The stories of "The Water Library" overflow and splash on each other. The red shoes of the first have a stellar appearance several stories later, just as a poem hidden in a jar escapes the censorship of a convent and resurfaces in the garden of a neighboring character. Clara Obligado says that her book "is neither a story nor a novel, but it is both." Further, It is a palindrome, that is, it can be read from beginning to end and vice versa, because in both senses it reveals nexuses between the stories and, also, between the present and the history of the neighborhood of the Letters, the true protagonist of this volume.
Obligado was born and raised in Argentina, but he arrived in Madrid forty years ago and here he settled in a flat on Lope de Vega Street, on the corner of Calle del León. "I was rented by a guy who was Civil Guard. It was 1976, a year after Franco's death, and the neighbors told me many stories, probably because I was young, foreign and lonely, and because they assumed I was not going to repeat what they told me.. They did not know that he would not only repeat it, but that he would publish it, "jokes the author.
From her table at González house, a business where she is well known, Obligado observes the building where she lived for sixteen years. There he accumulated many of the stories that today make up his hybrid book: the ones that told him, like that of the Turk who, in the 17th century, settled there with a lion and charged the neighbors for seeing him; those of the people with whom he became friends, such as Bernardino Rosa, a man who was raised by the wolves; and his own, of course. The latter are recognized because they carry the mark of the newly arrived foreigner to a new territory.
"When you write a book, close a stage and reflect on it. In this I wrote about Madrid and my link with this city. This is one of my lives, one of the many I have to tell. The foreigner has more lives than a person who does not leave his country", Says Obligado, and adds:" Lives are never behind, we advance with what we were. We are more past than it seems, and it is not a melancholic posture, it means that we are reinterpreting our memories and bringing them to other spaces. Perhaps we who are foreigners are in the most absolute modernity: in this transhumant nation that still costs us to assimilate. And we who are transhumant are called to question nationalism, which is not little. "
To narrate his link with Madrid he researched a lot about the origins of the city, even millions of years before it existed as such, and moved fragments of those stories to its pages. But it also makes a work of memory of the most recent past, reconstructed in part by the memories of its neighbors, the myths of the neighborhood and its own discoveries. Standing in front of his old house, Obligado says: "If you look here you find the whole history of Spain, and it's just a corner". And he starts telling anecdotes, like the one of the man who fell in a hole twelve meters deep, or the one of the dispute between Quevedo and Góngora that ended in "the first eviction of the neighborhood. Góngora rented the house from Quevedo, but he was a vividor and spent all the money in drunkenness. Quevedo detested him because they are two very different poetic currents, and he gave himself the pleasure of throwing it away ".
"Things and places keep memory beyond ourselves. The memory of things that exceed us is what constitutes a city, "says the author. And Cervantes, of course, is a permanent presence in the neighborhood. When he arrived in Madrid, Obligado looked out onto the balcony of his flat "and looked at the convent of Las Trinitarias, which on a moonlit night looks really gothic. I knew they said that there were the remains of Cervantes. "
In "La biblioteca de agua", Obligado chooses to introduce Cervantes and Lope de Vega through the daughters of both: Isabel de Saavedra, who is said to have lived in the convent of Las Trinitarias, and the poet and dramatist daughter of Lope , Sr. Marcela de San Felix, who entered that congregation at age 16. For the author, it is a way of claiming the figures of both. "In this neighborhood until recently there were only plaques of men, and little by little they have put the Elena Fortún, Sister Marcela and Luisa Carnés and so has been recovering the history of these women. That story (titled "The Hand") is my contribution to that act of justice. The history of literature is not masculine, it is mixed. "
Was it raised that someone could question their right to tell a city where they were not born? "Of course. I think my book is going to have enough answers in that sense. But I am positioning myself and saying: "This story is also mine, I have also been part of this country, born wherever I was born; This language is my language and Cervantes is my writer ". A territory is nobody's, is who is there, see it, enjoy it and live it, "he says without a hint of doubt.
In fact, he feels a true passion for "the mancus of Lepanto" - "For me," Don Quixote "is the book of books", he says - and that myth about the loss of his hand also has its place in the book . Impossible to explain it in detail without making "spoiler", but Obligado sums up its meaning: "I always thought that this neighborhood was protected by Cervantes, who was a man who suffered a lot. If something gives us literature is protection. Therefore, his is the hand of caresses. When the characters are sad they lean against a wall and that wall comforts them. And I think that is the function of literature: to comfort living, which is quite complicated. "