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.

Friday, July 25, 2008

“Other writers made me want to write...”

Other writers made me want to write

By Sara Plaza

A few days ago the "1ª Feria Infantil del Libro Córdoba 2008" (I Children Book Fair in Cordoba, Argentina) had a happy end after having been visited by thousands of people arriving at the "Paseo del Buen Pastor" (a cultural space created one year ago inside and around the building that was home to female prisoners up to a few years ago) day after day, from the 4th till the 20th of July. Among those visitors I found myself several evenings and was cramped not having enough room to move freely through the different stalls. On my feet, sat on my heels with my knees bent up close to my body, resting my shoulder on the rickety walls of the stalls, being elbowed in the knees when standing and kneed in the shoulders while sitting on the floor, I was able to have a look at fewer pages than I would have liked to, however, our library has more than half a dozen of new books, and authors such as Laura Devetach, Graciela Montes, Javier Villafañe and Liliana Bodoc have a place among the many other friends resting on the shelves, on the bedside table, on our desks.

Edgardo and I tried one evening to go and listen to Laura Devetach and Gustavo Roldán, who were to participate together in an informal talk with the readers. When we went to withdraw our invitations one hour in advance there was no one left, so, three days later, waiting for Liliana Bodoc's visit I arrived in plenty of time. This time I got my invitation and could attend the presentation of her last book, "Amigos por el viento" (something like "Friends thanks to the wind").

I found the first lines that I read from the author on the Internet a few years ago, when I still lived in Spain. On that occasion I came across the first two chapters of the work that I managed to bag for my birthday one year ago, "La Saga de los Confines" (something like, "The Far Corners Saga", which has already been translated into German, Italian, Portuguese and French, and is going to appear in English in the near future as well), a trilogy made up of the novels "Los días del Venado", "Los días de la Sombra" and "Los días del Fuego" (something like "The days of the Stag", "The days of the Shadow", and "The days of the Fire"). I enjoyed and was moved with those pages from cover to cover when my turn came. Let me tell you that the culprit of this blog, from whom my birthday present was, could not resist the temptation to read it first. That way, I followed Dulkancellin's steps and rocked myself in Vieja Kush's stories a few evenings after Edgardo had walked himself the paths of such a vast geography. We were amazed at how well documented those three books were written and, silently, we said thank you to the author for the great effort she had made –we supposed– to find out and read many different sources before start writing a story of this sort.

When I managed to listen to her at the Book Fair and, afterwards, approached her in order to say "congratulations" and "thank you" aloud, I felt so happy that I could hardly find the words and gave her a huge smile instead. There was so much joy inside me that, when I asked her to dedicate her last book of tales to Edgardo and me, I had first to untie my fingers before handing it to her, for I was so nervous that had ended up holding it tightly.

During the talk between Liliana Bodoc and the sixty people –adults and children– gathered round her, the little ones "called the tune" and were in charge of addressing the author with their questions most of the time. She answered them –and the grown–ups– with extraordinary generosity, giving all of us small pieces of her life, quotes from her books, colorful stanzas that her father had invented for her when she was a child, the reading of one of her tales for the little ones and a handful of answers that I wrote down in a piece of paper and would like to share with you in the following paragraphs.

When children asked her about the inspiration, Liliana told them that inspiration is something very brief, which come and visit to us for a short time and goes somewhere else quickly. So, she encouraged them to work hard in order to achieve whatever they want to. She said that when she begun to write was almost an elder 40 years old, but children did not agree (neither did I) and meant to know whether she was going to retire early or, on the contrary, she thought to become a sweet little old lady as writer. The author answered that her dream was to become a dear old and short lady as writer, shorter, even, than her pencil. Liliana told us that other writers made her want to write and added that she never thought about the book being published while she was writing, but on the story she wanted to write. She explained that what causes her to have new ideas include a lot of things, from a bus journey to one of her memories, so it is also very important to be all ears and wait with interest to hear what somebody next to us may say. The writer stated that she never feels nervous when she writes since she does so close to her "mate" (typical Argentinean, Paraguayan and Uruguayan infusion inherited from the Guarani people) and her cat.

Liliana talked about her process of revising her writing with the intention of changing, correcting or improving it and commented that she reads it carefully once and again and, sometimes, she hands the text to somebody else. The little ones enquired whether she was happy after finishing a book and she answered affirmatively. The children were curious about whom she dedicated her books to and whether she had written them for the people she loved. Then, the author told them that her books were dedicated to her father, to her both mothers, to her husband, to her children, to her friends and explained that when she starts writing tales she feels that she loves many people and has a lot of friends, so, in more ways than one, it was correct to affirm that she writes for the ones she loves. The little ones also asked her whether she had ever regretted writing any book and she said "no" and observed that it takes a lot of time to write a book and what any one usually regrets is a sudden decision or the sort of things done without thinking them twice, so it is more difficult to be sorry after writing a book.

Among the grown–ups there were also some people raising their hands before asking the author what someone has to do to start writing. Liliana answered that anyone wanting to write must be patient and love failures and working hard; she also recommended this person not to be too anxious about the result and develop a passion for the creative process. A female short–story teller wanted to know how an author feels when they listen to someone else telling their stories. The writer said that she experienced a particular emotion when her stories where lit by different lights and encouraged tellers to use their own words and feelings in order to improve others' stories.

Liliana Bodoc defended a Youth and Children Literature with capital "l" for little readers, with codes that can be understood and interpreted by them; a sort of Literature that does not make children remain indifferent, but allows them to change through its pages, to be transformed to some extent. Accordingly, she declared that neither boring, stupid or weak tales, nor those filled with commonplaces and a moral at the end are of her liking, and, once and again, insisted on a Literature committed to freedom. The hour Liliana was talking went very quickly and, on my way to home, I concluded that inspiration's visits should be that short.

In my handbag there were Liliana Bodoc's last tales and a few words written in black –she had four different color pens for children to choose their favorite– by her own hand at the beginning of the book. This time I read it first and felt a bit different when I closed it... I believe that the cause for my change was both in Liliana's writing and in my own reading together with the love I feel for printing letters, words swaying in the wind, murmured in a circle round the fire, quietly spoken in the kitchen, cheerfully shared while drinking "mate"... I imagine that there is also an explanation for my transformation in the paths that I have trodden while walking across the southern south, along its curved spine, through its rough skin and its wrinkled bowels; in its fields sown with new dreams, hand in hand with people striving for helping them flourishing, who take part in their growing, who support their young and tender shoots...

Step by step, letter by letter, sound by sound, bite by bite, I have been changed both by this land literature and the land itself, thanks to those many that have shown me how to walk on it.

Thank you.