October 24, 2020

Five tips to celebrate Writers’ Day


In the days before the Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded, there were those who were clear, more than anything else, that there was a good chance that the award would be won by a woman, close to feminism, very critical, not European and, if possible, that was not white. This was expressed in opinion articles and on social networks: this year political correctness will win. The strength of this conclusion, supposedly, rested on the fact that the jury would feel much more comfortable awarding this profile, adjusting to the “current of thought”, to progressive puritanism after the #MeToo movement.

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Paradoxically, the reasoning was held in that the previous year – after the suspension of the Nobel Prize in 2018 due to a scandal of sexual abuse – people, in general and without nuances, had been pissed off because the winners did not fit this profile at all. And those of the previous year either. Not the other. Not the other. It was a surprising plot twist, but more common than it seems: criticism by a few was treated as an attempt at censorship that threatened freedom of expression.

But the most worrying thing is that this way of thinking, perpetuated in a rather reactionary literary rentrée, treats the recognition of female writers as a quota to satisfy feminism. As a political concession that violates the sacred rules of art. Like being caught in the trap of diversity. Thus, not only is the existence of literary machismo being denied – and any attempt to make it explicit through writing is dismissed as victimhood – but the public role that many women writers have had in recent years is also being invalidated. At best, they are seen as part of a purely commercial fad, valid only for a time; at worst, his writing is degraded to a non-literary, purely confessional, intimate, introspective plane, assuming that this first person singular does not tolerate invention, artifice or imagination.

Faced with the recovery of misogynistic topics, celebrating Writers’ Day – and lengthening #LeoAutorasOct as much as possible, expanding the lists of recommendations – continues to be, unfortunately, a necessity. Just as it is still a necessity to vindicate the artistic force of that “I”, questioned over and over again. For this reason, here is a selection of novelties that pass between memoirs and autobiographical essays, between self-fiction and testimony, which demonstrate, once again, that far from being the mainstream, the authoritarian imposition of the new political correctness, their voices continue to row against the current to overcome censorship and get published, even if that means leaving the literary circuit mainstream.

The consentby Vanessa Springora (Lumen)

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It is difficult to argue against the existence of literary machismo when books like The consent, where the complicity of the publishing industry – in this case, the French publishing industry – with the sexual abuse of a minor is recounted with prodigious detail. Vanessa Springora was fourteen when she fell into the hands of Gabriel Matzneff, a writer and intellectual who by then had a long fifty-year history of relationships with minors.

Ignorance was never an excuse: his fellow writers and journalists celebrated the conquests of Matzneff in a spirit of incorrectness, who came to be with 11-year-old boys and girls. Even the prestigious Gallimard publishing house recovered Matzneff’s memoirs in 2005, Those under the age of 16, where he narrated these sexual encounters, with a new prologue in which the pedophile affirmed that he would not change a single comma of what was written.

Given this context of impunity, it is understood that only now has it been possible to publish a testimony like Springora’s, which exposes a pain that still burns her: French law still does not stipulate an age for consent and Matzneff continues to have a platform in the newspapers from where he attacks her and the ‘new feminist puritanism’ with assiduity. Right there he also vindicates his role as victim along with Woody Allen and Roman Polanski.

Luckily, writing has allowed Vanessa Springora to break with silence, reappropriate an experience that is both personal and collective and definitively abandon the feeling of guilt that had accompanied her this time: “I have been going around in my cage for many years, sheltering dreams of murder and revenge. Until the day when the solution appears before my eyes as evidence: to catch the hunter in his own trap, to lock him up in a book. ”

Mixed race, by Maria Campbell (Tránsito editorial / Club Editor)

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“I am not resentful. I’ve gotten over my grudge. I just want to explain how things were, how they have been so far. I know that our poverty is not only ours ”. This is Maria Campbell’s response to a friend who asks her to write a lighthearted, less brutal book, with a somewhat kinder testimony about her younger years. And in these few words of Campbell the combative and serene spirit of Mixed race, an impressive memoir on the colonial oppression suffered by indigenous peoples in Canada.

His testimony – which is also that of his people – is heartbreaking, both for what he narrates – racism, economic misery, addiction to alcohol and drugs – and for the way he narrates it, with a disturbing lucidity, with a dry and precise style.

