María Teresa AndruettoArgentina
Andruetto was born in Arroyo Cabral in 1954. She is a storyteller, essayist and a promoter of reading. She was the winner of the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2012 and is considered one of the most important narrators of children's literature.
Daughter of Italian immigrants, which sparked her novel Stefano, Maria Teresa Andruetto is a prolific author who has devoted her life to children’s and youth literature. She began her rising career in 1992 with her novel Tama, with which she won the Municipal Luis de Tejeda award. This prize triggered the publishing of several other novels such as Veladuras (Norma, 2005), La Mujer en Cuestión (The Woman in Question) (DeBolsillo, 2009), or compilations of short stories such asTodo Movimiento es Cacería (All Movement is a Hunt) (Alcyone, 2002). She also has published books of poems such as Palabras al rescoldo (Words to the Embers) (Argos, 1993), Beatriz (Argos, 2005), Pavese/ Kodak (Dock Editions, 2008), SueñoAmericano (American Dream) (Caballo Negro Editions, 2009) and Tendedero (The Clothes Line) (CICL, 2009); the play Enero (January) (Ferreyra Editions, 2005) and numerous children’s books including, El anillo encantado (The Enchanted Ring)(Sudamericana, 1993), Huellas en la arena (Footprints in the Sand) (Sudamericana, 1998), La mujer vampiro (The Vampire Woman) (Sudamericana, 2000), El árbol de lilas (The Lilac Tree) (Comunicarte, 2006) and El incendio (The Fire) (The Eclipse, 2008). She culminated her experience in writing workshops and published two books produced in collaboration, La escritura en el taller (Writing in the Workshop)(Anaya, 2008) and El taller de escritura en la escuela (The Writing Workshop in School) (Comunicarte, 2010) and her reflections in Hacia una literatura sin adjetivos (Towards a Literature without Adjectives) (Comunicarte, 2009).
She was a finalist of the Rómulo Gallegos Prize for her novel Lengua Madre (Mother Tongue) (2001) and winner of the SM Children’s and Youth Latin American Literature Award (2010), the National Endowment for the Arts Novel Prize, the White Ravens of the Jugendbibliothek International, the IBBY Honors List, among many others.
As a writer, Andruetto stands out for her great awareness and concern to preserve the literary experience as an exercise of freedom that no one should be excluded from. Therefore, she has been linked to reading in all its forms: for over thirty years she has fought for the right for children’s literacy, training teachers in promoting reading and creative writing, helping to structure local and national literacy plans such as PROPALE (Reading Program/ University of Córdoba) as well as teacher capacitating. At the same time, she was one of the founders of CEDILIJ (Dissemination and Research Center of Children's Literature in Cordoba).
MASTER CONFERENCE 3: LITERATURE AS A HOSPITABLE HOME
May everyone really mean everyone, but, what is everyone?
Underpinnings of his work
Snow was falling, and evening was coming. It was the day of Christmas Eve. Amid the cold and the darkness, a poor little girl walked along the street with her head and feet uncovered. She had shoes on when she left her house; but they had not been of much use for very long. They were enormous slippers that her mother had worn. So big they were that the little girl lost them when she crossed the street. The little girl walked with her tiny bare feet red and blue from the cold. She carried a few dozen boxes of matches in her old apron and had one box in her hand as a sample. It was a bad day; there were no buyers, and the little girl had not made one cent….and so the story of The Little Match Girl begins.
I read Andersen’s name for the first time on the cover of a book crowded with illustrations splashed with glitter., one of those adaptations of poor quality in which the depth, complexity, subtlety and richness of the Danish writer had been lost (due to a succession of simplifications). But with that and everything else, there are The Ugly Duckling, The Little Match Girl, The Red Shoes, stories that it may seem that we do not need to read because they have been read to us by those who came before us. Characters in absolute loneliness, abandoned wanting to enter into the festivities of the world even though the world does not exactly offer a celebration. Those adaptations were so simplified that they became offensive, but they did not stop my steady interest as a child and that of numerous girls and boys of my age, in an essential aspect of the work of our writer. Perhaps the only aspect of Andersen’s works that survived all of the amputations and adaptations to which they were subjected is exclusion. By exclusion I make reference to the expulsion that his characters suffer and their tremendous necessity for inclusion that they feel within.
