PÓVOA DE VARZIM, CORRENTES D’ESCRITAS 2017 – PART I

  • Mesa 2 : Thursday 23.02.2017 10:00 a.m.

 

Mesa2

Participants: Cristina Norton, Ignacio del Valle, Karla Suárez, Teolinda Gersão and Tony Tcheka. Moderator: Carlos Quiroga.

Theme for discussion: “Nós jogamos com as palavras que nos deram” (We can only play with the words we were given).

One of the richest debates of the whole event, at this international meeting which gathers Lusophone and Hispanic writers during five days in this coastal northern Portuguese small town, was precisely this one, moderated by the Galician writer Carlos Quiroga. The contributions of the Asturian novelist Ignacio del Valle and the emerit Literature Professor and writer Teolinda Gersão, as well as the Guinean poet Tony Tcheka, were especially interesting, due to their sharp thought, geopolitical up-to-date knowledge and awareness, as well as the highest discursive accuracy and pertinence in their communications. On the other hand, others chose a more intimist approach: Cuban novelist Karla Suárez emphasized the ludic dimension of role-play and the practice of word games on creative writing relating an autobiographical situation whilst the Luso-Argentinian Cristina Norton preferred to maintain her focus on the fringe between the fictive construction of a narrative and the also biographical component of memorial writing as a raw material to be transformed into a literary production such as the cultural and linguistic background that shapes one’s writing.

The authors’ communications (detailed)

ignacio

Ignacio del Valle, born at the Spanish Asturian town of Oviedo, discoursed on “El género negro” (The Dark Novel/The Crime Novel) as a direct allusion to his own books, particularly the last one, called Cielos Negros ( Dark Skies or as in the Portuguese translation Céus Negros). Del Valle showed himself concerned with what he sees as the “bastardy” within this literary genre and simultaneously interested in the close relationship between fictional literature and reality. He explores this bond thoroughly in his novels, as he sees it as to be crucial to give veracity and credibility to a novel. One considers the building of a character’s self. Ignacio del Valle prefers broken, shattered, troubled characters when structuring a plot around failure, grief or treason. These issues trigger his impulse to write because he sees them as “vehicles that bring back memory as well as hope”. The author states that these emotions and attitudes function as “windows to one’s memory, conferring nerve to a novel”. His fiction is often full of allusions or intertextualities taken from the German Romanticim, the poetry of Schiller, the prose of Göethe. It all has to do with a spiritual attitude of self-overcoming:

«When one controls completely a certain theme one must look for another subject to explore, just like Picasso used to do in the Arts (sic). And when Art is also contaminated by politics, then Art is screwed1 (and so is Literature).

This author is also interested in the Gothic style and the element of the fantastic in Literature which usually inspires him and his writing just like the element of transcendence in Art does:

«I’m not religious , but I’m all for the transcendent. Humour is also important, because reality is so harsh in our daily life that one must use humour as a healer, as a way out. I’m also deeply concerned with psychological [or personality] traits of the characters: their motives, their obsessions with glory, their relationship with sex. And I do not make a [semantical-linguistic] distinction between past and future, any longer. It is always the present tense, surrounded by its ghosts. And the construction of evil, captivates me as well. In my novels, evil is obscure. If there is evil, it always shows itself mixed with goodness. You see, bad people in life are usually mediocre. But one needs big evil in an evil character so there may also exist a hero. In fiction, evilness must lead the reader to a catharsis. Good characters may not always be very clever but if the hero is stupid the novel will lose its interest. So, the villain must be really evil (which in real life only happens randomly) but always clever.»

teolinda

Grabbing the verse that illustrates these panel, Teolinda Gersão, who conquered the Fernando Namora 2015 Prize and the Vergílio Ferreira 2017 Prize, initiates her contribution stating:

«No one gives us anything. One must must conquer everything [words included], by saying things differently, even if the content is the same. I feel attracted to borderline cases. For example, the approach of a bilingual person to a subject is different from a monolingual one. The fluency on another language opens our spirit and deepens the skills on our own mother tongue.»

