By Jane Bauer
“Whenever I’ve dreamt a lot, I go out into the street with my eyes open but I’m still wrapped in the safety of those dreams. And I’m amazed how many people fail to recognize my automatism. For I walk through daily life still holding the hand of my astral mistress, and my footsteps in the street are concordant and consonant with the obscure designs of my sleeping imagination.”
Fernando Pessoa- The Book of Disquiet
This month our writers explore Latin American and Iberian literature. Without any intention, all the writers mentioned in this issue happened to be male, which means you can look forward to a female version in the future.
I cannot imagine who I would be without books. I eat words for breakfast, lunch and dinner and never tire – they are limitless in their possibility and power. How would I look at the world if Roald Dahl hadn’t shown me the magic of a giant peach or Lewis Carroll hadn’t turned an ordinary summer day into a wonderland of fantastic creatures? What would my existence be without wardrobes that portal to Narnia or ruby slippers to take me home with a click of the heels?
How would I love if Romeo and Juliet had been dismissed as just two teenagers in love? How would I have been prepared for the ebb and flow of joy and disappointment in love if not for Elizabeth Bennet and Jane Eyre?
I learned the importance of keeping hope alive as I hid in the secret annex with Anne Frank. I have tasted the snow in St. Petersburg with Anna Karenina and fallen in love with Gilbert Blythe on a little island in the Maritimes. I have traveled to the jungles of Burma with piano tuner Edgar Drake and road-tripped across the USA with Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty. I have been taken hostage in South America and fallen in love with a translator.
My first encounter with Spanish literature was the love sonnets of Pablo Neruda. At university, hunkered down in the library, I would sneak up to the fifth floor and reward myself with a poem – comparing the shape and sound of the words in both English and Spanish. I first tasted Mexican food through the pages of Laura Esquivel’s ‘Like Water for Chocolate’- food as a metaphor for life and love.
My latest literary crush is Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa, whose works were only discovered after his death in 1935. He is the master of capturing what I call the in-between moments: the thoughts that slip in while you are driving down a country road or waiting in line at the supermarket.
Novels nurture our interior world. Imagination is the seed for innovation and a muscle that requires flexing and encouragement, and reading is its greatest trainer.
Who would I be without the stories I read in books?
“So she sat on with closed eyes, and half believed herself in Wonderland, though she knew she had but to open them again, and all would change to dull reality.”
I would be very dull indeed.
See you next month,