Mai biasimare le sorelle Schlegel

Philippa Coulthard e Hayley Atwell nell’ultima versione TV di Casa Howard

La prima volta che vidi Howard’s End, e anche quando, anni dopo, lesi il romanzo di E. M. Forster, trovavo difficoltà a capire le sorelle Schlegel. Per togliere quella spada di Damocle perennemente sopra la loro testa, lo scadere del contratto di affitto della casa a Londra, bastava poco, cominciare a cercare nei annunci immobiliari. E invece lasciavano passare il tempo, prese dalle sue imprese senza senso, come dover salvare la vita del signor Leonard Bast rovinandola. Nei tempi di studentessa Erasmus a Villa Mirafiori, mi ritrovai nel romanzo di Theodore Dresler, “Sister Carrie”, con un altro procrastinatore compulsivo, George H. Hurstwood, traslocando ogni volta ad un appartamento più piccolo mentre vedeva i suoi risparmi rimpicciolire. Per non parlare dei patetici Tony Patch e Gloria Gilbert di F.S. Fitzgerald, i “Belli e dannati” che io definisco belli e viziati, sempre in attesa di un’eredità mentre, tra festa e festa, anche loro traslocano ogni volta in una casa più piccola senza fare niente per evitarlo. Alle Schlegel e ai Patch le cose finiscono bene, le prime trovano i Wilcox, i secondi l’agognata eredità, mentre che G.H. Hurstwood viene mollato da Carrie, diventa un barbone e alla fine si suicida.

Quando leggevo quei libri mi dicevo sempre ma come si fa, e invece mi ritrovo come loro; sapendo che dovrei fare qualcosa per andare avanti, ma senza farla, in quest’anno e mezzo pandemico. L’unica cosa alla quale mi dedico attivamente con un certo successo —la visione compulsiva di serie tv mi sembra un’attività piuttosto passiva— sono le camminate. Basta poco: prima un passo, poi altro, e via. Il corpo si abitua, ormai dai cinque chilometri a percorso sono passata ai dieci (in un po’ meno di due ore, mica devo battere un record olimpionico), le calorie bruciate aumentano, e l’app del mio telefono si congratula vivamente con me. Non che sia diventata una fica mega spaziale, con la mia tuta di passeggio sembro più una Eva Kant in sovrappeso che una dea del fitness, ma l’equazione è semplice: cammino “x”, brucio “y”, il mio cuore ringrazia lo sforzo aerobico.

Ma, per quanto riguarda tutto il resto, rimango paralizzata. C’è ancora tempo, mi dico, mentre passano mesi senza maturare un soldo di pensione. Tornerò nel vecchio ufficio a novembre, probabilmente per poco perché l’azienda è al capolinea, cosa che sapevo da anni. Ma nemmeno do uno sguardo agli annunci per paura di cosa troverò —anzi, cosa non troverò— per essere più precisi; ne ho approfittato questi mesi vuoti per finire il mio secondo romanzo, ne per scrivere una decina di racconti (soltanto uno, presa da una delle mie rare e brevi botte di ispirazione), ne tanto meno a battere il mio record di libri letti. Leggo, sì, ma a fatica. Ascolto parecchi audiolibri, sì, ma sono lo sfondo alle mie camminate e quindi possono passare alla categoria di “attività pasive”.

Per farla breve, in questi mesi ho imparato una lezione; mai biasimare le sorelle Schlegel.

Conversaciones entre ausentes

Grafomanía – ejercicio en latín cursivo

Laura Mínguez ha escrito en Jot Down un bellísimo artículo sobre las cartas (quien quiera leerlo, que acoquine y pague la subscripción, que aún no está disponible gratis) que me ha hecho reflexionar sobre ellas. La abuela cebolleta cascarrabias que hay en mí ha levantado la voz, como siempre y cada vez con más frecuencia, refunfuñando sobre lo que se han perdido los milennials, la emoción de comunicar por carta de papel. Y si a las cartas iba unido un amor de juventud, miel sobre hojuelas. El cartero se volvía una figura mítica, el mensajero de los dioses, anhelado y esperado. Se regresaba a casa de los estudios o el trabajo con prisas, llavero en mano; ya antes de abrir el buzón se escudriñaba por las rendijas para intentar descubrir el objeto del deseo oculto entre las sombras. Si se piensa bien, era un ejercicio bastante estúpido, porque el tiempo pasado bizqueando deseando poseer la visión a infrarrojos de Superman era tiempo robado a la operación mecánica de abrir el buzoncito de marras. El escribir y recibir cartas de papel tenía una vertiente fetichista que jamás lograrán alcanzar los correos electrónicos y los whatsapps. Acariciar con la punta de los dedos ese objeto que a la vez fue acariciado días antes por el amado, el rasguear del bolígrafo o la pluma sobre el papel mientras se escribe, una banda sonora mucho más armónica que el tic tic tic del teclado, que aún con todo es un ejercicio físico incomparablemente más placentero que la escritura en las odiosas pantallas táctiles.