May Everyone really Mean Everyone! is the motto of this conference, and this is what we seem to be asked (with humiliation, begging, or screaming) by The Little Mermaid, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and The Ugly Duckling among others authored by the most notable Danish writer of all time, stories adapted and cut apart until almost disappearing completely in Argentinean editions published at the end of the 50’s and the beginning of the 60’s. So many of us identified strongly with Andersen’s excluded characters, living alone in a world of equals. Who am I? Where are mine? Characters who, as in the poem by Salvatore Quasimodo are alone on the heart of the earth, swans in a village of ducks, mythical creatures in a human world, poorest of the poor in a cold and unfriendly country… Like extraterrestrial beings among earthlings, its men, women, children and animals are jerked from their places and thrown to the elements, expelled from hypothetical paradises of concrete privileges.
The Northamerican poet and essay writer Adrienne Rich asks: To what places do our privileges take us to? To what places do they not allow us to go? We pay a very high price to lessen our contact with the pains of others; we believe so often that it is better not to think, to not know. We create an illusion of insensitivity, of self anesthesia that we imagine can protect us, and above all protect our children. If literature allows us to enter into the hearts of others, it can help us avoid living anesthetized. Anesthesia in reading is obtained by way of a series of fixed formulas, stereotypes that prevent penetrating the surface of the textbooks and of life. This way, indifference can accompany us even though we may read. Stories narrated in friendly language and harmless in the antipodes of literature, with strength to rest in the possibility to disturb us and take us to unexpected areas of ourselves.
When a writer sits down to write he/she may momentarily forget the concrete conditions of life, but it is precisely these conditions that have for a multitude of reasons led the author to write as he/she does. When writing is authentic, it is nurtured by the experience and vital conscientiousness of the person who writes it. Only in this way will the writing grow in itself and in the perception that unites it to others, so that others become visible, and leave what they used to be behind (Rich). Neither beautiful words, careful phrases, nor the effort to transmit the richness of subjectivity and who writes it knows, or should know that oppressive language can have its own deceptive music.
The writer understands (or the reader will understand sooner or later) that what seem to be irrefutable truths are social constructions, advantageous for some and damaging to others, and that these constructions may be the subjects of discussion. Every Little girl and boy, every adolescent needs a community that recognizes him/her, and needs to feel that the experience that he/she may get from reading (that of a human being in a different context, in other conditions of life) can be his/hers, the experiences and conditions for which he/she may have been rewarded or punished. Readers (adults or children) resort to fiction to expand the limits of our existence, because we need to experience other lives and other worlds. Works of fiction are a building of worlds installed in another time and space, in the time and space in which we live. The construction of artificial worlds which we read about, or listen to interrupts our lives and forces us to perceive other lives. One feels as if one can almost touch the infinite possibilities that exist in any human situation by writing and reading fiction. One is placed before the challenge to escape the asphyxia of stereotypes, to perforate everyday life in order to allow the complexity of life to enter into these invented beings. When this is achieved, we have a book that is set apart, an animal that is complete to say it like the poet Rodolfo Godino, a book, finally true as is life itself.
In a world population estimated to be 7 billion persons, according to World Bank statistics, 1.3 billion are living below the poverty line, which is to say we live in a world where almost 2 out of 10 persons don’t have the basic necessities covered. In an unjust world what costs of art are paid for when it is separated from the misery and wealth of the society of which it forms a part?
