Cristina Rivera Garza: 2019 National Book Festival


>>Today we thank
the embassy of Mexico for sponsoring this program. And I would like to introduce
Beatriz Nava, Acting Director of the Mexican Cultural
Institute, who is going to present
the panel. Thank you very much. [ Applause ]>>Beatriz Nava: Good afternoon. My name is Beatriz Nava. I’m the Acting Director of
the Mexican Cultural Institute of the Embassy of Mexico. The house of the public
and cultural diplomacy of Mexico in the United States. On behalf of the
Ambassador of Mexico to the United States
[speaking in foreign language], I would like to extend our
deepest gratitude to the Library of Congress for this
presentation. We are immensely proud to
welcome Cristina Rivera Garza. One of Mexico’s most renowned
and interesting authors, who is also a distinguished
professor in Hispanic Studies and Director of Creative Writing
at the University of Houston. We have had the pleasure of
her presence in Washington, DC on several occasions. The most recent last Autumn when
she was the selected scholar for the [speaking in foreign
language] distinguished lecture series the Mexican Cultural
Institute runs in conjunction with the Department of
Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Maryland. Here represented by Dr.
[inaudible], which is — this this year will present
Mexican author Margo Glantz. On that occasion, the Library
of Congress also open its doors to presentThe Taiga
Syndrome
, in the presence of translator Susan
Gioliven [assumed spelling] and [inaudible] from the
fascinating perspective of language and sound. During that visit we also had
a first glimpse of The Taiga, that fluid somewhat inhospitable
place created by the narrative of Rivera Garza, which
invites the dissolution of preconceived concepts
and notions. [Inaudible] through the
forbidden tiger in words of Veronica Scott Esposito,
I quote, “Can become places where boundaries
of time, identity, and language are broken down,
offering us the possibility of redefining our world and
asserting some kind of agency.” End of quote. Crossing boundaries,
breaking them even, is part of the personal
history of Rivera Garza. She was born on the US/Mexico
border in Matamoros [inaudible], a town across from
Brownsville, Texas. She has spent most of her
life living on the border between [inaudible], experiencing first-hand
what the border region between our countries
is, a fluid space where binational communities
are built in terms of language, culture, and belonging
or lack thereof. No wonder that Rivera Garza is
so comfortably moving across and blurring the borders — the border territories
of cross gender writing. Gender and identity. Worth noting are her musical
collaborative projects with artists and
composers such as [speaking in foreign language], a
dramatic musical piece for voice and instruments developed
in Milan, Italy in 2014. Apropos music,The Taiga
Syndrome
she suggests a playlist which bring
us to the state of mind she inhabited
while writing the book. It is a playlist I
often and return to. Her academic and literary
interests lie also in the borderline behaviors or
— and the triggers of insanity. Her doctoral research and published books
uncovering the kind of pre-revolutionary
modernity through her research on the social history
of mental illness in early-20th Century
Mexico from the perspective of [speaking in foreign
language] Mental Hospital in 1910, has earned her the
highest literary regard both in Mexico and beyond. It is well known how
Carlos Fuentes praised her forNo One Will See Me Cry. Noting it is, I quote, “one
of the most notable works of fiction, not only
Mexican literature, but in the literature of
Spanish speaking world at the start of the
21st Century. She imagines like no one
else has done in Mexico since [inaudible],
the tragic options and the psychic turmoil
caused by revolutionary theory and action, with such
grandeur that we must as readers kneel ourselves.” End of quote. And this was just the beginning. She’s won Mexico’s most prolific
author of her generation and has been recognized
with numerous national and international awards
such as the [speaking in foreign language] Award
to Excellence in Writing by a female author from Latin
America and the Caribbean. She is the only writer
who has won — to have won this award twice
in 2001, with precisely,No One Will See Me Cry, and 2009 with [speaking
in foreign language]. Additionally, she
has won the [speaking in foreign language] award
in 2005 and the [speaking in foreign language] Award for Latin American
Literature in 2013. Her style has been
described as — beThe Los Angeles Review
of Books
as I quote, “the perfect embodiment
