Escritora Errante 11: Ríos.

York_flooded

Escribí esta entrada el 6 de diciembre de 2015, cuando Lancaster acababa de sufrir un corte en el suministro eléctrico debido a las inundaciones de varios ríos.

Últimamente tenía problemas para escribir mis quinientas palabras diarias, pero mira por dónde hoy ese va a ser el último de mis problemas. Supongo que a España estas noticias no llegan, porque a nadie le importa Lancaster, esa pequeña ciudad con castillo en el Noroeste de Inglaterra. Después de estar lloviendo un mes los ríos se han desbordado y la estación eléctrica en Lancaster se ha inundado. No hay electricidad, ni internet, ni cobertura en los móviles.

Esto es bastante relevante, ya que estoy escribiendo una novela corta de Ciencia Ficción sobre un mundo en el que siempre llueve. Nunca pensé que llegaría a ver imágenes post-apocalípticamente inspiradoras tan cerca de casa. Qué cosas.

Llevábamos todo noviembre lloviendo sin parar, y mi humor pasaba de gris a negro e incluso peor. No dejaba de pensar que el tiempo era especialmente malo – incluso para Inglaterra – pero la mayoría de las personas me miraban con una media sonrisa por eso de que soy española y claro, tanto sol mientras crecía en mi Madrid me he convertido en una malcriada…

Cielos grises, la lluvia inclemente cual amenaza divina… Ahora mismo me acuerdo mucho de que alguien – no sé quién, pero esa persona merece ser arrojada a un río, lo siento – decidió que el Distrito de los Lagos – uno de los lugares más hermosos del planeta – sería un buen lugar para deshacerse de residuos radioactivos.

No sé si la naturaleza tiene algún tipo de alma – lo dejaremos en misterio – pero cuando el río Conder – que pasa muy cerca de mi casa – bajaba marrón, espuma amarillenta, a toda velocidad, como nunca lo había visto antes… Estaba enfadado, iracundo, y no es una metáfora, es la emoción que me embargó al verlo.

Como el río Ouse en York hoy – estoy en York, por azares del destino he logrado escapar de Lancaster – que también se ha desbordado, y podéis ver en la foto. Ese paseo de adoquinado al lado del río por el que yo caminaba tan feliz al sol este pasado septiembre se encuentra completamente inundado, los primeros pisos de las casas y los soportales completamente cubiertos. Una señal de tráfico. Una grúa. Todo ha dejado de ser una herramienta humana, un elemento más de la ciudad para convertirse en huesos, fantasmas. El Ouse no está enfadado, está pletórico. Cubre todo con sus aguas, se adueña de la ciudad que con tanto ahínco se h ido construyendo a través de los años, piedra tras piedra. Parece querer decir, aquí estoy yo, como estuve siempre antes que ninguno de vosotros, y este es mi reino.

La naturaleza puede convertirnos en polvo en un solo instante. Y la electricidad, los teléfonos, el internet… sirven para cualquier cosa menos para emergencias. Anoche, cuando se fue la luz por primera vez, me fui a dormir ligeramente angustiada. La lluvia seguía cayendo y no podía evitar pensar en el Conder, furioso.

No dejo de pensar en Station Eleven, el libro que leímos en el club de lectura de Ciencia Ficción este trimestre. La historia de un mundo que se va al carajo porque un virus que viene de Georgia – los virus malos siempre vienen de lugares remotos, no de EEUU o cosas así – mata al 99% de la población. Ellos también se quedan sin electricidad, sin agua… el caos y la angustia de esta sociedad fantasma – todo lo que ‘importa’ es intangible.

Bosques oscuros. Tan solo los brillos de los ojos de las ovejas que aun siguen pastando después de que el sol se haya hundido bajo las montañas pasadas las cuatro de la tarde. Recuerdo cuando andaba por el Distrito de los Lagos, Great End. La noche empezó a caer y yo seguía por las alturas. Recuerdo el color del cielo: el azul se volvió más intenso, oscuro y brillante a un tiempo. Añil. La luna se veía enorme entre las montañas,  con un tinte plateado, y las primeras estrellas empezaban a salir pero aún era de día. Nubes rojas en el horizonte, y dorado donde el sol empezaba a estrellarse, contra los riscos.