Pero, una vez aparcada la abuela cebolleta y su versión sofisticada, la “old-fashioned snob”, pensándolo bien, la esencia de las “conversaciones entre ausentes”, como define las cartas Laura Mínguez en su artículo, no ha cambiado.

Lo que sí ha cambiado ha sido el tiempo, la velocidad de reacción. Las relaciones epistolares destinadas a sucumbir tardaban más tiempo en morir por el simple hecho de que pasaban semanas entre una misiva y otra; pero entonces, como ahora, existía la función “Block”. Este ejercicio de memoria asociado a las cartas me ha llevado a recordar algo que hice de adolescente; algo de lo que ahora, con la “inútil sabiduría de la vejez”, como diría Tomasi di Lampedusa, me avergüenzo profundamente. En las revistas semanales para jóvenes, entre un truco sobre cómo ocultar el acné y las diez pistas para saber si tu chico te engaña, había una sección de anuncios para “pen friends”. Un día, no sé por qué, escribí a un chico de Madrid que había puesto en su anuncio que veraneaba donde lo hacía yo. No me acuerdo si fue ese el principal motivo por el que lo hice. Él me dio una buena impresión (imagino que porque escribía bien) y a la segunda carta le mandé una foto mía en el apartamento de verano con mi querido perro Black, el pastor alemán. Obviamente, a vuelta de correo él hizo lo propio, me mandó una foto suya con su perro y… desilusión, horror y pavor. Con el paso de los decenios he olvidado sus rasgos, por lo que no sería capaz de jurar que era realmente tan feo como para provocarme tal espanto, pero recuerdo perfectamente ese chihuaha color marrón diarrea de ojillos saltones. Escogí, obviamente, la manera más vil de hacerle saber la impresión que me causó su foto: se la devolví por correo, sin tan siquiera dos líneas y encima con un sobre en el que escribí su nombre y dirección a máquina. Hace falta ser “stronza”. Si creyese en la ley del péndulo, diría que pagué con creces mi ruindad en forma de plantones recibidos por algún que otro rollito de discoteca en sesión de tarde que se desvanecía en la nada y no se presentaba a la cita del “día después”.

Pero retomemos el discurso, una vez dejado atrás el vergonzoso recuerdo. Sea entonces que ahora, bajo forma de papel o de bit, la “esencia de las conversaciones entre ausentes” sigue siendo la descrita por Laura Mínguez. Por no hablar de los sentimientos, igual de intensos que los plasmados en letras, que aletean alrededor de quienes las escriben y las leen: espera, ansia, dudas. Mis estériles ejercicios de escritura incluyen a menudo una carta, o adopto directamente el estilo epistolar (si una es “old fashioned snob” lo es en todos los ámbitos). Las cartas son un caudal inagotable de sentimientos.

Argumentos de (poco) peso

Barrio español. Nápoles. Pinchar para fuente

En el 2017 ha pasado, sin mayor pena ni gloria, un aniversario que en teoría debería haberme importado algo. Entre septiembre y octubre del año pasado, hace veinte que dejé España y me vine a vivir a Italia. Quizás el hecho de no haber marcado la fecha en el calendario se deba a que nunca he tenido la sensación de salir cerrando una puerta, y de que aquí, a pesar de haber encontrado el compañero de una vida, al no haberme embarcado ni en hipotecas ni en perpeturar la especie, tengo siempre una especie de sensación  de perpetua transitoriedad. Además, españoles e italianos somos pueblos relativamente semejantes, con lazos entrecruzados a lo largo de la historia desde tiempos remotos: por ejemplo, el vencedor del conflicto civil entre César y Pompeyo se empezó a decidir en Munda (en los alrededores de la actual Osuna), y en pocos sitios me he sentido tan en España como en el casco viejo de Nápoles. Sin embargo, a pesar de todo, muy de tarde en tarde alguien (y siempre se trata de una persona, no de una situación, una cosa, o quien sabe qué) me hace caer en la cuenta de que “soy extranjera”. Además, cosa curiosa, el señalarme como tal viene siempre de quien se encuentra en dificultad y, a falta de argumentos de más peso, señala tal diferencia. No me voy a engañar, no se trata de una falta exclusiva del interlocutor del momento, es algo que llevamos los seres humanos en los genes, apuntar con el dedo “al otro”. Me ha pasado en el trabajo, donde, por el teléfono, mi condición de no-italiana resulta evidente (no puedo ni imaginar qué tiene que vivir quien lleva la extranjería escrita en el color de la piel o los rasgos físicos) por lo que quien, al otro lado del aparato, quería descargar su frustración por cuestiones relacionadas con la empresa en la que trabajo, tarde o temprano (perdón, más temprano que tarde) sacaba a relucir un “usted no es italiana ¿verdad?”.

