizons that we never dreamt to reach? Is it not marvelous to travel light and be always well–equipped? It took Frim three days to decide on what he wanted to spend the money he had just got, and we needed a few hours to write the letter to The Three Wise Men. We three chose a book and each of us lived a different experience when opened ours. The three of us had to think first what we wanted most, and once we got it, each one had to concentrate on their own reading. It is almost certain that, in our own way, we three re–wrote some passages, invented and dreamt them; that, at some moments, we forgot where we were staying and almost, who we were; that, in more than one occasion, we turned one page back or moved forward two or three, even several chapters because we were bursting with impatience...

Since with a book in our hands we can achieve so many things, live a lot of adventures, discover countless stories... it would be fantastic if we do not have to "spent all that money" in order to place in our own small libraries a new friend, and to allow each of us to find what we like, need and have an interest for us, in the big libraries that belong to everybody. Considering that The Three Wise men have many other requests to attend and that they only come once a year, books should be made more accessible to everybody and that way we could also ask librarians, booksellers, our parents, our children, our friends and teachers for them. I strongly believe that to read is a wonderful need and books are the essential accompaniment to every good meal that we eat every day to grow up (in any and all possible senses).