of the seismic shifts in Mexican literatures aesthetic
and styles in the 21st Century.” End of quote. She writes in Spanish. Sometimes in English. And her work has been translated into multiple language including
English, French, Italian, Portuguese, and Korean. Again, it’s a great honor to
have Cristina Rivera Garza with us today to get immersed inThe Taigaand the literary
worlds she creates and inhabits. I give the floor now to
Cristina Rivera Garza, [speaking in foreign language]. Thank you very much. [ Applause ]>>Talía Guzman-Gonzalez:
Good afternoon and welcome to this conversation aboutThe
Taiga Syndrome
by Cristina Rivera Garza. It is an honor to
be here with you. [Speaking in foreign language].>>Cristina Rivera
Garza: Thank you.>>Talía Guzman-Gonzalez: I am
very excited to be here talking about this novel, originally
published in Spanish in 2012 as [speaking in foreign
language]. And published in English
in 2018 by Dorothy Project with a beautiful
English translation by Jill Levine and Aviva Kana.The Taiga Syndromeis
Cristina’s sixth novel and we have seen
in her trajectory as a writer a movement
towards bold linguistic and narrative experimentation. Of course, Cristina was never
known as a conventional author. But rather someone who will
always put accepted knowledge about the nature of
narrative to the test. In the case ofThe Taiga
Syndrome
, she takes a tried and true genre of the
detective novel and turns it into an exploration
about language, borders, the effect of ruthless
capitalism, on the environment, madness, love, and
the end of love. Hopefully we’ll get
to talk about some of those topics with
Cristina today. Well, to begin with, I would
like to talk a little bit about the plot of the
novel, which may seem — may seem straightforward. A female detective
is hired by a man to find his wife who’d run away
with another man to the Taiga. Right? The Boreo Forrest. And to bring her back home. However, this is just a
point of the departure to undergo a more nuanced
exploration of the capacity of human beings to
relate to each other and also to the natural world. Can you talk to us about
a bit of the process of writing this book
and how it relates maybe to your previous works?>>Cristina Rivera
Garza: Yeah, wonderful. Thank you Talía and
thank you Beatriz for that very generous
introduction. Thank you everyone for
showing up here today. I feel like Beatriz
knows more about my life than I do now [laughter]. I was learning things as she was
speaking, which is wonderful. And thank you for being here. So, this is in fact
yes, my sixth novel. I’m — I’ve been experimenting
with different strategies, being concerned with
different aspects of being. I — I wrote — as it
was mentioned here, my first novel was very
much based on research. On specific documents
coming from an insane asylum that was founded
in Mexico in 1910. It was more historically based,
although I — I don’t want — I don’t like it to be
called a historical novel, rather more a documentary novel. And so, I’ve been
following my instincts, trying to be very honest in
terms of the kind of questions that really interest me. I — I do believe that
writing is a critical practice. If writing didn’t offer me an
opportunity to look at the world with critical lenses, I
don’t think I’d be doing it. So, every single one of these
books are — is a new start. If I’m lucky enough
it’s a departure point. There is something there that I
don’t know and I need to know. So that’s pretty much the
journey in all these books. And in this case, I had moved
away from a more realistic tone, a more realistic exploration that was very much the
exploration in my earlier work. I had worked more in the — with the framework of the
fantastic, fantasy novels. I’ve been trying to
explore it and work — trying to subvert what in
Mexico is called a sub-genre, but in the Unites States
are obviously genres like the horror novel or the
detective novel, as such. And in this case, I was
— I had large questions. And then obviously I had to
— to — to narrow it down. I needed to tell a story
and as you mentioned, the stories perhaps here more — it’s simple enough that it
allowed me an exploration into all these other
larger questions. One of them being, I wanted to investigate this
issue of distance. Of how long, how
far away we can go with the knowledge
of what we are. When — when do we know that
we have crossed enough borders that we have to stop in order
to be intelligible to others. And what kind of
decision making, that sort of framework allowed
me in terms of the writing. So, I wanted to do
all these things — am I sounding too abstract
right now [laughter]? I wanted my characters to be in this forest, this