The stories that I write are always an extension of me, they come from my life. At times more disguised than others. The life of every writer exists in his works, says author Agustín Fernández Paz who is present here today. To those of us who write, the word obligation causes us resentment, a word that in literature has been stigmatized, but what does it mean to be obligated in literature? When is writing an obligation? Every work is an adventure of dialogue with the world, in search of a non-dogmatic personal truth. In the dysfunctional, the short-sightedness and scarcity a writer has something to tell us about a society, a time period, geography or a culture. Griselda Gambaro states that art has no sense if it is not directed at a society that is nurtured by its own language. This reminds us that the work is not only completed with words and with doubts just as the Works of Andersen are not done with just words. Nurtured by the complexity of ugliness of, infant poverty, the alcoholism of his mother, the multitude of scarcities in his life, and the tremendous desire that he had to be recognized, Andersen was fed by the sum of virtues and unfortunate life experiences that lived within him, just as every man and woman on earth. Andersen’s stories reflect a very high degree of exclusion. After almost a century and a half after his death we continue to read the fictional writings of a man whose name has brought honor to this major prize and honor to us. Andersen dedicated the story of The Match Girl to his mother and the extreme poverty that she lived with. In the story, about The Match Girl who during the last night of the year in a city covered with snow, lights each one of her matches that she has been unable to sell one by one, just as it is not good for anything anyway, is nurtured in alcoholism she found herself falling down in order to handle the cold. Sometimes I feel like if I could just remove the characters from underneath the ice that reality has enveloped them in, that maybe I will find that I am actually uncovering myself, says the Israeli writer David Grossman in his book Write In the Darkness. Today we know that Andersen was a great writer because looking at oneself, observing what is more your own, you may see beyond your conditions and discover something that you have not yet expressed, or your expression has not yet found its aesthetic shape.
Going Beyond Dreams
Even though for at least ten years I had worked in and with children’s books, I first heard the name of Jella Lepman in 1993 by way of Evelin Höhne, the Director of Scholarships at the Internationale Jugenbibliotek of Munich. Lepman founded the Internationale Jugenbibliotekof Munich in 1949 and was its Director until 1957. Without the works of this writer, journalist, and Jewish political activist who also founded IBBY in 1953, and received the first Andersen Award in 1954 the field of children’s literature would be something totally different from what we know. Mostly, we owe to her the fact that today we consider books to be so necessary in the lives of children, and maybe we should challenge the thought that the privilege of accessing written literature from a young age should be reserved for some children from only some of the sectors of society. Books are necessary; especially necessary is access to art and literature as an inalienable right extended to everyone in an effort and a conviction - in line with Antonio Cândido - to include them in the same catalog of valuables that we ask for ourselves. The right of delivery to a fabled universe sustained by an indispensable nutrient for our sprit, because it is not possible to have spiritual balance without harmony, perhaps there can be no social balance without literature. Reading and writing enrich our subjectivity because it places us in a position to view ourselves, it provokes us to question, it helps us to think and to feel, it puts ourselves in question, it permits us to allow ourselves other experiences and try to understand other subjectivities. The exploration of personal aesthetic truth is what art offers to us, for that reason literature is not a place of certainties, but a territory of doubt and nothing has more anarchy and revulsion than the possibility of us doubting to confront ourselves in order to place our certainties in question.
Comprehension of other persons and other peoples was Lepman’s purpose in writing A Bridge of Children’s Books, the bridge of books and children that reflects her experience. A pioneer of reading programs, much of our work is sustained by the institutions that she founded and promoted until her death. Right now we are in a place that was derived from what in her day dreamed of, and it is here and now that I want to remember her convictions, the place that literature occupies in the lives of persons and communities. She knew that reading to another individual helped that person to understand, and to believe that thinking of a person is similar to saving that person, as Rodolfo Juarroz stated in one of his vertical poems. Politically active, and conscious of her privileges and her differences, and of the obligation to emigrate to many different places with numerous persons due to the intolerance of others Lepman never ceased in her purpose to take books to German children from various parts of the world so that they may enter in to contact with them. The hope was that they would be better prepared for peace, living together, and mutual understanding. She understood that that when a person read about the experiences of others a better understanding would be developed and the chances for peace instead of war were increased. She believed that if the other became more human it would be more difficult to eliminate him/her. By placing one in the position of another in literature both writers and readers can discover the similarities that exist between others and us.
But I’m not going to talk about writing about others; however, more precisely I want to talk about writing from another by attempting to enter into their point of view, in their perception of the world from the heart. To write from one different from our own (and looking profoundly, all others are distinct and unique) is in the first place where we dare to think like him, to be in his shoes for a moment. The direction proposed by literature is a route of knowledge of the other and the harvest that we obtain en the Reading consists of getting away from indifference because at the end of a book the writer and the reader remain in doubt with a complexity of reasons, interests, virtues and defects of one who is different from oneself, they understand that it is not so easy to not understand their existence.