But the recovery of Maria Campbell’s memories is special for another reason too: it wasn’t until last year, after the #MeToo boom, that it became known that the original version of Mixed race (published in 1973 with a great sales success) was censored by its publishers against the will of the author. They removed a scene from chapter twelve in which he recounted the rape he suffered when he was fourteen by a mounted police officer. This fragment was restored in a new edition, thanks to the research of Professors Alix Shield and Deanna Reder.

And you, so happy?, by Bárbara Carvacho (Trojan Horse)

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And you, so happy? came to light in 2019 in the Chilean publishing house La Secta, a collective of 12 women who have the objective of democratizing the right to the printed word, against an industry that ideologically constrains literature. More than a book, And you, so happy? by Bárbara Carvacho is a manifesto: against the femicide State, against stepfathers who rape stepdaughters, against the church and those who look the other way against clandestine abortion in countries like Chile, where Carvacho was born and lives. She, who defines herself as “nobody”, is one of so many young people who, in order not to be a mother, has to buy, from whom and where she can, a good handful of Misoprostrol pills and then put them into her vagina, over and over again, with the only help from friends or acquaintances.

The difference is that she has told everything. “Being a woman in Chile is nothing more than a series of obstacles that you are going to have to face until your death. From school, with your clothes, in love, with your body, in your sheets, in the uterus and the brain. They have intruded on us until we are at the same level as a sponge, which has to assume and lower its head. I wasn’t going to take that road again. I was going to die with the stamp of a murderer if it was necessary ”. In his language there is no forgiveness, much less regret, and that is why when he presented the book to various publishers they demanded that he soften the tone, form and content. He said no and proposed to the group of women with whom he shared a literary workshop converting it into a publishing house. They did so and this was the first book they published.

The flower, by Mary Karr (Coediciones Periférica & Errata naturae)

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Make way, once again, for one of the queens of the autobiographical genre: Mary Karr returns to bookstores thanks to the translation of the second volume of her memorial novels, The flower. After being published The liars club and Illuminated –Which actually correspond to the first and third volumes– The flower fills that void in between and quenches the thirst of his fans. Because the queen was not a compliment, but a verified reality: The liars club It was a complete revolution in the literary landscape, it remained among the best sellers for a whole year and was named best book of the year by The New York Times, The News Yorker, People Y Time.

The flower it is the narration of an adolescence where the loudest and most rugged aspects of his life are also present again: his mother’s alcoholism and then his own or sexual violence; All this without losing humor, the ability to laugh at the men around her and at her own circumstances.

Karr says that he began to read memoirs because no one had taught him how to be a person, and he has never denied his specialty, rather the opposite: “Just as the novel appropriated the experiences of an urban and industrialized society that did not fit in epistles or epic poems, the memoirs –with a unique and deeply personal voice– confront family problems in a way that magnetizes readers ”. Although they still exist, fewer and fewer critics dare to belittle the literary imprint of her stories, to reduce them to poorly elaborated written experiences, or to say that Mary Karr, unlike her contemporary counterparts, the Great American Novelists, is not. a writer for real.

I choose Elenaby Lucia Osborne-Crowley (Alpha Decay)

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To be able to articulate a traumatic experience discursively, it is not always enough with the will, with the desire to free oneself from pain. Sometimes models, stories, categories and words are also needed that have previously filtered that experience, opening a comfortable narrative space where one can see oneself reflected, heard, attended to. Lucia Osborne-Crowley speaks at I choose Elena the desire to disappear, to be invisible to the eyes of others; a deeply material desire, linked to the female body, the foundation of which he ended up understanding thanks to reading Elena Ferrante’s novels.

The words of the Italian writer allowed her to get closer to her own desire to disappear and led her to decide to narrate her suffering, putting in writing the events that had decisively marked the relationship with her body: the rape she suffered at the age of fifteen, when she was a professional gymnast and was about to become an Olympic competitor.

The reading of Elena Ferrante accompanied her in the darkest years, when she believed that she could not escape the physical and psychological consequences of sexual violence. I choose Elena is the story of a transformation that is replicated on many levels, and that not only has to do with the achievement of psychological and emotional well-being, but also with exploring the intricacies of this experience of literary communion and investigating – from the intimate commitment with the Ferrante’s work– the ability of reading to permeate our consciousness and alter the way we relate to the world.

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