primeval forest. But I wanted this
forest to be complicated. It was a forest in which nature and natural resources played
a role as well as exploitation and — of them and the kind of
social relationships that sprang up as a result of that. So, all those things went
in my mind, but I needed to follow this specific
route, this journey, this — this couple that wanted to
lose themselves right there. I wanted to know why.>>Talía Guzman-Gonzalez: And
you ask us from the beginning to join you in this journey
in a very active sense.>>Cristina Rivera Garza: Yeah.>>Talía Guzman-Gonzalez:
There is starting from that very first [speaking
in foreign language], right? There’s — there’s a request
from the reader to make — to be more active and
participate in making — and filling in some spaces,
right, in the narrative as you’re talking about feeling
— feeling what’s unsaid. How do you envision — I
wanted to know about — how do you envision
a reader engaging with this — with this work? Right? You set the bar really
high from the beginning in terms of narrative experimentation.>>Cristina Rivera Garza:
You know how many stories — many stories ask
us to believe them. So many stories are
just in front of us, inviting us to have a
specific experience that — that is known or somehow legible
for all — all participants. And in this case,
what I wanted to — I wanted to work very
hard on was the idea that there is not
a direct connection between experience and writing. There is always this mediation
in whatever things we do. Right? So, you were mentioning
the presence of that Que. That — that is an indication that someone else has said this
before and we are not so sure if that is — if this
is something that we as readers should
or could trust. The is the issue of
[inaudible] in writer. It goes a little
deeper than that. I wanted to just make sure that
all of us reading the novel, participating of
the novel, knew — were constantly aware
of the fact that there is something else. There is a bridge here that
we have crossed together. One of course was the
translation itself. Moving to faraway
places implies of course that we’re learning different
languages or different aspects of languages that we
already work with or live in. And there is — there are other
mediations here that have to do with the making and the
structure of the book. We were talking before coming
in here how the Spanish edition of this book includes
drawings that to me were yet another translation
of the story. Not a rendition of the story, but another way of
enunciating it. Unfortunately, the English
translation didn’t come with that, and that might
be something we might want to talk about or not later. But I wanted readers to
really immerse themselves in these series of transitions
and mediations, and — and being increasingly
comfortable with the idea that there is no certainty
in what is happening. That every single
action, every single scene that we’re getting
invited into is a scene that we have to question. And we have to ask questions
about the voracity of things, the civility of things, about
what is really going on. And to me, when books ask me to
do that, when books invite me to do that, I just
feel more responsible for what is happening. For the resolution of the story, and for the whole making
of the story as such. So, as a reader I
usually am very much — I like that process. I like to be part of the
story as much as I can. I’m trying to work
always with structures in this novel making process
that allow the reader to — to find his or her own space. Their own way of directing
the actions and making his or her own decisions as
they continue walking and reading through the book.>>Talía Guzman-Gonzalez: Well,
the reader is not the only one, right, looking for his
or her space or their — the role, right, in
orienting the story. We have also the character
of the female detective.>>Cristina Rivera Garza: Yes.>>Talía Guzman-Gonzalez:
Who is in this Taiga and needs a translator
both that will assist her in understanding a space
that is linguistically and geographically
foreign to her. And as her translator he will
help her, right, navigate this. Yet there are several moments
in which it’s interesting Because the Taiga seems equally
incomprehensible for him. Right? For the translator
who’s supposed to be the expert in this region. How does this character
do you think help us think of all these complexities
involved in translation for example? Not only of language but
also of space and even within the same language. And you were just talking
about medium with the drawings and the text as another
type of translation.>>Cristina Rivera Garza: Well,