This Author expresses her admiration for two Brazilian classic novelists, Machado de Assis and Guimarães Rosa, to confirm that “despite the language is the same [as European Portuguese] their [Brazilian variant’s] huge variations transfigured it.»

But according to Mrs. Gersão, not only from Linguistics lives Literature. It is also fed by multiple facets of life, and the way it is daily affected by an endless amount of factors. Mrs. Gersão explores some of them:

«I’m also interested in the unconscious. I often recommend the reading of Carl Jung to my students. I prefer [Carl] Jung to [Sigmund]Freud. Freud didn’t like people. And to be a good psychoanalyst one must love people.

(…)

Memory is something without which there can not exist such thing as Literature. The great subject in Literature is Time. Writers are witnesses of their own time. The greatest riddle [in Literature] are the questions without answer: who are we?, where does our path lead to?, why does evil exist?»

The Author refers the extreme “perversity” of Lewis Carroll’s most famous book, Alice in Wonderland, which troubled her a great deal as a child, precisely for not answering the riddles it posts along the course of the story:

« But this is why it is so fascinating, for giving the readers someone that is not expected.

(…)

Writing a crime novel will never seduce me. It is the questions which are still to be answered that interest me. The innovation also captures my attention. Following a certain model or a formula does not attract me, like José Saramago who stated that novel would cease to exist in the future and the tendency is that novels will become more and more like essays, a perspective to which I don’t agree) used to do and [António] Lobo Antunes still does. I would bore myself to death if my books had to follow a certain path. I must always change the focus, or the structure…The themes are always the same: death, violence, sex, contradictions in life…»

Karla

Karla Suárez – The Cuban author, who chose Portugal to live in, presented her latest novel Un Lugar Llamado Angola (A Place Called Angola, with the Portuguese translation Um lugar chamado Angola) the day before, speaking about the Cuban presence in that country by the time of the Revolution and the following Civil War. But Ms Suárez chose not to speak about her own book in her communication and preferred to tell us a story, illustrating a situation of her life: the ability of playing with words as a game, which writers particularly enjoy and are used to as no one else does. The novelist spoke about her nephew she was taking care of while her sister was working to prove how far the ability on writing words and creative sentences can be stimulated in our early childhood and can be determinant for one to become a writer or at least to love writing and the Literature itself: as her sister’s child kept interrupting her writing in progress novel all the time, she decided that the same time spent with him wouldn’t be at all productive so, she thought it would be a lot better to spent it in a much more fun, interactive and creative way: creating sentences, rhymes, etymological associations. As a result, the child became a complete enthusiast of language games, and at end of the day, the little boy was trying to convince his mother to give up from her job and join them in their games. This situation does not, however, surprise Karla for she is fully convinced that “writing is the territory of the real freedom”, alluding to a time and place where “one can easily write anything but publishing may become a problem” as she had said the day before during the presentation of her book. And this is why, in Karla Suárez‘ perspective, “playing with words and telling stories is “the best game one can play; and that’s why I intend to keep on playing it during my whole life”.

Cristina

Cristina Norton is an Argentinian writer who chose to live in Portugal after marrying a Portuguese historian and also a writer. Being a descendant of a Polish jewish family, Mrs. Norton told us that her memory did not recall the words of her ancestor’s language, spoken by her family in Poland. Only her Slavic nanny spoke Polish but she only occupied herself providing her basic needs without many interaction, besides showing herself always obsessed with food due to the traumatic years hunger during the Great War. Besides her nanny, everyone in her family spoke to her only in Castilian and French. Her own father used to tell her there was “no use on teaching her a language that would not survive”. Cristina Norton sees writing as an act of immense solitude, although playing with words, which implies theatralizing, is not at all a solitary act. Reading the classics which inspired her, playing with their words until finding her own voice, her own”musicality” inside her speech, was still a long process. And after eleven books published, Mrs. Norton is still surprised with new shades in her speech arising. However, in all her books there are three elements which are recurrent: Argentina, Portugal and Judaísm. That means the spatial location and her cultural roots and cultural environment are always present on her mind. And about this last issue she cannot help noticing: “the most terrible moments in history have always had a huge level of stupidity”.