Joseph Brodsky said I write to be understood; we write not only in an effort to understand, but also hoping to be understood in areas in which we are not yet domesticated, and then I want to stop myself in the difficulty to understand and the importance to continue on with this difficulty in reading and writing. I would like to remember that one important part of our reading experience comes from a lack of comprehension, we don’t understand all of that which we read and then we try to understand and provoke the effort to continue on with the reading of the book, this is how we readers have been traveling from one book to another since those faraway days of our childhood until today. Then, maybe it is a good book that places us in a difficult position. This comes with a cost because many books edited for children and young people today are written in language and matters that are simplified to an extreme, in line with official standards, frozen, predictable, avoiding and preventing us from thinking. To read is to learn to enter into life and language, this is the way literature offers us its mystery because it permits us to enter into something different where we are included in that world as well as our own. We are open to new experiences of contact with suffering, the amazing, pain, joy or evil at the same time we are offered a cure for those sentiments because as Grossman said: books are the only place where things and their loss may coexist. Once words pass through the body and the soul of the author they belong to the reader. That is to say that they can offer entrance to a world of private language, not official. However, for this we must not forget that language is a vehicle, almost like water, a transmitter of an internal current that goes from the subjectivity of the author to the reader and that this language needs sufficient transparency in order to transfer to the world it narrates, and an indispensable turbulence so as to open multiple senses. Literature is generous with us, profoundly democratic because it allows us to enter its universe from our own singularities; it allows each one of us to find our own pathway between its letters.
A writer looking for an intelligibly and highly condensed way to transmit the images he/she is trying to pursue must lay him/herself out naked to his/herself and also expose unsuspected aspects of the human condition. This leads us to think, at least for a moment, of another way. It places before us the challenge of trying to understand a situation that goes beyond ourselves; it proposes that we identify ourselves with something that we may repudiate, to force us to observe from other angles, leaving behind the thoughts of our sacred convictions. And if things were a different way? Only this way is it possible to perforate the surface of so many superficial versions of life and how they come to us by thousands of ways of penetration. How would our lives be if we lived as this other one?
In Real Life
Each writer is a child of his/her time; no one can create on the fringes of the mainstream of the great historical and social conflicts. No book can be a substitute for experience, but no experience is enough on its own; our education has been insufficient if we have not read the books of poets and novelists, of writers who have investigated the most delicate of subjects; man and his sentiments, his personal manner of reflex ion, suffering or fighting against reality. Over a long period of time Cervantes, Tolstoy, and Kafka continued to tell us about humankind, things that the sociologist and psychologist could not tell us, for a long time poets told us things about language and its possibilities of expression, communication and creation, things that we could not ask of linguists. It should not be forgotten that a child is not like an arrow that goes in only one direction, but many arrows that simultaneously travel in many directions, a center of activity and relationships, a hand that plays, a mind that absorbs, an eye that judges. Children do not grow up in a world separate from ours, in a ghetto or under a crystal dome, books destined for children are not books out of time, there is not one problem in the present that children are not sensitive to. The books for the children of our century cannot pretend that the century does not exist and does not pass in a disturbing manner, in our surroundings are some ideas that Gianni Rodari included in his essay Imagination in Children’s Literature. In 1984 just as the Argentinean dictatorship was losing power a group of women who studied literature formed a center in Cordova directed at children and young people. Within the framework of the center was the magazine called Piedra Libre (Free Stone). In the second issue of that magazine we were able to reproduce Rodari’s essay, courtesy of Perspectiva Escolar and the Rosa Sensat Teachers Association. This was the first time Rodari’s thoughts had been published in Argentina, thoughts that today are rooted in the works of creative literature done in my country. The importance of the development of the imagination and work in favor of inclusion, are some of the roads that Rodari chose beginning with his experiences with refugee children. His rich writing, new among children of today, does not cease to be read as demonstrated by the recent reprinting of his books, but it is his place as a teacher that I would like to bring here, just as we wanted to bring him to our Argentinean teachers during those years when I was just getting started. The author of Telephone Tales, Mr. Cat In Business, The Dwarfs of Mantua, and The Adventures of Tonino The Invisible began his work as a teacher and tutor in a Jewish household with a family that had escaped Germany and lived in Sesto Calende. He had contact early on with unfulfilled needs, pain, and exclusion. Beginning with these experiences he recorded his thoughts in his Notebook of Fantasy and they were the foundation for what thirty years later would become The Grammar of Fantasy/An Introduction To the Art of Inventing Stories. The essay explored the rules of invention and made them available to parents, librarians and teachers. Even though romanticism is surrounded by mystery….the creative process is inherent in human nature, and is within the reach of everyone said he who trusted in the liberating power of words.