I have to tell you something about this female detective. This unnamed female detective. This is not the first
book that I write with her or with her help. this is perhaps the
second complete book, but I’ve been writing for
stories having the guidance of this female detective. And — and all the
— she’s a complex — I like to think of her
as a complex character. One of the major
characteristics is that she’s a complete
failure at what she does. She’s failing continuously. She prepares for the next
mission with failure in mind. And has come to sort of
like a stable relationship with failure at this point. And — and it’s — that’s — that might be the reason
why she’s so willing to get into all sorts of
intricacies in the story. So instead of going for the
resolution, the A through B, it’s meandering around
looking for meanings and digressing continuously
as she’s trying to find out in this case where
this couple is located at that specific point. So, this tendency, this
capacity of dealing with certainty is I guess
what allows me as an author to pay attention not only
to — to the plotline, but to landscape, to territory,
to a more complex sense of the relationships that all
these characters are creating and establishing, and
breaking up at the same time. And that’s why I think as an
author I’m able to pay attention to language as a
material component of the whole adventure. So, it’s not only this
vehicle that allows me to — to share a story with all
of you, but it’s this matter that is going to be — if I’m lucky is going to
be affecting all of us. Your sense — your
imagination, but also your body. So, all these elements that have
to do with rhythm, with sound, with lines that are breaking. The kind of thing that we — that we go for when
we are reading poetry. Usually. I’m working very
closely with those elements when — when I’m trying
to develop the stories. And the mind, the
complex, multilayered mind of this female detective has
allowed me to do just that.>>Talía Guzman-Gonzalez: There are two lines the
detective repeats throughout the novel, that we were
talking before, that I think illustrate very
well what one reviewer says is, and I quote, “the skepticism about languages representational
abilities”, right? And it also comes across in her
maybe inability to solve crimes, but also her distrust of any
forms of writing, right, and — and this report that she has to
turn in at the end of the case. Those two lines in the
book are, “it is difficult to describe what is
impossible to imagine” and then the other line
is, “it is impossible to imagine what can’t
be described.” And she later says — and I’m
going to quote from the novel if I may read in front
of the author here for a little bit [laughter]. “In the report I
would write to the man who had two wives I would
ask him to take into account that nothing had happened
exactly as I claimed. I would tell him that nothing
happens as it is written. And I would constantly repeat
these or something like it. I would ask him in a
careful and tactful way, assuming that he knew but
realizing also that these types of things are always
hard to bear in mind, to take into account that
there was great distance between speech and writing.” What does this say about
the limits of writing and of literary writing?>>Cristina Rivera Garza:
Now how interesting, when you started to pose
that question, I was looking for exactly that
passage in the book.>>Talía Guzman-Gonzalez: Good.>>Cristina Rivera Garza: And I
was going to read this to you, but now I can’t do it.>>Talía Guzman-Gonzalez:
Sorry.>>Cristina Rivera
Garza: Talía you did it.>>Talía Guzman-Gonzalez: She
will read at the end [laughter]. We will hear her reading.>>Cristina Rivera
Garza: But that’s — that’s pretty much the
challenge of the book and to me the challenge
of all literary project. We’re so desperately trying to
share a world, but that world, the means that we have in
order to do so are means that come tainted to us. That come charged with
experience, with — with its own limits as well. So, I’ll go back to what
I was saying before. I’m trying to invite you here, not only to hear how something
is being developed and to go from the starting
point to the end point. I’m trying to visit as many
layers of that adventure in terms of the language
that we use in order to — for that aspect of life, of
real life to be conceivable and to be an experiential
aspect of what we are. So, I think what books have done
for me, they have invited me to look at what I am
and what others are, and the relationships that I
establish with them in ways that are very difficult to
describe, but very certain — they feel very certain
in my body in terms of what I’m able