Tony

For Tony Tcheka, the writer from Guinea Bissau, who greeted us with “mantanhas” (compliments in Guinea Creole language), explains us that the Portuguese word “palavra” (word) in Guinea language, also means “license to speak” (just like in Portugal) but can also imply conflict, and even the refuse to dialogue:

“The ‘palavra’ (word) came to us through women’s songs, lullabies, and in the moments of leisure at night, beside the fire. The word goes to nowhere to illuminate the darkest nights. It is a learning process, this access to the word. To knowledge. It comes to us through the looms, through the clothery, by congregating a whole History, a whole past, as the Cuba clothes are weaved in Congo, a process during which there is always a sharing of knowledge between man and women» (while the latter weaves the cloth the former imprints it with the family and tribe’s stories).

Mr. Tcheka kept speaking about how the words are spread and disseminated through space and time and their freedom of expression and circulation in these “dreary times”:

«It seems like a contradiction but this is only apparent. The ‘palavra’ (word) and the access to it, and also the opportunity to speak is more necessary than ever in these dread times. The word contains itself a visa, allowing it to enter in every country, using the highways of information. This is the reason why Raduan Nassar’s (winner of Camões Prize 2016) words reached every newspaper around the world. These times of darkness favour subservience of the Word itself, its depreciation, giving place to the overrating of the SELF and, simultaneously, its standardization to the single totalitarian view of thought. These are times of darkness, in which we live in. In every corner of this planet. Today, in the summit of power, the populism and the corruption rule. These are dark, very dark times.»

DISCUSSION WITH THE AUDIENCE

During the debate, a question from the audience was cast away to the table and triggered a passionate discussion about the 1990 Orthographic Agreement for the Portuguese Language involving the members from the Lusophone Community.

Teolinda Gersão expressed her indignation and complete refusal on this document and its unnatural use for speakers and misuse application for writers, which was imposed for political reasons and not for linguistic evolution. As a Professor with deep knowledge of the language Mrs. Gersão emphasized the “nonsense on erasing the etymology, because doing so, and choosing to follow merely phonetic criteria in order to give voice to the speakers’ language most recent changes, also implies erasing a great deal of the Portuguese cultural identity, such as expressed, for example, in the local toponymy as well as other countless historical references. This may not be so important for a country like Brazil, whose bond to Latin is not so strong, having other cultural and linguistic references (which are also important), but this should not prevent the language to follow different paths in both countries, since the linguistic richness of a language lies in its diversity.

Tony Tcheka, though, presented a different, benevolent, perspective:

«For us, Guinea people, this subject is not a priority. This new Linguistic Agreement does not seem to me a complete absurd, in spite of not being for me a major concern.»

For Ignacio del Valle, Karla Suárez and Cristina Norton, all of them Castilian-Spanish speakers, the position of the Hispanic countries is mainly inclusive on this matter. That means, accepting the differences, new ways of writing, introduction of new words, unusual phrasical constructions and new ways of saying things without any kind of authoritarian imposition of a rigid orthodoxy to the whole block of countries.

The second question to be put to the table had a sentence from Cristina Norton as a starting point to be explored: ‘The most terrible moments in history had always carried away the highest level of stupidity’. The statement had emerged in the author’s previous intervention about thirty minutes before, in a direct allusion to the Holocaust and the Second Great War, in the Norton’s latest novel, O Rapaz e o Pombo (The Boy and the Pigeon) whose protagonist is a young Jewish refugee in America who faces racism at school. The author was asked if it could be traced any parallel between the situation lived by her character in mid-twentieth century and the refugees from the Middle-East in our times, with the implosion of democracies around the world, the western world in particular.

