Showing posts with label literature. Show all posts
Showing posts with label literature. Show all posts

Monday, June 30, 2014

The fairy who built houses for the gnomes

The first time I heard the name Ana Maria Matute was when, being just a kid at school, I had to read a book titled Paulina. I remember myself not receiving that school task with much joy, as I thought it was not  probably like the books by foreign authors I was used to read from my little library at home: Books with tales by Grimm Brothers, Perrault, Andersen... Those little women, Heidi, Don Quixote comic version for children... Bugs Bunny's, A Disney comic book... and a few more.
The truth is I can't remember the story of that book, however her name kept in my memory... and one day I had the opportunity to know that amazingly she was a writer who loved the stories of fairies, elves, and gnomes; this happened some years ago when watching a great tv program about literature where, with other great writers, she had a talk with children about the magical world of fairies, gnomes, fantasy, tales, and the classics of literature for "all ages" children. Watch video
That was my first encounter with the writer. Another special moment was when she was awarded with the Prize CervantesSpeech (Español).
Though my encounters, so far, with her books have just been merely anecdotal, I can say that listening on the radio any interview or talk about her magical world actually causes fascination.
In a world where technology, phones and computers seem to be dominating the human mind, life and our closest relationship with the world, where children are having less and less space for imagination and fantasy, it makes you feel hopeful and grateful that a fairy has left such a wonderful legacy on her books, where now we can meet her and her magical world every time we wish.
This is a fantastic recent article in English about her: "Cervantes winner Matute: A child's view of Spain's Civil War"
I also came across with a wonderful interview on La Vanguardia, that I've translated into English, because I thought it was worth sharing with the whole world.
Picture: With her doll house for gnomes; Picture: With kids at a school

Ana María Matute: "Todo está cargado de magia" "Everything is full of magic"
Translation from article: 19 April 2013, La Vanguardia Magazine

In Ana Maria Matute's flat in Barcelona, there is a house under construction. It is a building of three floors of those with which children play, and it is half done next to the window, along with some scattered pieces. Across the living-room, on a table, there is a miniature reproduction of her work studio, a sacred place that no one can enter, "but it's like this, so you can figure it out perfectly," she says. The writer, probably the most important in the world of Spanish language, speaks at 87 with energy, whispers, waves her crutch, laughs with girl eyes ... The excuse of the meeting is the new edition of their children's tales that undertakes the publishing "Destino".  

A few days after meeting her, the Magazine escorted her to public school Palma de Mallorca in Barcelona's Nou Barris district, where students had read The green grasshopper and were longing to meet her. "I like dealing with kids, it's one of the things I miss most. I love it because they have no bad respect me, they speak to me informally quickly". Matute makes them laugh out loud, rebukes them, talks to them about issues such as depression, is interested in their home countries ... brandishes its lightweight crutch, not the one given to her by King Juan Carlos and she keeps in her apartment: "It is very nice with lights, cushions and all. I saw it to him when the Cervantes prize, 'we both wear crutches', I said to him, but yours is spectacular, 'and he sent it home to me. But I only wear it for special occasions because it is heavy and uncomfortable to wear".

At her home in Barcelona. Source: El Pais

Do you have children at home? 
No. Why ...?

Because the Dollhouse ...
I'm building it myself. It has still enough to build left... But it's not for dolls, it's for gnomes. But now they are not in.

They will come once the house is finished, not before. They come, they always come. I have built them many houses, even in the forest, on the trees, even once in a forest in Sweden.

Now published again all your children's stories, one by one. Who did you write them for?
For my son. For children. I feel rage when they try they are considered texts for adults ... There are things in them that adults do not understand, these texts are only well understood by the little ones. Being a child is hard. Everything is against you. And you see things that others do not see, and no one appreciates you. But before they were even less valued, they were like pets, the Brothers Grimm did not write their stories for them, they are full of terrifying and horrible things, but better that way, because nothing must be hidden from children, they must not be treated as disabled, they understand the world better than anyone.