Hoy la tara de mi extranjería ha salido a la luz con alguien en España. Contacté hace unos días mi editorial haciendo presente mi perplejidad por los lugares en los que se han colocado los sesenta ejemplares para librerías, la mayoría de ellos en pequeños centros en los que no conozco a nadie. Seguirán detalles en facebook, pues será el juego estrella del 2018 “¿Dónde está Marco?”, una versión-peplum de “¿Dónde está Wally?” Presumo que debe haber una serie no corta de motivos por los cuales mi primera novela sea difícil de colocar en librerías, empezando por el precio, que no es tirado por lo limitado de la… tirada, pasando por que el tema sea más o menos atractivo (¿otra de romanos? ¡por favor!), o el hecho de que yo no soy nadie y los libreros están saturados de libros… Sin embargo, el primer (y único) argumento sacado a colación por mi interlocutora era lo duro que ha sido “dejar el libro de una autora extranjera en plena campaña navideña”. Sin lugar a dudas, un argumento de peso.

Clouds

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Clouds as the ones I saw last week in Castille; clouds in the sky, clouds in the eyes of my old auntie. I’ve never realised that her eyes are of a deep-blue, almost violet shade. I didn’t recall the colour, as she doesn’t remember well where she’s lived for the past forty years, but remembers perfectly their (her and my mom’s) small village in Aragon, and asked me many times during my visit if I ever return to the pueblo. I’ve been there only once when I was I guess ten years old, for the funeral of a distant unknown relative.

What is worse when growing old, to have a clear mind trapped in a dying body or having a relatively well-functioning one for a 86 year-old but with a mind full of clouds and gaps? One of the things that have shocked me the most during my visit was not the reflection of time in a once well-known body, nor when she told me Do you know that G. [me] will visit me also?, but the lack of books in her room. I always remember my aunt’s bedroom and house full of books; most of them dealing with philosophy, or religion. Therefore, if that’s the dilemma, if the price to pay to have at the end a happy but absent mind in a decadent body is to give up books, I guess I’d rather choose a clear mind trapped in a dying body.

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Sunset in Zamora (Spain). My pic
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Vault in Salamanca’s cathedral. My pic
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View of the city of Zamora. My pic
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Holy Friday in Zamora. My pic
 

The other side

Sorry to bother but this will be another self-indulgent post. I’m afraid that the number of posts tagged under “Me, myself & I”, grow and grow. But, do not panic, I have not written yet any post about BBC’s War & Peace (you maybe have wondered why, given the previous one on the matter) and I will do it sometime. And this is something to be taken more seriously than usual, as I’m no longer the procastinator general.

Facts, facts, let’s go back to the facts… Many times, as a reader, I have experienced that weird Stockhom’s syndrome of feeling “weird” after finishing a book, missing the characters, the story, that “and now what” kind of feeling. I’m experiencing it again, but from the other side, that of the writer. The characters do not speak (sometimes scream) anymore in my head, they’ve hushed, but I miss them. Terribly. I don’t know what to do with my now apparently endless leisure hours (funny that when I was writing they seem minutes, rather than hours), I’m nervous, absent-minded.

This has been the project I’ve invested more energy in writing, as it has been by far the longest: I’ve been honest, and I’ve not cheated. Because I did in this one: the moment I “got tired” I killed the protagonist, and his widow finished the story.

Therefore I’ve told all that I had to about these characters, what they did, how they felt, and so on. Most of the characters I’ve written about have already a face, actors/actresses or maybe someone I’ve met. From that moment on, for instance Alessio Boni is no longer him, but my Tiziano della Rovere, or Dominic West will always be my Quintus Terentius. Maybe that’s the reason why is difficult for me to depart from them.

marina berti

The amazing Marina Berti is my Livia Messia; a woman as strong, intelligent and brave as beautiful. No wonder that my Quintus tells her gods, you’re so beautiful that it hurts to look at you. 

Nevertheless, I still have good excuses not to let them go for a while: I’m re-reading the text to find incoherences (when it takes more than three years to write something it may happen that a certain horse that is black at the beginning of the novel ends being white), my patient beta-readers and editors have to make more corrections and suggestions, and then I will have it printed.

Unfortunately, the object of our admiRAtion arrived a little bit late to the cast, but he had an important part in it. He was the baddie, sorry. If I will ever have the courage to start writing the history of the Unknown captain of Pala Pesaro he won’t be.