Soon after some minutes of diversion – some authors thought they were being asked whether there was some autobiographical elements in their novels, Tony Tcheka grabbed the question by its horns and pointed his argument to the target, expressing major concern about the problem in the Middle East and the rise of the shadow of several types of fascism across Europe. Immediately after the Guinea author’s answer, Teolinda Gersão and Ignacio del Valle agreed that we are now entering an era in which those who rule are now determining the meaning of the words. Teolinda Gersão is even more audacious by by quoting Adolph Hitler’s own discourse: “We [the Nazi Intelligence] are the ones who decide who is Jew”. Ignacio del Valle points out that in order to contain the beast of Nazism [or other forms of totalitarianism] Europe must keep united, since its fragmentation will make us weaker. And to Del Valle‘s statement “Necessitamos más Europa” (we need more Europe) Tony Tcheka clarifies and adds:

«The problem is that in Europe there are already too many “Trumpinhos” and “Trumpinhas” (too many little Trump Boys and little Trump Girls). And the problem is not only Europe. The problem is global. To Ignacio’s sentence “More Europe” I would say “More World”. We need to act now. While there is still time.»

Póvoa de Varzim, Thursday23.02.2017,

Cláudia de Sousa Dias

Claudia a tirar notas Mesa 2

(All Photos were downloaded from the “Correntes d’Escritas” oficial site of CMPVarzim)

1“Quando el Arte es también contaminada por la política, eso significa que el Arte se va al carajo” (sic)

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“4:30 a.m.” by Charles Bukowski and a translation to Portuguese by the poet and actor Luís Beirão

Luís Beirão is a poet, writer, actor and performer who gave us a brilliant version of Bukowski’s magnificent poem. The visual interpretation is also his choice:

“4:30 a.m”

gato-bebedolas

(image caught from the web, author unknown)

the fields rattle
with red birds;
it is 4:30 in
the morning,
it is always
4:30 in the morning,
and I listen for
my friends:
the garbagemen
and the thieves,

and cats dreaming
red birds
and red birds dreaming
worms,
and worms dreaming
along the bones
of my love,
and I cannot sleep
and soon morning will come,
the workers will rise,

and they will look for me
at the docks,
and they will say,
“he is drunk again,”
but I will be asleep,
finally,
among the bottles and
sunlight,
all darkness gone,
my arms spread like
a cross,
the red birds
flying,
flying,

roses opening in the smoke,
and
like something stabbed and healing,
like
40 pages through a bad novel,
a smile upon
my idiot’s face

 

Charles Bukowski
And now, Luís Beirão’s translation:
 beirao
Luís Beirão, photographed by Ana Almeida Santos

QUATRO E MEIA DA MANHÃ

Os barulhos do mundo
com passarinhos vermelhos
são quatro e meia da
manhã
são sempre
quatro e meia da manhã
e eu escuto
os meus amigos:
os lixeiros
e os ladrões
e os gatos a sonhar com
minhocas,
e as minhocas a sonharem
os ossos
do meu amor,
e eu não posso dormir
e em breve vai amanhecer,
os trabalhadores vão levantar-se
vão procurar por mim no estaleiro
e dirão:
ele está bêbado novamente,
mas eu estarei adormecido,
finalmente, no meio das garrafas e
da luz do sol,
toda a escuridão acabada,
os braços abertos como
uma cruz,
os passarinhos vermelhos
voando,
voando,
rosas a abrirem-se no fumo
e
como algo esfaqueado e a cicatrizar,
como 40 páginas de um mau romance,
um sorriso estampado
na minha cara de idiota.

Charles Bukowski (traduzido livremente do inglês)

“The Pathway of Snails” by Ivar Corceiro

caracois

Photo: “Snails on the road”, uploaded from Google 

Translation (from Ivar Corceiro’s original version in Portuguese “O Caminho dos Caracóis”) by Cláudia de Sousa Dias

Coming from the underground station of Sofiska Sveta Gora towards the building where I work at, a wound of concrete rips a path along some fields where plants are spreading in a chaotic, random way. As the tube passes by, spewing anonymous workers, one can see people walking along that wound, queuing, like isolated elephant herds.

I am, sometimes, one of those elephants: I always stare at the ground, trying not to step any one of these snails which struggle to flee from the dawn’s wetness. But not everyone is that careful, and that’s why one can hear the cracking of a shell once in a while. This trip usually lasts about twelve minutes, during which I’m chatting to the ones I miss most, within an inner silence, that belongs to no one but me and them.

