domingo, 28 de febrero de 2010

To: George Whiteman

Biography for George
as requested by
Shakespeare & Company
37 rue de la Bucherie

Landscapes in literature are just like that.
Ruins of childhood.
Ricardo Piglia


If you really want to hear the story, the first thing you’ll probably like to know regards the place where I came from. And if that grey cradle has anything to do with the remaining memory of my childhood, and with the flickering phantoms hidden behind my name. Not so luckily for you, I am one of those who introduce themselves mumbling about tough origins and books they’ve read. One of those melodramatic Latin-Americans who write in English almost the same way they do in Spanish. I apologize for that. But I sincerely don’t care about English writing. I only care about translating.

So you may ask about my name and age and I’ll just tell you about an endless land lost in the south of South America. To overcome this presentation, you may also ask yourself if this land, whose name distills the sound of a rusted silver sword being brandished, is still the one of large crowds shouting to a harsh angel; guerrilla poets that would buy a continental dream in exchange for their lives; tango’s melodies and cabaret’s literature that speaks about exiles. Well, that magical and tragic land is almost death. I can hardly write about a rusted iron cradle. But I shall insist. I was born in the middle of its ruins. After the Berlin fall, at the beginning of the nineties. And I grew up and lived there all my life.

Buenos Aires has always been a landscape made of contrasts. It is an overcrowded city in a deserted country. A grey horizon by the sea where thousands of buildings are erected without criterion. Probably, those urban abnormalities perfectly reflect Argentineans. Aesthetic and moral abnormalities. Buenos Aires is a city that displays a complete lack of planning. Its residents’ biographies prove the same. And I am certainly not an exception. If I am sitting by a window near the Clignancourt metro station, sketching a literary self-presentation at five o’clock in the morning, this picture may be considered an immediate result of unplanned coincidences.

I’ll try to explain them anyway. And I’ll try to be concise and neat as I would be reading the books of your store as an invader or guest. Politeness still sits on the dusty shelves of this century. So do travelers without a clarified destiny. Paris was once full of them. And Buenos Aires is just jam-packed with them. A whole generation that has no name and that was raised by computers and indie rock lyrics. A lineage that doesn’t give a shit about reading Marx and Rimbaud for the first time in history. And whose unique sense of congregation regards queuing in front of European embassies in order to run away from their undeveloped country. I’m one of those who queue, and who stare at the best minds of this generation succeeding hysterically as marketing directors or postmodernist wises. Unfortunately, I did read Marx and French poets when I was fourteen. And literature and music and antique illusions became as professionally useless as indispensible needs for me. I neither got (yet) a European passport nor a single biographical certainty. I just write about the past. Impressions and short stories. Poetry in motion, static photographs and crap.

I once read that narrating is similar to playing poker. You’ve got to tell the truth and feign to be a liar at the same time. I’ve actually been doing that for the last twenty minutes in my writing. And I have done the same for the last nineteen years. So if you just want to know the story, it’s as simple as a counterfeit linear biography.
For those who persecute their doppelgangers, the past is often a cause for concern. Nowadays I’m still a teenager or I used to be so one year ago. That means nothing, anyway, but discomfort and full-time hesitation. If I am not, I’m currently no man’s age.

I’m not going to tell you my whole autobiography or anything. Whether this is an introduction or a presentation, I thought of it in the third person. It shouldn’t matter to anyone why the one who shares my name and passport quitted Argentina for a while, forgot university and now is seeking for some free reading in English literature because he hasn’t a penny in his pocket. He has just come here longing not to write about his past nor introduce himself to anyone. But in spite of this literate illusion, he knows that everything a man writes is autobiographical.

So he came to this studio near rue Jean Coucteau and thought he would write in the English he learnt at school. Two pages erected without criterion. That’s unplanned writing. So he sat right here where I’m sitting, and politely described his origin without meaning to. Or shall I say I came to Paris, having lost faith in the future, and wrote these words longing to stay at your book store for a while.

Paris, 23-02-10