Cuando la noche se derramó completamente sobre el valle, solo se veía la luna, lejana y distante, ahora dorada, majestuosa. La luna de lejos vigilando como una madre atenta siempre al lado del bebé que dueme. Mil estrellas encima, y debajo brillos aquí y allá, como jemas de jet, titilando, velas de materia oscura. Los ojos de las ovejas. Las ovejas siguen pastando pese a todo en esas noches largas que empiezan demasiado pronto a comerse a Inglaterra.

Durmiendo en York pero pensando en Lancaster. En los campos vacíos, en la ciudad dormida, sin luz, sin ruido, simplemente existiendo.

Writing like a Hindi God… Congregation of Innocents

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Congregation of Innocents

 

Writing with several hands, is it possible?

I’m not only a writer, but also a pianist. And I know that playing four hands it’s incredibly difficult. There are so many things that can go wrong – the rhythm, the time… even physically, your fingers can just run over the other person’s! It can be a dissaster because it requires perfect communication with your partner – yes, you need to be soulmates to grant success, basically.

In writing should be easier because there is not the stress of the immediate performance – you have more time to discuss, argue and scream at each other hoping that the final product doesn’t come out drenched in blood.

I have experience on that: I wrote with my father, who’s also a writer. How was it? Well, it was writing with my father

We see things so differently. For him there is LITERATURE –  this includes all the books he likes, which are mainly Literary Fiction – and then that commercial crap that is not any better than a hamburguer at McDonalds – and this includes almost all genre fiction and the books he just doesn’t personally like.

Yes. We argued a lot.

Also, he thinks that what is told is always more important than how it’s told. And that anything you write has to be based on experience. I write about doctors who mummify children and perform c-sections without anesthesics in a lost mansion in the Highlands – did myself experienced all that…? Well, you might not want to hear the answer…

Of course for him is easier to talk about experiences – he has travelled all over the world. He’s also an amazing writer, and he’s funny, and satirical, and critical, and socially-engaged – all things that I admire and I wish my writing had – at least in a stronger way.

Our experience writing together was enriching but in the end, when the book came out everyone thought that the serious, literary parts were his and the funny comical bits were mine – because of the age, I assume. They got it wrong.

Today I want to talk about another book wirtten by multiple hands: Congregation of Innocents, edited by Curious Tales. It contains four short stories by Emma Unsworth, Richard Hirst, Jenn Ashworth and Tom Fletcher plus a graphic short story by Ian Williams. It also has the illustrations, photos and cover design by the artist Beth Ward.

I was lucky that this was the book read in our Gothic Reading Group at Lancaster University and Jenn Ashworth came to talk about the process. She mentioned very interesting things. First of all, the four writers are all friends and work all together editing each other’s texts. I can see here the challenge of having friends and giving them feedback and still being friends after that. We all have such big egoes – I do, at least, although I was partially cured since I started writing in English and I became really humble about it because it’s not my first language… Also, I’d also feel a lot of preassure if continuously giving feedback to my friends just in case I don’t like some of the stuff they do – even if I love them as people, obviously. Art is such a subjective thing… For example, Jenn pointed out that it too her quite a long time to understand Tom‘s short story whereas I fell in love with it immediately.

These people are not just professional writers, they also funded a publishing houseCurious Tales – and have done a trilogy of short story collections called Five Curious Tales. It all started when they decided to exchange ghost stories as a Christmas present. I think this is a such a genial idea.

How do they unifiy their collections, though?

They dedicate their volume to a writer and then gather inspiration fom him or her to write their short stories – as a response to the work of this particular author.

For example the second collection was called Poor Souls’ Light and it was inspired by Robert Aickman, whereas the third one, Congregation of Innocents,  – which I have in my hands – is inspired in the short stories by Shirley Jackson.

The illustrations are, in my opinion, what brings the stories all together. Jenn explained how Beth acts as the core of the project. She gives feedback to everyone, she decides how the illustrations will complement everyone’s story, she does the artwork from the cover  – and that picture is like the essence of the collection itself, not an easy thing to do, I imagine! She even decides the order of the short stories.

I think this is very wise. First because words can come together through other media – in this case visual images. And third because someone from another media may be more able to see the whole picture.

This volume – we all agreed in the Gothic Reading Group – it’s about endings. All the stories are drenched in the bittersweet essence of farewells. And the cover irself represents – as it couldn’t be other way – a detail from a pink and purple cherry blossom. It looks so Japanese and delicate… and the green colour from the title letters is ghostly and unsettling –as if it was whispering to us that this is a horror story collection nonetheless, so we should be prepared. The first pages also have details from the cherry blossom branches in black. It looked like a sort of radiography so again, even if cherry flowers are beautiful and delicate, it was as if they were already dead.