But they are stories that like also to adults
Yes, of course. To adults who know how to look at. Julio Cortázar told me, in fact, what he liked the most by me were the children's stories. But he had a privileged perception, he was a magician, you know? He came to meet me at Sitges because he had loved my novel "First memory" (Primera memoria) (1959). I am very old and I've known them all: Pablo Neruda gave me a hug in Moscow at a writers' conference and, holding me, he took me to several places, I remember I got so excited that my husband thought I was not going to wash my coat anymore.

You have two registers, the realistic and the fantastic. The arid Artámila stories and the magic of "Forgotten King Gudu" (Olvidado rey Gudú), so to speak.
There was a time when writing something unrealistic was very complicated. Still, there's always something magical on a text of mine. But what is reality? To me, a gnome is a tremendous realism. I have built them many houses.

Your father manufactured umbrella, right?
And my grandfather. It still exists the property, with the sign Matute at the door, it was also a metals store. It's owned by my cousins, my brothers did not want to keep on it.

When do you write?
In the morning, but not early. Sometimes I tell my children: "Do not call me for lunch".

And now?
I'm trying to make a new novel called Family Demons, but the dizziness will not let me, let's see if they can remove them from me, it's very heavy/disturbing, a new trouble, the machine is getting old.

But age looks good for a writer ...
Yes, you are more objective, you have more experience, and also you manage it better ... It's useful to you in order to sneak out of certain things. And you know your limits more.

But what limits do you have ... to write, I mean?
None. I do not put barriers to me. But while it's phenomenal to reach an age like mine, on the other hand is very sad because everything dies: you see in the paper how your friends get dropping , everything that was your world crumbles and appears as a field of ashes.

Your world are also those who read her now, right?
Sure, it's not that I'm completely knackered.

What is your first memory of life?
Me in someone's arms cradling me, I do not know if male or female, I'm very cuddled, and there is a lamp on the table, and a song is playing like a soft humming. My mother would say to me, "You can't remember that, you were months old" but I described her the lamp and I was right.

You have always kept the eyes of a girl, at least as a writer.
Yes, and as a person too, and that's why I have had many disappointments.

But, maybe, thanks to those disappointments, you have been able to write as you do.
It not only teaches the bad, but also the good. I am innocent, yes, I keep some from the young because every day I have a disappointment or a surprise , and that's not old people's.

What do you do when you get up?
Fortuny's crossword on La Vanguardia. In addition, I have become her friend and he shows me many times in the definitions.

Your first marriage, held in 1952, was unsuccessful ...
He took our child away from me in 1963, when we separated. In the whole world custody is granted to the mother, but here, with Franco, it's not. I was nearly three years separated from my son. Fortunately I had a very good mother in law, who allowed me to see him behind his father. The child is this gentleman who has opened the door to you, what do you think?

It was a time when nobody spoke of abuse, either physical or psychological. Neither anyone got separated.
But I did. I do not know where I got the strength from, I've never been loud-mouthed or bossy, I have always tried to go unnoticed. After three years I was already sick of my husband, but we were married for over ten years. Until I left.

How were your parents ?
They were right wing; my father, manufacturer, and my mother, daughter of landowners from La Rioja. I would write my novels, I wrote since I was five, but my mother made me knit before, until she realized that I was different because she was not dumb at all, she never went to bed without reading. My father had a small library and he often took us to the theater in Madrid, mostly. The other day I went to see the work in which Vicky Peña plays Maria Moliner.

Miller wanted to become language academic, as you are.
It was logical I became, but academics did not want... like Caballero Bonald, who has been very late to become. We are lifelong friends. When I was married to the bad one, he abandoned me in Mallorca without money. He went to Madrid "to fix it all" actually to mess around and to discuss at cafes, was his specialty. He left me hanging in a hotel. Camilo José Cela knew about it and showed up there with his wife. Charo, paid 6,000 pesetas that we owed from the bill and she took me to their house, where I was living for three months. And there Cela had Caballero Bonald as his secretary, we were both like two kittens picked up from the street. I was like her daughter, so I have always seen Cela as someone fatherly.

