Writing is like breathing
for Argentine author
By Daniela Montalvo
... A man whos about to turn fifty and who feels complete
in the sense that hes done everything hes ever
wanted to do and could, and who finds himself trapped between
boredom and restlessness, has only two alternatives: either
he begins to prepare for old age, satisfied with what hes
done or frustrated by all the things he didnt manage
to do; or else he fires off his last round and goes for
all-or-nothing. I chose the second option. And Gris put
me up to it. Reckless, thats what she is. ...
above, from The Tenth Circle,
Mempo Giardinellis latest novel; below, a detail of
Giardinelli is not a writer by choice. The Argentine novelist
says he writes because there is no alternative.
dont write to be happy or to receive any sort of satisfaction,
I write because I have to, because for me writing is like breathing,
said Giardinelli, a visiting professor at U.Va. last semester
in the Latin American Studies department.
he is back in Argentina now, Giardinelli is sure to return. He
has had a relationship with the University since 1984, when he
visited to give his first lecture and conference. Since then,
he has been a visiting professor three times (1987, 1997 and 2002)
and has given a number of conferences at U.Va.
comes to U.Va. about once a year, he said during an interview
last fall. I have a personal romance with this University.
I have fallen in love with it.
am proud to form part of this faculty with such amazing colleagues.
Much of my daily life is influenced by the people at U.Va., so
naturally, some of my work is influenced, directly or indirectly,
by my relationship with U.Va. because it has been an important
part of my life for the past 18 years.
addition to novels, Giardinelli has written essays and short stories
in Spanish. He recently shared his talent for literature with
both graduate and undergraduate students.
of Giardinellis great concerns is the poverty in his native
province of Chaco. He has established a foundation to help set
up education programs and provide food for various schools in
the Chaco area, where he continues to live.
could live any place he wants, but instead chooses to remain in
this region of Argentina because of his commitment and love for
his country, said Fernando Operé, a professor in
U.Va.s Spanish department and one of Giardinellis
renowned author was born in Chacos capital, Resistencia,
in 1947. His writing career began when he was a teenager. In
high school, I would write short little stories, or poems, but
it wasnt until I was studying law that I realized I was
a writer. I chose not to graduate with a law degree because I
came to realize writing was my life. I didnt choose to become
a writer, the writing chose me.
I was 20 years old, I was serving in the military and was impacted
by one of the novels I was reading by Julio Cortázar. That
was the time when I realized that my life was literature and that
I never wanted it to stop.
goal in writing, he said, is not fame or fortune, but simply to
produce work that can stand on a par with other literature.
I write to render homage to my mentors, but for the most part
I dont write with any goal in mind.
career has not progressed without hardship. Like many Latin American
authors of his time, Giardinelli has dealt with the obstacles
of a repressive government. In 1976, he and his family fled Argentina
because the government banned publication of his first novel,
¿Por qué prohibieron el circo?
was the hardest time of his life, he said. He moved to Mexico,
where he lived without legal papers and, as a result, had trouble
were very hard years, he said, My life was literature,
but my career was stopped before it was born.
itself proved a hardship at times. Santo oficio de la memoria,
winner of the prestigious Rómulo Gallegos award in 1993,
took him nine years to finish. I finished it in Argentina
and worked on some of it while I was at U.Va.
of Giardinellis books actually chronicles his journey with
Operé through Patagonia.
describes Giardinelli as affable, simple, honest and very
committed to his country. He is not a person preoccupied with
fame or awards, but instead is a person with a passion for writing.
he doesnt write, he isnt the same person, which makes
you realize what a true writer is.