to — to go for. Right? And I would
like to think the books that I’m writing are — are
trying to capture that moment. So, it’s less a matter
of sharing something that I’m very certain about and
more a matter of sharing a world that I’m very eager to
build with a reader in mind at that specific point. We’re able to do that together
in a kind of communion. I think something
important is happening. I think we’re able to just jump
at ourselves and we’re looking into the proverbial being
in someone else’s shoes. Right? Perhaps in a
bit of a larger sense. And a bit also of a political
sense what this entails. Being able to — to
visualize what it is like to the other person. What it is like to occupy
another’s space in this world. How complicated that can
be and the kind of forces that are transverse and
constantly this experience. So, to me that’s — that’s
very much the challenge of writing regardless of the
story that I’m trying to tell. In a time — as in this case,
I’ve taken advantage of the fact that we as readers I think
are very much familiar with the sense of how a
detective story develops. Right? And I’m trying
to use that — taking the reader with
me to some other places, a little bit less — less known,
but in terms of the landscape, the descriptions, the
atmosphere, but also in terms of — of the literary
aspect of it. Of the crossing of other
types of genres and ways of — of being one with the story.>>Talía Guzman-Gonzalez: Well,
talking about the landscape, right, and that world
that you want to build. That is — it’s not only
narrative, but we’re talking — there’s something very
present in the novel. I mean there’s nature obviously. They’re in the Taiga, which — but this is not a
passive landscape. Right? It’s not a — it’s not
a setting for a narrative. But in your novel, it is — the
Taiga is not devoid of the power and economic structures present
in the world outside of it. It’s very much oriented in that
sense in some aspects, I think. There are social classes created by an extraction
economy in place. You know, the lumber,
fish, oil, even sex — there’s a sex industry. A reality that is as
madness inducing, right, as the Taiga, as
in nature itself. What does it say
about the necessity of our rethinking how we
interact with the environment. I think there’s a comment
in your novel about that.>>Cristina Rivera Garza: Yeah. Very much so. We have talked about this novel
as my take on a fairy tale. And I’ve often said the
heart of this fairy tale — the fairy tale that I’m trying
to articulate with in any case, is pretty much capitalism.>>Talía Guzman-Gonzalez: Yeah.>>Cristina Rivera Garza: The story that we tell ourselves
is a happy progressive story that obviously is hiding way
more complex somber obscure politically charged aspects. And so, my way of trying to
deal with that in these — in this invitation to
partake of the forest, this is the mythical
forest of fairy tale, but this is also the
forest of natural resources that are continuously
excavated, exchanged, you know, produced for profit, et cetera. And you are right, I think there
is much to be said about that. Not only from the
point of view of — of the human interaction
in this — in this areas, but from the
point of view of those elements that are usually seen as
inert or devoid of agency. So, I’m working more
and more in terms of that exploration
of the territory. So, in this case it’s a
territory that is highly coated. The work that I’m
doing right now has — is very much linked to
processes of production. Specifically of cotton right
on the border of Mexico and the United States. And to me, it’s kind of like a
natural offspring of being — thinking about these forests
that have materially complex, politically charged aspect and
— and now moving back to do — you know, archival
research and back into the so-called real world. But I’m talking about,
you know, another –>>Talía Guzman-Gonzalez:
Project.>>Cristina Rivera Garza: A project that I’m actually
right now working on. So, I’m not going to be able to
go back to that realistic tone to it because I’ve been
doing all this work as well. But I think just asking those
questions about this is specific for us and the experience of the
runaway couple has allowed me to do the full circle
so to speak. And go back to those agencies
of that natural world, of the material world that
so much define who we are and the limits of what
we can do in this world.>>Talía Guzman-Gonzalez: You
mentioned the borders and — not only in the novel, but very
present in your work as well. Your — you yourself as
Beatriz mentioned before from the border town
of Matamoros. Right? In the state of