Preceeding each of the stories there are black and white rows of three photographs – without titles or any word indeed, just the naked image. In The Festival the images show what it seems a piece of embroidery (complexity? a hard work? women?), some round glasses reflecting two boats on the sea (travelling?) and white petals on the ground (death of someone who is young?)

In Do You Know How To Waltz? the photographs are difficult to see because there is something that reflects on them – like the light through the blinds over a dark room. What we can see are the silouettes of flowers and trees. (Nature? Something that is hidden? Danger? Vulnerability?)

The Women’s Union Relief has the image of an isolated park, then a mug filled with tea or coffe, and then another mug but from a different perspective. (Home? Comfort? Lost childhood?)

Desert Stories has – in my opinion – the most unsettling set of images – and this was the story I found more unsettling too among all of them. We have some small hands  closed as if praying (a child’s?) a seed that has just started to grow and an empty room with an open door and an empty chair. (Abscence? Infancy? Lose? Revival?)

Now that I have read all the stories I can interpret better the photographs and see how much they are linked to the story. I think it has a wonderful idea to have another medium – photography, in this case – to express another part of a story. We live in a culture where images are very important, why shouldn’t literature nurture from them? The images don’t just reflect what is said by words but also open new paths to the interpretation of these. It is as if images where an integral part of the story, another organ in the whole body. The fact that they are in black and white adds to the atmosphere – we tend to relate black and white with the past, from where ghosts come to haunt us. There are organised in three shots, and this makes the piece cinematic. The details in the photos talk to each other and tell a story by themselves. I think the plastic artist’s work was magnificent because she managed to create a decadent universe where all the stories in this collection can co-exist.

Another visual feature I want to praise was the inclusion of a short story but told in the form of a graphic piece. It’s written by Ian Williams and it’s called The Brood of Desire. The first image occupies the first page and it shows a key with an intrincate design in its hanger. When I saw it for the  first time I felt as if the author was invinting me to his world by offering me the key – but it looked like a key made to hide dark things, so I knew that taking it would bring consequences. The graphic short story is also in black and white and what stroke me the most is the way its simple pictures transmit me so much repugnance – in the best way, because when I read horror I want to feel repugnance, and fear, and shock.

To sum up, I believe that Congregations of Innocents is a rare not to be missed piece. It is a collection of short stories set in a dark, dangerous universe. You would not necessarely want to inhabit it – or to meet its people – but when Christmas comes and you’re sick of sweets and Christmas songs and blinking lights and you feel you need something to balance it… this is your thing! Winter is not just about warm fires and hot chocolate but also about naked sharp trees and never ending nights. And there is so much art and talent in this little book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Escritora Errante 10: Winter is Coming.

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Son las ocho de la mañana y el sol aun se lo está pensando – no creo que hoy tampoco salga. Miras por la ventana de la cocina y solo ves el cielo gris blancuzco – un tono rosado clarísimo donde se supone que tiene que salir el sol. Los árboles tiemblan con solo una o dos hojas colgando – ancianos calvos. Se escucha el ulular del viento, pero no es sugerente, como las películas, porque sabes que esto es la vida real y al final tendrás que salir de casa y hará muchísimo frío y se te congelarán las mejillas y la nariz.

El invierno ha llegado a Lancaster.

Ya he vivido en Escocia, donde hace más frío y hay menos luz. Sin embargo, este año las cosas en Lancaster están siendo especialmente duras. Llevamos cuatro semanas con tan solo un único día de sol. Me siento cansada, abatida, sin ganas de hacer nada que no sea arrastrarme hacia la cama, hacerme una bolita y dormir. Por supuesto ese no es mi plan de cada día – tengo trabajo que hacer, fechas de entrega y demás. Pero ay, si pudiera.

La gente te visita y se quedan un poco así – jo, que bien se vive en España, allí tenemos sol, me dicen. Pero luego se sonríen – con todo este mal tiempo tendrás mucha inspiración para escribir, ¿no? Se te ocurrirán muchas ideas, porque esta lluvia y este frío invitan al recogimiento – y esta palabra suena como algo mágico, como un ritual en el cual el artista trasciende a un realmo superior de la mano de sus musas.

Me imagino a Wordsworth viviendo en el Lake District – donde  el tiempo aún es peor.

