In the mood of celebrating

jueves_valenzuela_350It took me a while finding a text for my post in English. I have said before that I was interesting in writing about Latin-American books, but I was not excited enough with my most recent reading. I mean, I have read very interesting books lately, but I was not totally convinced. Until I read Jueves (Thursday). Last week I went to the register office to renew my ID card and I was preparing for a long waiting. The office has been struggling with attention throughout a year I think, so I was not expecting any better. I was right, because I spent three hours until my number was finally called. And I took that time in the reading of Jueves (La Calabaza del Diablo, 2009) by Luis Valenzuela Prado, a Chilean writer. I read the whole text. It’s not a long book, just about 130 pages or so, but it was not all about its length, but the writing: a very fluid narration about the long waiting before a celebration which never takes place. You can imagine that I could also relate to the waiting situation.

The novel presents three friends: Betulio, Fresno and Valenzuela. The latter two have planned a celebration to Betulio. We never know why; we just know –or we sense- that it’s destined to failure. But the celebration mood –which involves a lot of drinking-, seems just an excuse to talk, to narrate certain issues from the past, to deepen about friendship. So we begin to meet and kind of care for these three young common men. They are not heroes or successful people, but, as Fresno puts it, it is not about the story but how you tell that story. So we found dialogues and also a lot of thinking by Valenzuela, who is also the narrator, thoughts which are intervened by the other characters, making the narrative fluid but also ambiguous. Ambiguity seems right, because the narrator is a man who doubts about things, in his own words he is not able to get to the point; he just talks in a roundabout way.

Jueves was recently reissued because of the publishing of Operación Betulio, in which we met again with these friends, now looking for Betulio who went back to his natal Bolivia. I still reading it -actually I started it at the same waiting for my ID card renewal-, but I am very excited about reading again about these guys, now traveling through the country, in such an opposition to Jueves, which takes place in a tiny apartment during the night. I expect to write about Operación Betulio in the following weeks.

Just Write it in English: a Start

Me writing the post.

Me writing the post.

A little intro

My husband and two of my beloved friends have told me for a while: “Write it in English!”, that is, write a post in English. I started this blog Bueno, Bonito y Letrado since January this year. The title literally means Good, Beautiful and Literate (or Lettered, because in Spanish Letrado means both words); but it is also a word game, a deformation of a popular saying in Chile: Bueno, Bonito y Barato –or “the three Bs”- (Good, Beautiful and Cheap).

I wanted to write about literature and books, but from my experience as a Doctorate student, mother, wife, woman. So I decided doing it in a blog. But blogging should be about reaching people in every place, and not just the Spanish-speakers, so here I am, writing in English.

Getting into letters

For the moment I have thought on writing just about Chilean or Latin-American authors and books, and try to present some of them to people who speak English and might be interested in knowing about our literature. For this very first English-written-post I would like to talk about the poetry book Bruma (Lolita Editores, 2012), by María Inés Zaldívar. I reviewed this text months ago in Spanish, and it really captured me the way the poems talked about everyday life. “Me enamora la manera / cómo partes el limón” (13) are the first two verses of the book, and they mean “I fall in love with the way / how you cut the lemon”. Those verses show the tone of the poems: they appeal to love, and they are also involved in a beautiful everydayness. Actually it is in our day to day life when we experience and we feel, love is lived in the simple things of everyday life, and that what we found in Bruma (Mist).

Bruma, by María Inés Zaldívar.

Bruma, by María Inés Zaldívar.

So we are not surprised when the lyric voice remembers “big hands / sliding down the keyboard” (“grandes manos / deslizándose por el teclado”, 41), or her lover eating a pair of crispy toasts with butter and drinking a cup of coffee. When I write in this blog or even in my academic work at university, the everyday element is inescapable, because –for me- it is in the small and intimate aspects where life is played, and that is also true for poetry, which actually illuminates our own existence. In that sense, when I think of Bruma, I remember that my son was playing with his toy cars beside me when I was reading it. The family scene is now linked to those verses; just like in the poem, love melts as butter over a warm toast, covering every feature, every corner of life.

A very interesting figure in the poem is Penelope. We know her as the loyal wife who waits for the return of his husband Odysseus, a waiting which she manages by knitting. The poet takes Penelope and positions her in our common places, event trying to buy a lipstick which has been sold out. This raises a debate: how should it be Penelope’s waiting? Well, Penelope should be able to decide for herself. This Penelope loves waiting, loves recalling, and carrying on with her life. Maybe that is why there is so much life and light in Zaldívar’s verses, you can hear the crunch of the toast and taste the coffee; you can feel a lover’s back beside yours.