And then both, Caballero and you have been Cervantes prize ...
But then what we liked to read was "Pulgarcito" (Little Thumb. A Spanish comic), that Cela's son received and that we would take away from him at every opportunity. "What a pair of intellectuals we are!", we said each other among laughter. Above all, we loved "La familia Cebolleta" vignettes (Falmily Spring Onion. A Spanish comic). When the parents invited the boss home to dinner, to impress him they wore a cape and clothes that, when he arrived, made him exclaim: "Oh, what an Asian luxury!". We kept that phrase, and it's the one we sent each other by telegram when we both won the Cervantes. We have taken many gin and tonics ...

Now you must not take so many ...
The doctor says I'm doing well, although my son suspects falsely that I fall down in hotels because of the drink, but no, it is because of the mats they put under the beds, in which my crutch get hooked. The doctor told me that those mats have killed more people than Hitler and Stalin together.

You lived in a men's world. You were the only woman with all the major literary awards: Nadal, Planeta, the Critics, the National ...
Always. It took me a lot to have friends like Josefina Aldecoa, Carmen Martín Gaite and Ana María Moix, who wrote me a letter when she was 17. She told me she would wear a leopard skin, and I replied: "Well, I one of widower cat", and she believed it! One day, she invited me to see Cleopatra with Terenci (Moix) at the cinema. Now I don't watch so many movies because I've gone deaf. But yes, in the literary circles there were men, and I came and drank with them. They called me "the little Cossack", because I followed their pace. I have drunk a lifetime, with my little brother ... sometimes we would get drunk. Women of that time were, as I called them, re-embarrased ladies, they only thought about making a good wedding.

Do you think you could win the Nobel one day? 
Never. He already died in the 90s, the Swedish scholar who defended me, Artur Lundkvist.

You were discovered by the editor Ignacio Agustí .
I went to be discovered. When I was 17 I had written a novel on a graph notebook, Pequeño teatro (Little theater). One day I asked, "What is the best publisher in Spain?". "Destino", I was told. And there I went to. They did not receive me, and finally a guy told me, "I'll let you come in." Agustí was a whole gentleman, he treated me very politely and told me: "You must edit it with the typewriter" I did it, and I sent it to him; and it had not even been a week since that I met him on the street. "Miss Matute, we have read your book, but how old are you?". I was 19, and he replied, surprised: "We are going to publish your book, come one day with your father." We signed a 5,000 pesetas contract for life. My father said, "Don't you could give her a little more?". And Josep Verges, the owner, said: "It's a product that we don't know how it will be doing." Sure, an editorial is not a non-profit, but at that time the contracts were unconscionable.

Didn't you have then in behind an agent like Carmen Balcells?
She played a decisive role in that my back to write. Without her, Olvidado rey Gudú (Forgotten King Gudu) wouldn't have existed, which is the book I would choose from among all mine. I had been 18 years without writing, do you realize? Because of a very bad depression. Balcells asked me: "Don't you have anything?". "No, I only kept a half finished book" "Bring it to me." When she read it, she told me it had to get finished and she kidnapped me, she took me to live to her house until I finished, I got a great suite with bedroom and a work room with my electric typewriter, and a secretary downstairs who edited on the computer. I finished it in months. Finally, we had champagne and I was crowned with the crown of the King cake. Since then she represents me and everything has changed for the better.

Because writing is not an easy job ...
May nobody write to make money, because all we have dedicated to this we can explain things ...

How did Jose Manuel Lara, the founder of Planeta?
When I was nobody, nobody knew him. It was in a summer in the early 50, in Cafe Gijón, I saw a sweaty man, with no tie, he was there looking for writers among the tables, he approached them directly, he introduced himself, and he took some of them with him.

What was your happiest stage?
One of the most was when I lived with my second husband in a duplex in Sitges. We had three terraces and two fireplaces. We lived in swimsuit, if not naked. I wrote all day. I have traveled very much, my husband had a second home in Hong Kong and we went there every year. I've known all the world ... except Oceania.

And your experience in the United States in the sixties? 
It was extraordinary. I was living in Indiana, Oklahoma and Virginia. I had just get my son back. First, I was invited by an American professor, who said: "Of all the Spanish authors I read, the one I've liked the most is you." And I and Jose Aldecoa were invited, a week each. Then they chose me to teach for a year. All Spanish Republican exiles were in US, I met everyone. The one I remember the most is Francisco Ayala, who I fondly called "the devil." Students of those years still come to meet me, of my lessons of Contemporary Spanish Novel, in which I even included Maria Aurelia Capmany. At returning, my son didn't like Spanish girls, they looked really timid.

