In different ways, Mexico influenced — and enriched — the lives of the two most distinguished visitors to this year’s Guadalajara International Book Fair (FIL).
After receiving the prestigious FIL Prize for Romance Languages at the opening of the event last weekend, Uruguayan poet Ida Vitale unleashed a passionate display of gratitude to a country that took her in after she was forced to flee her homeland in 1974.
“I wanted to read, I wanted to write and Mexico gave me these opportunities generously,” the sprightly 95-year-old told a large crowd.
Vitale talked about how quickly she and her husband made friends in Mexico. Some, she said, had a great impact on her. None more so than Octavio Paz, who she described as a man with “magisterial discreetness … a great teacher and generous human being.”
Opening the FIL Literary Salon, Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk, the winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize for Literature, said he would “never forget the day” that he first read “La muerte de Artemio Cruz” by Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes. He also spoke fondly of Jalisco author Juan Rulfo, who, he said, wrote about rural life, but in contrast to most other authors, with “great imagination.”
Pamuk referenced one of his great influences as Argentinean writer Jose Luis Borges, who he said taught him to view literature as “a metaphysical good luck charm.”
The author also reflected on his 40th year as a writer, comparing the task of sitting for long periods — days, months, years — at a table “filling pages with words,” to a person building a wall “brick by brick.”
Speaking later at an event for 1,000 young people, Vitale had some words of wisdom for wannabe writers. “Never be satisfied with one’s initial written endeavors,” she told them. “We usually start writing after reading something we like and try to emulate that. Some are satisfied with that, others are never satisfied.”
She also recommended varying one’s reading habits. “Read a wide variety of material; don’t keep reading the same kind of material.” she said. “We are danger of imitating in our writing if we are only focused on one (genre).”