[speaking in foreign language], next to Brownsville, Texas. And during your tenure at
UCSD you lived in San Diego, next to Tijuana and
professional, right, you transit between
linguistic borders too. Right? And also, literary
borders as a professor of Hispanic studies at
an American university. How does leaving and creating at
the border inform your writing? If it does.>>Cristina Rivera
Garza: Totally. Absolutely. And increasingly so in
this times of course. Right? I spent this summer
back in TJ, in Tijuana, this border city and my
friends didn’t believe me when they asked me why — why
are you doing that in Tijuana? I’m like well, it’s a
peaceful place I want to write. And if you know anything
about Tijuana, you know that peacefulness and Tijuana just don’t
go together [laughter]. And what I — what I told them
was, that being in that area of the world, being in —
in that place forced me — I think it forces all of us
living in those circumstances to ask very tough questions. We believe in some other places
I might just get distracted and not think about
how difficult it is to cross certain borders. How difficult it is to have
to inhabit a specific body and take this body
across the street or, you know, to different nations. And places like Tijuana
won’t let you get distracted. So, you have to face
that question. And ethically, esthetically
you’re forced to answer that question for yourself,
for the work that you do, for those who are going to
come to your work as well. And it is in that sense
that I think it’s — it’s — I mean it’s not peaceful of
course, but it’s extremely raw. Productive in that sense. It’s the kind of — kind of
energy that I want my work to be very aware of and
articulated with in that sense. So, nothing of what I do both
in terms of my academic work or my literary work escapes the
reach of how difficult it is to live in between borders. I come from a family
of immigrants. I — I came here in
the late-20th Century. It was still the 20th-Century. Knowing very little about the
tragic story of my grandparents that had to come
here to this country in the early-20th Century. And part of the project that
I’m developing right now is very much unearthing that experience. And when I heard —
as all of you did — the news about the caravans
coming from Central America, crossing, taking this
very dangerous route through Mexico I was reminded, my family did pretty much the
same during the early-20th Century and that they came here,
they were deported in the 1930s, and somehow I think
there is a connection, a very powerful connection
right there. A sense of belonging, like
my parents did all that work, they lived here, the
established themselves here, so I’m coming back to something
that they created also for me. And so, that is a question
that belongs also to that — the experience of the border,
not only in the, you know, my generation, but
generations that came before me and obviously generations that
will continue to do so to, you know, to start this
very dangerous great journey of our times. Which is migration as such.>>Talía Guzman-Gonzalez:
You were instrumental in the development of
the first PhD program of creative writing
in Spanish, right. [Speaking in foreign language] at the University of
Houston in the US. And thinking of all these
future generations who are here. Can you talk about
the importance of having these programs
in our country today and what advice would
you give — I don’t know, we might have
some native or heritage speakers who want to be authors and
are working here and they want to continue writing in Spanish. From here, so.>>Cristina Rivera
Garza: You know, I was — I participated not too long
ago in a commencement speech at Stanford University for
the students in this Masters in Latin American History,
and one of the first things that I told them was
that they were going to be developing a
career and living a life in the second largest Spanish
speaking country in the world. And it’s the country in
which we live right now. So, second only to
Mexico by the way in terms of the number of
Spanish speakers. And to me it’s — it’s
very interesting that we in fact launched this first PhD
with an emphasis, with a track in creative writing in
Spanish, right in 2017. I don’t have to tell you
what happened in 2017. Right? And so, to
me it’s — it’s — it’s very important in terms
of the, you know, aesthetics. It’s very important in terms
of Latin American Literature. In terms of the literature
written by Spanish speakers
in this country. But it’s also —
it’s my activism. It’s a way of saying that we
have created a place here, the experience of many
before me, and the experience that is — that we’re inviting
to come into being depends on that — on being able to