Son of a worker and a craftsman baker, orphaned by his father at a very young age, teacher of German children that fled the Nazis, the life of Rodari was his work as a pedagogue, noting the phrase of Agustín Fernández Paz who spoke about each teacher on earth who is conscious of his/her responsibilities. Finally, is this; the awareness of life, that which unifies the writer and the teacher who received the Andersen Award and said fantasy serves to explore reality and to explore language….to see what happens when words are put against one another. By way of this route our writer imagined children who could explore words to open up the world, read it, narrate it and modify it, provoking discomfort when realizing what is personal and different, to resist domestication by accepting what makes no sense, and conscious that underneath this lack of sense unexpected new senses appear.
May Everyone Really Mean Everyone is the motto of this conference which purpose is to reflect on the place of reading, in the construction of an inclusive culture, the creation of diversity, differences and models, strategies and practices of inclusion as well as the mechanisms of exclusion in the promotion of reading. For these reasons I chose to share this review of three literary figures for children that came to me at various moments of my life and from their distinct locations have caused me to examine my thinking with respect to centers of attraction/rejection, inclusion and exclusion. But, what does everyone mean as it refers to literature, when literature always implies a single glance at a matter that is unique. I believe that it is right there that an intense look at what is original is where the metaphor everyone; may go beyond that which we are willing to see. The social debate, the poor, those who discriminate or are discriminated against, those who have no memory, family and social violence, wars and dictatorships, along with so many other matters are themes of literature, a condition in which there has been an intense and unique look at a circumstance, a new subjectivity, because literature in order to be useful (to use a word that goes against its essence) should remain useless, its disfunctionality preserved as a treasure. Since its inception, from the beginning of time she looked at human uniqueness, at the fight to be human among what is, and what it wants or could be. She looks for truth that does not begin or end in words. To achieve this truth not only of words, resist the official of a language and of society. Fight against the homogenization of speeches, we are invited to be persons who think and feel as an individual. In closing, that which Rodari taught us one day, we practice the habit of make believe to travel to the heart of humankind.
Andricain, Sergio y Antonio Orlando Rodríguez. Fernández Paz, Agustín: "La realidad y la fantasía son un continuo" http://www.cuatrogatos.org/show.php?item=621
Cándido, Antonio. El derecho a la literatura. http://es.scribd.com/doc/79984103/El-Derecho-a-La-Literatura
Grossman, David. Escribir en la oscuridad. De Bolsillo, 2011.
Lepman, Jella. A Bridge of Children's Books: The Inspiring Autobiography of a Remarkable Woman (Die Kinderbuchbrücke, 1964). Dublin: The O'Brien Press, 2002; 168 pp.; English translation by Edith McCormick. ISBN: 0-86278-783-1.
Pavese, Cesare. Il mestiere di vivere. Giulio Einaudi editore, Torino, 1952.
Piglia, Ricardo. Luz, critica, acción. RADAR, 16.9.12
Quasimodo, Salvatore. Y enseguida anochece y otros poemas. Hyspamerica ediciones argentina, Buenos Aires, 1983
Rich, Adrianne. Sangre, pan y poesía. Prosa escogida 1979-1985 Icaria- Antrazyt
Rodari, Gianni. Revista Piedra Libre del CEDILIJ (Año 1, Nº 2; Córdoba, Argentina, septiembre de 1987). Perspectiva Escolar Associació de Mestres Rosa Sensat. Barcelona, España Web: http://www.rosasensat.org