And if you were in Sitges, did you know the writer and journalist César González-Ruano?
No. That one was best known by my first husband. All that mob did awful things, they took money away from each other. My ex did not bring money home, it only entered what I got.

You never saw him again?
Yes, when he was already very ill in a nursing home. I went to see him and then I regretted it, because he began to talk bad about me to my son. He could not help it: he was mouthed and bad.

You precisely have known to reflect the wickedness of man in your works.
Yes, and mostly stupidity. Evil and goodness are very exquisite, but they have few representatives because they are the product of high intelligence. But stupidity is lavished ...

Happy childhood is talked, but yours ...
I had only happy moments. And other very bad. When a child misbehaved, a punishment was to put it in a dark room, without thinking about the traumas it could create. My brothers came out crying. I misbehaved so that they put me inside, so that they leave me alone.

What pleasure did you find?
It was wonderful. What I called the light of the darkness. There I began to be a writer, to see reality from another way. I called it the city of the closets, which did not reach the ceiling. I opened the drawers, touched the screens. One day, I picked up a lump of sugar, I split it in two and a blue little light came out, that semms to be a thing that happens, as when you put fresh fish in the dark, and I got marveled: "I'm a magician!" I believed it. And I still keep on believing it.

You never talk about politics.
I have been a Communist ... until I went to the Soviet Union, six months in Russia were enough for me to see what it was that. Today, it drives me mad the cuts and evictions, I do not understand how they are able to leave people in the street.

If I had to recommend just a book ...
The Bible. I read it as a child and then I have read then several: Protestant, Catholic ... it is the best adventure book that has ever been done. Olvidado rey Gudú (Forgotten King Gudu) and all my books come from the Bible. Then, Don Quixote, I was made to read it as a teen and I found it horrible, I got bored, I didn't understand anything, but, at 18, everything already changed. It is the first book which I've cried with, with Don Quixote's death, for all what it means: to let the madness go away. That is terrible. The triumph of good sense.

That has not happened to you yet?
It would be very hard for me.

You have fame of sponsoring female writers ...
Of that critics are to blame, who do nothing but see feminine features, or mine, in the books girls write. It makes me mad. They confused Carmen Martín Gaite with me, when we are day and night. "Primera memoria" (First memory) has nothing to do with "Entre visillos" (Between curtains).

Have you got on with the critics?
I haven't cared what they said. I have not had bad reviews either, but something worse: misunderstanding, to see how they talk and talk about a book of mine during pages without having understood. That sinks you. Theory is what from literature I have left. My classes consisted in reading books and explain them, very vividly, I approached what the writer had done.

What are you reading lately?
Henning Mankell, detective novel, the last three of Enrique Vila-Matas ...

Who told you stories?
My nanny, we were like their grandchildren and she told us stories of elves. Nanny Anastasia from Burgos. She explained to us that, in the small villages, in the fall, at night, when it started to be cold, the elves could not get under the trees, they were cold and hungry, and she put bowls of grain in the door so that those beings ate something, and a little cider so that they get warm.

You were a stuttering girl, right?
Yes, but it suddenly disappeared with the bombings of Barcelona. That anguish: you didn't know what to do, if you moved, you could be killed, but if you kept still, too.

How long have you gone to mass?
Until 16 or 17 years. I left it soon, but now ...

Have you changed?
I am a believer now. For ten or eleven years, maybe more. I don't practise because I can't walk. And because I was once at a church that it's nearby ... and there was no one! I said to myself, "What am I doing here?". I got up and went. I have an idea of God, one day I felt Him in a very profound way.

Does it help you to write?
Yes, I feel better believing.

What else do you believe in?
I believe in many things that have nothing to do with most people's beliefs ... Do you believe in coincidence? Well it does not exist; it only seems, but everything has a reason, nothing happens without a reason. Living, speaking, is magic. Everything is full of magic, magic makes we are here chatting. If not, we should be nuzzling in the mountains.