Any time you buy a one way ticket to another country, you’re not simply travelling trough the distance, but also, and mainly, through ourselves. I’m now much more aware of myself than I was two months ago. I am now aware of how I react to solitude and to the “saudade”. I know now how to face that occasional hostility that sometimes comes out from a stranger and how to warm up in the kindness of someone else’s smile – I know now how I grieve without crying or how to smile without laughing; and I know most of all, who are the ones that constitute that part of me that remained in Portugal.

In a way, our body is as vital as energy and this is why chatting on my phone or through “messenger” can not erase the “saudade”. It helps, but it can make it vanish. The body here belongs to other people. Voices, gestures and smells always belong to others, because Bulgaria is still a country where people are other. The others.

When I once was a child, long ago, when I could never imagine myself one day moving to Bulgaria, I used to play that bottle cap game, with other children from my neighbourhood, in the backyard of an isolated building at Aveiro, in a very similar concrete path to this one where I am now passing by. By that time, João had once started to crush some snails whilst singing some tune I can’t remember. I hit him. And he hit me back. I’ve never seen him again, yet I still now he does not belong to that group of “others” that I’m referring to here. He belongs to those I call “mine”, and this is the first time I have this absurd feeling of belonging to a homeland.

I will also feel it towards Bulgaria, sooner or later. I perceived it from the instant I received a phone call from a stranger offering me a room when I was more economically vulnerable. I realised it with the first time a woman held me in her arms in one of those central parks of the town and also in the smile of the lady clerk of the Ministry of Interior, who helped me in filling the forms of the Immigration Services.

When you’re alone, every sign of kindness is a gold nugget that you find, and no matter how tiny it is, you can never forget it. I think about all this in a the morning, whilst avoiding one more snail to whom I wish luck with the treading of the elephants that keep walking after me. We are all so small and it is so easy to be crushed that in the end one should bear in mind that this is what really unites us all.

Final Note from the Author: I have no internet but in my phone and that’s the reason why I haven’t written more often in this blog It is not easy to type. I’ll try to do it more frequently.

Find the original post in Portuguese here:

http://naocompreendoasmulheres.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/o-caminho-de-caracois.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+NoCompreendoAsMulheres+(n%C3%A3o+compreendo+as+mulheres)

A Poem by Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen

A Translation by Sonia Oliveira

DSCF3400

WE SHALL RISE

We shall rise again from under the walls of Knossos/

And in Delphi heart of the world/

We shall rise again beneath the harsh light of Crete/

We shall rise again there where words/

Are the name of things/

And where outlines are vivid and clear/

Beneath the sharp light of Crete/

We shall rise again there where stone star and time/

Are the kingdom of men/

We shall rise again to look earth in the eye/

Beneath the clean light of Crete/

For one must shed light on the heart of man/

And raise the black preciseness of the Cross/

Beneath the white light of Crete.

 

From the original in Portuguese:

 

RESSURGIREMOS
Ressurgiremos ainda sob os muros de Cnossos
E em Delphos centro do mundo
Ressurgiremos ainda na dura luz de CretaRessurgiremos ali onde as palavras
São o nome das coisas
E onde são claros e vivos os contornos
Na aguda luz de Creta

Ressurgiremos ali onde pedra estrela e tempo
São o reino do homem
Ressurgiremos para olhar para a terra de frente
Na luz limpa de Creta

Pois convém tornar claro o coração do homem
E erguer a negra exactidão da cruz
Na luz branca de Creta

 

And also the previously translated version of Richard Zenith in the year of Sophia’s death:

WE WILL RISE
We will rise again beneath the walls of Knossos
And in Delphi the centre of the world
We will rise again in the harsh light of CreteWe will rise where words
Are the names of things
Where outlines are clear and vivid
There in the sharp light of Crete

We will rise where stone the stars and time
Are the kingdom of man
We will rise to stare straight at the earth
In the clean light of Crete

For it is good to clarify the heart of man
And to lift the black exactness of the cross
In the white light of Crete

© Translation: 2004, Richard Zenith

 

Exhibition Time

 

On January’s last Sunday, we decided to visit the Science Museum an the exhibition with the thematic related to the development of science during World War II, entitled Churchill’s Scientists. The main areas of scientific research were on physics and chemistry related to war industry, as well as biology aiming the eugenic theories which pursued the goal of creating a cast of supermen.