Furius
I’ve actually mixed objects of admiration in a fanfic – that’s what fanfics are for, aren’t they?

Back from another dimension

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IMPORTANT ANNOUNCE: the hereby undersigned procrastinator general is a little bit less of a procrastinator now.

About three years after starting to write what was supposed to be a fan fiction (a spin-off of a Spanish tv series located [mine spin-off] in Rome during the times of emperor Trajan) I can definitely say that I have finished it. It has become a file of about 297 pages and 47.000 words that has very little things to do (apart from some general outlines and the name of a couple of characters) with the original series.

Finally, as the Earl of Oxford said in “Anonymous”, the voices have hushed up. It has been a beautiful experience but I can say now that I’m back from another dimension. In order to write the word “FIN” in it I’ve had to isolate myself from everything else, starting with Internet, with the exception of a few tweets every now and then. What has been more difficult to endure has been not to read anything for a month, nor to watch any tv series. But I had to do it, otherwise I’d be still on page 200 dreaming every now and then my recurrent dream: having a test the day after and not having studied a word for it. My problem being that I get distracted very easily (who knows why).

Now, my two beta readers will re-read the whole text from beginning to end, make more corrections and suggestions and I guess by the autumn it will finally be a printed book. I’ll pay a very limited edition for family and friends; in the meantime, it is available here in this link

Berlin

 

As my period of complete and absolute lack of inspiration continues and I’m afraid it will last for long, I’ve thought that a good “excuse” to keep my blog alive was to post several pictures of my trip to Berlin (who knows why, ehem) on August 2012. This was a special trip, the first one to a place different of Spain after my dad’s illness. I enjoyed every minute of it, we walked a lot, ate a lot, enjoyed the city a lot. As you may have noticed my favourite spot of the city was Gendarmenmarkt Platz. We visited also Spandau and it was also a trip that touched me emotionally. I will never forget the statues at the porch of Walter Gropius House,  left untouched after 1945.

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Good intentions

IMG_4429I’m a procrastinator, sometimes lazy (depending on circumstances), and I usually have a hundred different plans that I never put in practice. As unfortunately I have not the budget to repeat last year’s trip to Northumberland, I have decided to use these holidays to put order in my books. I have two libraries at home; I need to buy another one and, in the meantime, the “small” one needed and urgent intervention. I’ve filled two plastic bags with useless stuff that was parked there because I didn’t bother to throw it away and finally it has the look of a library. check this out for a BEFORE and AFTER confrontation

I have a dedicated shelf now for part of my books about ancient Rome, with three stones collected in Castelgandolfo’s lake which probably formed part of a Roman Villa some centuries ago.

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My Pérez-Revertes are together, in good company of other Spanish writers…
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… and in the “International Shelf” there’s still place for a couple more.

Going back to my roots

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Palacio del Marqués de Dos Aguas – Valencia

Leaving again tomorrow, back to my hometown, for a small holiday. I’ll be back next Tuesday, just in time to take a deep breath and get mad at work on the first of July. My office work have a peak at the beginning of the month and, god knows why, festivities in Italy have a certain tendency to be at the very end or the very beginning of the month. Therefore, relaxed as I can be when I come back, the day after I will be once more exhausted.

It’s funny the use of the word “coming back” when referring to Italy. Even if I live here since 1998 and I’ve married an Italian, Spain will always be “home”. I have never made the application for the double passport, even if I could have an Italian one. I’ve always lived in rented flats, even if I could have bought one (well, owing the money to the bank until the end of my days for a 60 square mtrs apartment); for me home is elsewhere, on the other side of the Mediterranean Sea.

Regarding the recreational activities, more or less fandomly related, after a long British winter I’m facing a hot American summer. Starting with the object of my distRAction, that will attend tonight in LA the Saturn Awards in a Ophelian-Millais mode on, flower crown included, apparently.

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Ophelia, by John Everett Millais. My pic – Tate Britain

I just can imagine how the many and devoted Hannibal fans feel. For me it would be like if after three chapters of the next Rectify season (before you roll your eyes and think oh, no, there she is again, from today on every reference to that show will be accidental as I have opened another blog another just to write about it) Sundance TV would announce that they cancel the show. I guess that if any of the Hannibal fans have a relation that suffered in their time the cancellation of the first Star Trek Classical  series after the third season, that family will be dealing with some really serious trauma.

As a soundtrack for this hot (honestly not very much, for the time being) American summer I can use this song that I have discovered listening to an spotify playlist called the Pulse of Americana. I really like it; Dorothy shouting “why did love put a gun in my hand”, the sound of the harmonica, that guitar… So Thelma & Louise.