‘Hey, ¿salimos a dar una vuelta?’ le pregunta su mujer.

Fuera caen chuzos de punta, el viento huracanado arranca los robles como si fueran palillos… etc.

‘No… mejor sal tú… yo me quedo…’

‘¿Y si nos vamos al pub a tomarnos unas cervecitas?’

‘Mmm… no, mejor otro día…’

‘¿Y al cine? Me han dicho de una peli que…’

‘No, no, esta tarde la paso en casa escribiedo… ya si eso mañana.’

Fuera ha empezado a granizar.

Pues eso. El mal tiempo te hace quedarte en casa y escribir / leer / cultivar la mente puede ser una buena opción, yo no lo niego. Pero a veces me siento más bien atrapada aquí dentro. Encerrada. Necesito salir a descubrir cosas, a inspirarme. Como escritora me nutro de lo que hay fuera, de las conversaciones que escucho sin querer, de las personas que conozco, de los paisajes nuevos que admiro. Encerrada en casa encuentro tiempo para editar, para escribir los temidos primeros borradores. Pero sin el abono de fuera, la imaginación se seca poco a poco, se enquista. Yo no puedo ser como Emily Dickinson quien – se dice – jamás salía de casa, aunque creo que ella tenía un jardín. Tener un bonito jardín cuenta como poder salir. Y además, no creo que haga tan mal tiempo en Massachussets.

Invierno. No hay nada mejor para escribir literatura Gótica que pasarse un buen invierno en Lancaster.

En mi casa no funciona la calefacción – bueno, mejor dicho, mi casera no se digna a ponerla – por lo que la perspectiva de pasar todo el domingo en mi oficina de doctorado escribiendo – donde SÍ hay calefacción – parece algo de lo más placentero.

Por otro lado, hoy he intentado caminar por Lancaster pero la lluvia golpeaba mi piel sin piedad alguna – me dio por pensar que las gotas parecían mini cuchillos… ¿puede la lluvia llegar a hacer agujeros? ¿No dicen que el agua erosiona las piedras? El vieno soplaba tan fuerte que ha estado a punto de tirarme en algunas ocasiones – pero Lancaster… ¿no quieres que suba a esta colina…? ¿No…? Ok, got it… de vuelta a la civilización…

Al final he pasado tres horas en Café Nero en Market Street. Primero me he sentado en una mesa y he fingido estar pensándome lo que quería almorzar durante media hora. Luego he esperado a que llegara la hora punta para pedir – que los camareros vieran que no era mi culpa que tardara tanto en decirles lo que quería. Cuando ha llegado mi sopa de zanahoria y cilantro me he calentado las manos sobre ella pacientemente hasta que ha dejado de soltar vapor. Luego he untado escrupulosamente los panecillos con mantequilla y me los he comido poco a poco – para que me duraran. La sopa, a medias cucharadas.

Una hora después he pedido el chai tea, y me lo he bebido a sorbitos microscópicos, con lo que lo he alargado otras dos horas.

¿Inspira el invierno? Bueno, mi imaginación para encontrar cosas que hacer en las cafeterías trabaja bastante. También leo mucho – es la manera de pasar el rato en los espacios públicos. Eso también me pasó ayer. Fui a Manchester, y en vez de pasear por el canal – caían chuzos de punta – me quedé en la cafetería del Art Museum bebiendo té y leyendo el maravilloso Tomorrow Never Knows de Eddie Robson – os lo traeré de cerca muy pronto en los artículos que escribo en inglés. Luego lo continué en la John Rylands Library, pero eso fue un lujazo, he de reconocerlo. Qué preciosidad de sitio, me daría pena que a fuera hiciera sol, ciertamente, pues aun así preferiría quedarme dentro de esta biblioteca, así de bonita es.

El invierno también es bueno para afilar mis dotes de observación. Con el frío hay mucho tiempo para deambular dentro de las tiendas – aunque solo sea para tomarse un respiro del intenso frío de la calle. Y como lo que hay dentro suele ser aburrido – a no ser que sean libros, yo no soy muy fan del shopping – me suelo fijar en la gente.

Por otro lado, ahora es por la noche y no estoy dando paseos a la luz de la luna – cosa que sí hacía en verano – sino que escribo porque mis dedos están tan fríos que si no los muevo se van a caer.