Here you have a small excerpt of its content. Enjoy.

DSCF9702

Don’t miss it for the world!

Cheers.

 

 

Cláudia

The Sharp Humour of a Satyric and Hedonistic Dwarf: the best mood to get trough 2016

Tyrion Lannister may not be exactly a “loser”, in Eco’s perspective but he surely is a character the Professore would praise as a literary character. He is not a physical demi-god but his intelligence largely overcomes is not-so-perfect look.

This little quotation book enhancing the main personality traits of George R.R. Martin‘s  A Song of Ice and Fire protagonist may be an excellent choice either to laugh with family and friends around a table in the new year’s eve, or to inspire a choice to carry on the mood for the days to come, with Tyrion’s resilience which is a combination of stoicism, scepticism, a total absence of puritanism, and a special sympathy to the weakest. This makes Tyrion both amoral and human creature at the same time and probably the most complete of Martin’s characters.

The Witt and Wisdom of Tyrion Lannister is a selection of the most charismatic sentences proffered by the character Martin‘s saga and beautifully illustrated by Jonty Clark, which transforms this book into an object of art.

Tyrion’s main features are exposed in twelve sections that construct the essence of his own self in a small volume that can be read during a quick trip in the tube between Notting Hill and Liverpool Street.  Enjoy!

9780007532322

Umberto Eco at the British Library

London, November 8th at the British Library’s Conference Centre, Professore Umberto Eco presents Numero Zero and talks to the audience about literature, ethics in journalism and contemporary issues that are ubiquitous in the media.

It’s Sunday afternoon and we’ve just eaten a quick meal in the tube station at Charing’s Cross. We’re heading to the British Library’s Conference Centre to hear the communication of the Academic, essayist and novelist Umberto Eco, buy his new (and autographed) book, and if possible, take a few photos to post in the Facebook or one of my blogs.

The sky is grey and a soft rain is falling over our shoulders whilst we’re eating our lunch in front of the Library and  appreciating an outdoor exhibition of satirical panels alluding to the classical and renascentist theatre, watching the histrionic, dramatic postures and attitudes of three young Italian tourists posing and taking photos in front of each panel. It’s two o’clock. The Centre is now opening and we would really appreciate finding a good place in one of the front rows. As soon as we e finish our sandwiches, we’ll get into the conference room. The right wing in the third row seems to suit us, combining discretion and a good visibility to the stage.

Il Professore comes into the auditory and climbs a few steps with some difficulty aided by his walking stick and by John Mullan, the interviewer. As soon as he starts chatting, replying to Mullan, one can’t help noticing the slightly dark humour, the sharp irony of the discourse and the extraordinary refreshing sarcasm directed towards himself which immediately rips of any trace of pedantry. An ability that fits perfectly in one of the most intelligent and cultivated men of our times.

Mr. Eco spoke essentially about the new book, a first person narrative, and about its protagonist: a journalist named Colonna (curiously, the name of one of the main rivals of pope Alexander VI and of the whole Borgia family), a name that makes his readers realize at once that this one is a character who is specifically and strategically conceived to defy the highest powers in the media. Colonna writes for a fake journal called “Domani” (Tomorrow). The author emphasizes that “this is a journal that doesn’t exist”, a fiction. And it could never exist in the real world because “it’s a “fake”; I am always interested in the truth in fakes. So, I look for books that are wrong. (…) I’m a philosopher – I only write novels at the weekend – and as a philosopher I’m always interested in Truth. I look for Ptolomeo and not Galileo (because Galileo was right).”

Reality is also an issue that obsesses Professore Eco in his work as philosopher and writer, especially because it always appears much more incredible and sometimes more surrealistic than the fictive plot: “Reality is fascinating because it is stranger than fiction”. The example given by Mr. Eco that illustrates this fact is an episode from The Island of the day before in which Galileo builds a strange machine that he sells afterwards to the Netherlands and that will be used by Copernicus to build is model of the universe, to show how can a complicated and factual story contain more truth than a total fiction.