write books in languages that — that we use in our daily life. Languages that structure
experience in this country as well. Languages that are very much
alive and that belong to — to the world in which
we, you know, we are. And I’ve been — when people
ask me about, you know, the state of Latin American
literature today, what I — what I answer with increasing
emphasis is that a good chunk, an important chunk of Latin
American literature is now being written from inside
the United States. Some of these authors
write in Spanish and some write Latin American or Spanish speaking
literature in English. And we are seeing way more —
this crisscrossing, this sharing of worlds that come to
enrich what we are I think as a society. So, I’m very proud
of this program. I — of course if you want to
write in Spanish, I invite you to check out webpage at
the University of Houston. It is pretty much bilingual —
bilingual program at this point. Because in writing
as in real life, we are using all our
skills, all our languages to create a more complex, a more nuanced experience
here on earth, I think.>>Talía Guzman-Gonzalez:
Thank you. Well, before we have questions,
could you read maybe a passage fromThe Taiga Syndrome?>>Cristina Rivera
Garza: Perfect. I’ll do that. And I’m going to write — I’m
going to read just a couple of paragraphs from the beginning and hopefully we’ll
get a chance just hear from you some questions here. The title of the first
chapter is The Same, [speaking in foreign
language] in Espanola. That they had lived there, they
told me, in that house there, and they pointed it out
with an apprehension that could easily be
mistaken for respect or fear. Their fingers barely
peeked out from the cuffs of their very heavy black coats. The smell of ash under their
arms, dirty nails, dried lips. Their eyes, having this
crinkly move toward where they were pointing
quickly returned to the original position
gazing straight ahead. What are you really looking for, they asked without
daring to say so. And I, who didn’t exactly
know, followed their steps like a shadow, back
to the village over snow covered trails. It wasn’t really a
house; I should say first. I could have described
what I saw on that morning at the beginning of
Autumn as a shack. Maybe not even. A hovel. In any case it was
a habitable structure made from wood, cardboard,
and lots of dry branches. It did have a roof, a rich roof,
and a pair of windows covered in thick transparent
plastic instead of glass. It had the air of a last refuge. It gave the impression that
beyond was all this open space, and the lull of the
wilderness and the sky so blue, so high above the wild. I remember the cold. Out of all I remember the cold. I remember my clenched jaw,
fist deep in my coat pockets. They had arrived there
according to my information at the beginning of winter. I had come to the conclusion because their last communication
came from a telegram office in a border town about
200 kilometers away. The telegram addressed to
the man who had hired me to investigate the case said
briefly and somewhat obliquely that they were never
coming back. What are we let in
when we say goodbye?>>Talía Guzman-Gonzalez:
Thank you.>>Cristina Rivera
Garza: Thank you.>>Talía Guzman-Gonzalez:
Gracias. [ Applause ] I think we time for some
questions from the audience. We have two microphones here.>>Yes, thank you for coming. I wanted to ask you
about the detective. You said that she was a failure.>>Cristina Rivera Garza: Yeah.>>And I wanted to know
what you meant by that. Like she wasn’t good
at solving crimes? How do you — how do you benefit
from writing about somebody who doesn’t have the skills
to do what you’re trying to describe [laughter]? Explain that.>>Cristina Rivera Garza: No, that’s a very interesting
question. Because it is a question that
is asking me to move away from efficiency to
being able to do a task in the most efficient manner. That’s what we more or less
know as a success, right. Being good at something. Being proficient at something. And with failure in this case
allows me to do is just — is to digress greatly. And to — and to ask questions that come pretty
much out of the blue. I think that’s — the kind
of knowledge that comes from not knowing exactly
what to do is just so rich, is so important right here. And I’m way more
interested in — in how the detective is
articulating the story, how the story making as such
is a matter of her curiosity and her challenge rather than
the direct solution of a case. Eventually though, there is
going to be a resolution. There’s — there’s something — there’s some knowledge that
the reader will be gaining by having, you know, journeying with the author and
