from ALESSIA RASTELLI, one of our correspondents in Turin

Iberian and Latin American authors at the Lingotto

Spanish in the El Saln del Libro. Spaniard at the Book Fair, we read on a card from the Instituto Cervantes that circulates among the pavilions. And in fact, this year in Turin there are different authors and female authors in the language second in the world for the number of mother tongue speakers. Almost a small festival within the festival and a cross-section of literary trends and addresses. Both at the level of the contents (female emancipation, family stories, the impossibility of an objective knowledge of reality and even of ourselves …), and at the level of the narrative structure, with experiments in the large container of the novel and the frequent need to reiterate on stage the centrality of form in literature. Finally at the level of how, given these premises, content and style intertwine.

I have been living in Italy for two and a half years and I notice a growing attention for the production in Spanish, also towards the younger voices, testifies from the Lingotto Teresa Iniesta, director of the Instituto Cervantes in Milan. She underlines in particular the success of the writers and cites as examples the Spanish Sara Mesa (Madrid, 1976) and Cristina Morales (Granada, 1985), both here in Turin. The first with A love (The new frontier, finalist at the European Witch); the second with Last evenings with Teresa of vila (Guanda). Not only are they female writers – observes Iniesta – but they also put them at the center innovative protagonists, with a special strength. Nat, conceived by Mesa, a translator who moves alone to a hostile country; Morales revives Teresa of vila, especially capturing her revolutionary aspect.


It is agreed that this is the moment of the authors Danilo Manera, writer, translator and professor of Spanish literature at the University of Milan. At the Salone he presented Calle 21. A map of the contemporary story written with the : an anthology that he himself edited, published by the Instituto Cervantes and Castelvecchi. Inside – she explains – there are twelve authors and nine authors from Spain, Central-South America and Equatorial Guinea not yet translated into Italian. Without wanting to simplify, given how numerous and varied the Spanish-speaking countries are, Manera has identified some trends that emerged from the work for the book. Among these, the strong link with family stories. And then a sort of direct connection with reality, with actuality that is quick to enter fiction. Economic, political, social problems. Migration, the pandemic, gender-based violence … This does not automatically mean realism. Indeed, not infrequently there are alternative forms of saying things, fantastic or even turbid, grotesque, dreamlike visions. As in the case of Samanta Schweblin (Buenos Aires, 1978, now in Berlin) and hers Seven empty houses(Sur), presented by the author in the Bookstock Arena. In the book, a daughter accompanies her mother to the homes of others, exposing the spookiest and most disturbing side of reality. Normality – observes the author – is a social construction. In my writing process I tend to consider circumstantial matters, a means of talking about something else, in my case generally an emotion.


Obsessions, reveals the author himself, innervate the polyphonic novel Animal Museum (Sellerio), by Carlos Fonseca, Costa Rican writer (San Jos, 1987) who studied in the United States and now teaches Latin American literature in Cambridge, also in Turin. In the center of the book the young curator of a natural history museum who collaborates with a stylist and that, years later, he will find himself receiving the archive. Folders containing the woman’s posthumous inheritance, with clues about her and her family. All this in a structure that does not proceed by stratification but by juxtaposition, in a novel that itself becomes an archive, with a plurality of registers and references, among others, to Borges and Didi-Huberman. The volume – says Fonseca – contains different versions of the same story, on the other hand also the kaleidoscopic life. And the memories are not always clear, rather they look more like a photographic negative.


The theme returns. Among the guests of the Salone there is Andrs Neuman (Buenos Aires, 1977), from adolescence in Spain and now professor of Latin American literature at the University of Granada. He talks about Once Argentina: the novel of his family, from great-grandparents who have all arrived from other countries until today, but without the past and present proceeding in a linear way, rather they mix and intersect. The book was already released in 2003 (in Italian, Ponte alle Grazie, 2011), then updated in 2019 and 2021 (the latter version from which the publisher Sur translated it). I rewrote it to reflect with the ghosts of my family, explains the author, convinced precisely that memories are never objective: memory can be influenced and also feeds on the stories of others. A variant between the editions is the testimony of the aunt, who was kidnapped and tortured in Argentina at the time of the dictatorship of Videla and she had never talked about it in her family. the grandson at some point to ask questions. It wasn’t she who didn’t open up – says Neuman – it was we who didn’t know how to ask. Among the ideas of the book, also the coexistence, real and symbolic, in the life of the author of two different versions of Spanish: that of Argentina and that of Spain. When my brother and I arrived in Granada we talked about it in the house and one outside. In the middle was a door, separating Latin America and Europe. I used to live under that door, and I’m still there.

Language work is another trend identified by Professor Manera. Outside Spain – he explains – Spanish is no longer seen as a colonial language but as a common good and is enriched by local characteristics, drawn for example from indigenous languages. Also in Spain there is more contamination with the other languages ​​spoken in the country besides Castilian.


Another guest at the Salone was also a teacher of Spanish literature: Antonio Orejudo (Madrid, 1963), at the same time a first-person writer. Now in Spain when we talk about literature – he notes – we no longer discuss the form but only the ideological content of the texts. Any theme, on the other hand, can only be expressed if there is a way to do it. We human beings are electricity and biochemistry, the story is our identity. On stage he presents Advantages of traveling by train (Polidoro), a novel with a frame structure and a grotesque cut, arrived in Italian twenty years after the original edition and inspired by a story by Cervantes. Beyond this specific reference, moving as his Don Quixote did not understand the distinction between reality and fiction, as much as he believed in stories. In my book I try to express love and at the same time to unmask literature, to convey the deception and wonder of words. Maybe one day we should kill him – he smiles – but Cervantes is still everyone’s father.

May 22, 2022 (change May 22, 2022 | 22:17)

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