Il Professore classifies his protagonist from Numero Zero, Colonna, as a total loser:

«Losers are the ones who feed the Literature, because they are so much more interesting than winners. Winners are usually stupid. Especially because they always win by chance. All Literature is about losers.»

And he reminds us of Dostoievky and Kafkas’s protagonists, Flaubert’s traginal and pathetic Madame Bovary or even Musil’s Man without qualities.

Also, every Umberto Eco’s protagonists have names that immediately label them as “fake”, starting with the protagonist of his first novel The Name of the Rose, William of Baskerville, until his latter, Colonna, from the brand new Numero Zero. And all of them are a bit paranoid within the construction of their conspiracy theories and have a special fascination for plots, a characteristic they share with their author. Therefore, “all the paranoids persecute me” (laughter).

Speaking about female characters in his novels Mr. Eco emphasizes the importance of Maya as the most interesting and the most intelligent one from this book, Numero Zero. And she is also the unique female character. But this is something that also happens in some of his previous novel like The Foucault’s Pendulum:

«The one and only positive character is Maya. And the only reason she stays with the protagonist in the end of the story is because I had to give him something of real value for not to make him a complete loser.»

About is the image of Italy and the Italians projected abroad, he simply won’t hesitate saying:

« We were always a people of daggers and poisons. But there are other people of daggers and poisons. And even with kings that kill their own wives.» (massive laughter in the room with the allusion to the execution of Anne Boleyn and Kathryn Howard by the King Henry VIII).

With the audience, Professore Eco spoke about the cynical vision of contemporary journalism by his character, Colonna, and the twisting of the goal of providing information to the audience in the media of our times; the problems of translation that a writer must face by emphasizing his personal commitment in working close to his translators in every language to which Mr. Eco’s original versions are of his books are translated. Il Professore shows a special concern with the effect of the discourse and its impact on the reader, especially when the original text contains quotations in other languages, including the ones that are not already spoken. The pragmatic aspect of language and the preoccupation of being as close and faithful to the original discourse as possible is something that worries him as a writer. The most problematic face of this issue is when a character is speaking in any other language than its own and the book has to be translated into that very same “foreign” (to the character) language. He gives the example of the translation of Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” from Russian to French. Referring himself to Tolstoy’s characters as French speakers when the book was firstly translated to the French language he says: “their French was so bad that French people could perfectly understand when their speech was a quotation from the original” (laughter). John Mullan also mentioned Louis de Bernières’s “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” when one of the character’s has to speak Greek in the contemporary age and uses the ancient Greek to speak with the locals: for English people understand its contents and the strangeness modern Greeks would feel if somebody would speak the Greek of the times of Pericles or Alexander, the author used Old Medieval English.

One of the last issues that were brought to de debate, less than a week before the terrorist attacks in Paris, was Europe and the emergency of new fascisms which always awakes this unsettling sensation of deja vu in the Philosopher..

The room was full, every single ticket was sold for that event, weeks before. Giving a quick wide gaze trough the audience, one could easily realize the participants came from several parts of Europe if not the world. The profusion of languages heard during the brief intervals in the conversation with the audience and in the end were so many that one could feel herself like being in the ancient Babel. And everyone showed the same pleasure in being there, speaking about books, life, humankind and its future. Language was no obstacle. And the most amazing thing was realizing that nothing is more effective in destroying walls, eliminating frontiers than Culture, Art, the promotion of free-thinking, and most of all, the Literature. Thank you so much, Professore Eco.

 

London, November 27th 2015

Cláudia de Sousa Dias

 

A PostScript as a small epilogue:

After the conference and the debate we decided to join the queue to buy the book that should the be signed by the author. However, the stock was running out, disappearing  as fast as water down the shower drain, since each person was buying two, three or even four books at the time, to take away as gifts. The last book was sold before the eyes of the person who was just before me. As soon as she approached the table, the saleswoman informed her the stock was over for that venue and there were no more books. The girl felt so miserable (and so did I, to tell you the truth) that she couldn’t help turning back to me and say: “Well, I guess were are the losers, aren’t we?”.

I think she’s right. We are losers. Though (unfortunately) not Umberto Eco’s literary characters.