Sí, el invierno es muy inspirador en Lancaster. En serio. Si tenéis algún tipo de bloqueo creativo, no dudéis en venir a hacerme una visita…

 

 

 

The story of a return – Persepolis

Persepolis

I read Persepolis when I was 14. I lived in Spain and I went to my first Comic-Con – after begging my parents during days. Finally my father agreed to take my sister, my best friend and I to the place of the event. To be fair, it was quite far away from home, and he thought we wouldn’t  be safe in a place full of thousands of friquis – that’s how we call in Spain the people who like reading comics and manga, play videogames and watch Japanese animation.

We arrived and all that I wanted was merchandasing from Naruto or Death Note – back then, my favourite mangas. My dad picked Persepolis for me and bought it as a present thinking that if I wanted to read comincs at least should read a true graphic novel – the fancy word for comics for adults who don’t like to say they read comics.

I read it and loved. But I hadn’t understood it properly until last week, when I got the English translation – I bought the paperback version for 3 pounds in a charity shop.

This is the story of a young girl who recieves a liberal education – because educations one can have many, and some of them intend to send the brain to sleep instead of awake it – and lives in Iran after the Islamic Revoluti0n. What is this? Well, basically consists in closing universities, separating boys and girls in schools, making the veil compulsory… to sum up, applying all the –human interpreted – religious principles of Islam to the every day lives of Iran citizens.

Majarne – that is the name of the author and the main character, because Persepolis is a memoir – grows up reading Simone de Beauvoir, so you can imagine it’s very hard for her to accept the principles from the Islamic Revolution. Because she’s bilingual in French she can move out from the country during the war against Iraq to study her secondary education in the Licée Français in Vienna. Afterwards, she moves to Strasbourg at 23 to study graphic design. She never comes back to Iran.

French saved Majarne and allowed her to find a home in a place where her values and beliefs were not questioned. But, how many languages can one find in Persepolis?

Persian: A very ancient and unique language. It’s spoken in Iran and it’s Majarne’s first language. We can just find it when the characters curse each other. It’s as if she was suggesting that the visceral feelings of anger they are experienced cannot be translated – these feelings that are indeed a consequence of war and discrimination.

For instance, in a chapter called Pasta, a nun in the Catholic student accomodation where Majarne is staying suggests that she’s a thief as every other Iranian. She replies something in Persian – and for the way she’s screaming at the nun we can be sure it’s not something nice.

French: Majarne goes to a bilingual school as a child until the government shuts them all down saying that they promote a decadent education. Later she goes to the Licée Français is Vienna where she studies French culture. She currently lives in France and sometimes call herself a French artist.

German: In her years in Vienna – from 14 to 18 – Majarne has to learn German to communicate in her every day life. When she goes on holidays to the Tyrol – her roomate is from there – she encounters a special difficult accent.

English: Majarne’s teenage idols are all from the English speaking world – from Bruce Lee to Kim Wilde. As many of us, she cannot detach herself from the English speaking culture – music, cinema and so on. I feel English is a lingua franca because one can gain much more freedom by speaking it. English brings you access to a wider culture while allows you to communicate with people from all over the world. How could a language like this be out from Persepolis, which is indeed a story about gaining freedom?

Arabic: Iranian people have to study the religious texts in Arabic instead of in Persian. This is very demanding, and I guess not everyone undertands the prayers if they haven’t had time to study the language. It reminded me to those times when  mass was given in Latin in Spain. People had to seat in church for a long time – this was at the beginning to the 20th century, they listened to something that they knew it was important yet they couldn’t understand it. Is this a hidden form of opression? For some people, getting the bread home each day is a full-time task – they don’t necessarily have time to educate themselves. And learning a new language – as you probably now – is not easy. Acquiring another tongue is like planting a very rare kind of flower. Unless you take proper care of it it’s going to die. Almost everything can kill this flower so you’ve to make sure you are there to prevent it – everyday. Also, religion is suppose to create a sense of communion and bring people together. But a language one cannot understand can be the strongest barrier. Then, teaching people religion in another language might be a contradiction in itself…

persepolis-veil

Persepolis is a very good graphic novel. If you have left your home pursuing more freedom in life and choices, then you’re going to be identified with it. It’s also an iteresting story if you actually want to know more about Iran and its culture. And even if nothing of these specially appeals to you still go and read it, because this is a piece that will make you laugh even if talks about really dark stuff. I think it should be a classic…

Have you read it? Or watched the film? What do you think about it? Have you ever felt like a foreigner – even in your own country?