the characters. Perhaps it’s not the knowledge
that we expect to gain at the end of such a journey. But then there’s something to
be said about unexpected events and that’s very much what
I’m aiming for right here.>>That’s interesting,
because we describe detectives as procedurals and you seem
to have gotten away from that, which is very interesting. Thank you.>>Cristina Rivera
Garza: Thank you. Thank you. Subverting the way in
which we do things usually, that’s something I’m
very interested in. Yeah. Yeah. [ Speaking in Foreign Language ]>>I just wanted to
ask you about one of the things Beatriz
mentioned before and is very much
present [inaudible]. When you speak about
borders and biculturality. What does it feel to write in
Spanish, thinking in English?>>Cristina Rivera Garza:
Oh, how interesting. Wonderful.>>I mean, well because
we came from — those are two completely
different backgrounds in a way. I mean Anglo Saxon and — and romance languages do
not go necessarily together. So, I wanted to know what
does it feel for you to write in Spanish — to publish in Spanish while you
are thinking in English. What does that mean?>>Cristina Rivera
Garza: Wonderful question. Yeah, yeah and I think
it’s very important. I usually will have the idea
that writers are masters of, you know, of whatever language
[inaudible] root language has to be one of mastery. And I think this bilingual way of approaching this
matter allows me to do work within the most fragile
side of language. Working with not knowing notions
of mastery or domination, but with notions
of vulnerability. And always the possibility of
misunderstanding for example. And so, I think that’s
so useful for writing. I think writing in fact, it
requires that relationship, you know, with language in
general in order to be able to explore its limits and
you know, the sensuousness of language and all
that kind of thing. And then I would have
to say that I’m — I’m very much interested in the
connection and the position, and juxtaposition of — of
both English and Spanish. I’m less interested in just
the meshing of them as — as it’s been done so well by
Chicano writers and artists, and something that is
known as Spanglish. I very much enjoy that and
that kind of literature. But what I like to do and I
think what I’ve been working on — and this I didn’t
know at the beginning, that that has come as — has come as a realization after
I’ve done the work, is that I — I’m usually working —
well vocabulary in Spanish, some sentences structure. But at that level, the level
of the structure of a sentence, there is a lot of mixing
between Spanish and English. So, the words might appear — it might appear that
I’m only using Spanish, but the way in which the
Spanish is being structured on the page has a lot of
influence of what I do on a daily basis, which is
I live in English as well. I live in this country too. Right? So, I’m investigating
that way more often and it’s as well a very productive
— it’s a challenge to me. It’s something that I
haven’t mastered yet, is a little bit of a failure. So that’s good [laughter]. Thank you.>>Talía Guzman-Gonzalez:
Last question I believe, according to our time keeper. [ Inaudible Speaker ]>>Cristina Rivera Garza:
Well, is that something that — I don’t think that is a — I don’t have a scientific
way right, of establishing a clear path. This is where Spanish ends and
this is where English begins. There is constantly a way
of one language has a way of messing always
with the other. And that conversation, that constant ceaseless
conversation I think is what I’m trying to capture in any case. So, I’m not interested in the
purity of either language. I’m interested in the
way in which they’re able to confront each other and to — and to join forces to tell
the tales of our times. The complexity of — of
you know, as I said earlier about migration for example. What does it mean to be able to
write about something that — that from the very
beginning involves them — the experiences that are
hard to fathom from — from other perspectives. So that’s a point. And that kind of
interaction, that [speaking in foreign language] in a
way, that’s what I like — that’s my aim —
that’s a place that I like to get at when I’m writing. Yeah, thank you. Thank you for your questions.>>Talía Guzman-Gonzalez: Well, I invite you all
to meet Cristina. She’s going to be signing
books in four — at 4:30 in? 910. So please stand by and
say hi, have your book signed.>>Cristina Rivera
Garza: Thank you.>>Talía Guzman-Gonzalez:
Thank you Cristina.>>Cristina Rivera
Garza: Thank you so much. [ Applause ]

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