"El que no inventa, no vive" "Who does not invent, does not live" - Ana Maria Matute

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Let's Read Together! - Alice in Wonderland

Facsimile page from Alice's Adventures Under Ground. From Wikipedia

   I've created this space so that we can read a book together, a kind of Reading Club experiment; I've chosen to start a wonderful story full of fantasy: ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND by Lewis Carroll (published in 1865). Every week or so on, I'll put a link to a chapter here on this post. When we have finished reading the book, I'll publish a post so that you can make your comments about what you liked the most about the book.

   So Let's Read Together!


   Read eBOOK


"Updated 14 Jun 2010"

Alice in Wonderland statue in Central Park
Alice in Wonderland statue in Central Park

   "When the Rabbit actually TOOK A WATCH OUT OF ITS WAISTCOAT-POCKET, and looked at it, and then hurried on, Alice started to her feet..."

   " 'And what is the use of a book,' thought Alice 'without pictures or conversation?' "

   And what fantasy would be without Alice in Wonderland?

   (Thank you so much to the many of you who have shown a great interest for this post)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Think Can Do!

   A few  days ago, I watched on Disney Channel (fortunately free and open for everybody since last summer) a Warner animation film titled The Easter Bunny Is Coming To Town (1977) which has the legendary Fred Astaire as narrator. There's a very constructive scene I liked very much and now, by creating this tale, I tell you my own way.

   Once upon a time, there was in a little village, near a little barn, where three yellow hens lived, a mouldy rusty old locomotive which felt sad and had oblivion as his best warehouse-mate. One day an easter bunny with some friends of him arrived at that place and while they were walking along the countryside, they heard a series of moans coming from an old warehouse. They ran over there to see who was inside and couln't believe what they were seeing, a locomotive!, a locomotive which was crying!. The easter bunny immediately understood what was going on and had a great idea, he asked the locomotive to take them to the town as in that way they wouln't be late for carrying the easter eggs to all the children who lived there. The locomotive said that it was permanently impossible as she could hardly open her eyes because of the rust, the cobwebs and the mould, and anyway she didn't feel she could ever start again. As the bunny insisted and insisted, and even the three neighbour yellow hens came to insist her too, the locomotive gave in and let them fix and paint her in joyful colours. However, despite she was really ready for a try, she kept on saying as before that she couldn't and so repeated once and once again. One of the three yellow hens suddenly started to sing "All you've got to do is think can do...". Immediately, the other two yellow hens started to sing too, the same thing the easter bunny did and also the friends who came with him. The locomotive got so amazed by such a beautiful melody that powerful words began to come out of her mouth. She couldn't stop saying  "I can do, I can do, I can do...", and the words seemed to be stronger and stronger and powerful till she started to move and to work perfectly, as new!. Everybody, even the locomotive, got so happy with excitement that in a jiffy all together got to town, and the children had a lot of fun and joy with the easter eggs.

   But what's the moral of the story? Whatever you have to do don't forget the following: All You've Got To Do Is... Think Can Do!


Monday, February 4, 2008

Amos Oz: The woman In the Window

I remember the speech the writer Amos Oz said in the ceremony of the Príncipe de Asturias Awards, where he was being awarded, it was a beautiful one titled "The woman in the window", I liked very much. It was about the story a woman looking through a window and waching everything happenig around: ..."The woman in the window might be a Palestinian woman in Nablus. She might be a Jewish Israeli woman in Tel-Aviv. If you want to help make peace between these two women in the two windows, you had better read more about them. Read novels, dear friends. They will tell you much."

I understood then that woman was like two at the same time, one Palestinian and the other Jewish Israeli, and the better thing of all was that both are quite quite similar, because both of them want peace, both of them need peace. I haven't read any novel by this writer yet, but from now on I will take his books into account.

If you wanna read the whole speech, I recommend it, you can read it in other languages and even listen to the original speech in hebrew: 2007 Prince of Asturias Awards Presentation Ceremony, Prince of Asturias Award for Letters:     

"The woman in the Window"  by Amos Oz.