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Graciela Cabal: the girl with the handkerchief and blue eyes

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By Josefina Delgado
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10 years of the death of the writer Graciela Cabal

The met Graciela in the early years of the sixties, crossing Viamonte street. Nobody greeted if not known, and she was a little older than me. By this I mean two years to regularity of our careers was truly an abyss. These were the years of Antonioni's films, and all walked a little like Monica Vitti and as Jeanne Moreau. That is, we slid. A few blocks away was the coffee the four winds, and on the coast, and thousands of hours between the classes I went there.

She walked without looking at anyone, dressed in gray tweed, a coat with attached belt loose, and sometimes with a gray raincoat lead. But what never was missing, and what made me notice her, it was the handkerchief on his head, a guy handkerchief, tied with a strong knot under the chin. That, and her blue, transparent, slightly cold eyes looking inward.

Then came the night of the long canes. Viamonte is over, Independence was over, the police guarded the entrances to the school, they could not smoke and most reactionary names replaced teachers the most glorious stages from the University of Buenos Aires. I was saved from the horror of nowhere, arriving to work at Centro Latin American Editor. As typist, nothing more. I had not yet finished the race. There, I met Beatriz Sarlo, and she invited me to join a study group that was initiated by then: Buenosayres group. All along with Greek Y, we clarified cone Marechal's book. Angel Nunez led to Graciela.

And there I met her, I could greet her, and together we translated the Semantique Structural Greimas, no computer, laboriously in our typewriters still no electrical, and analyzed the fairy tales of Perrault and read Levi Strauss and a thousand other things. Also started to cultivate the habit of walking some mornings or certain afternoons, with several children each, by Constitution, Barracks, and San Telmo.

She lived in Caseros street at the park with Daniel and Paul, who was almost a baby. We gathered to read, got together to study, we gathered to eat poor and naive prepared meals with the little money we had. There were other colleagues: Graciela Guariglia, Alberto Perrone, Ernesto Goldar. (...)

We walked, as I said, and the city seems in my memory a ghost town. We went to the church of St. Felicitas, in Barracas, and she told me for the first time the story of Felicitas Guerrero, in years that had not yet become fashionable history.

As I said before, we were poor. There were no editorial groups or expensive private schools or foreign universities now offering degrees in international business and marketing, and if there were any we had not worked on them. But instead there were three Argentine publishers ancestry (Emecé, South American, Losada), some publishers girls like Manufacturing and Jorge Alvarez, Editor and memorable Center, where had gone all the people of Eudeba.

Graciela had the twins and Daniel did journalism, and as she had given up her teaching post I proposed to present to the person in charge of the corrections in the Style Editor Center. Alberto Perrone, my husband at the time and the father of my three children, decided Graciela needed a new dress and went together to buy it. It was black and white, squares, sort of what the French call robe-manteau.

Graciela sit well in the center, the memory of that stage I have Toubes Amanda and others. Meanwhile Shooting democratic stage, which lasted a few months in 73, after Videla's dictatorship, which was harder, needless to say, and confinement and fear were difficult to combat. Then we let the kids in kindergarten and we went to the movies by Corrientes, see Saura films where cut scenes in Argentine actors appearing as exiles or Alterio Norma Aleandro. And it's becoming more mysterious. (...)

Libraries, theaters, cafes, the munich Constitution, the promise of writing our obituary - was so far not all-I turned, that cafe Avenida de Mayo, 36 billiards, where we promised to be writers once and for all, and later feminist groups, Dima, meetings at the Botica del Angel, and near the end of the dictatorship.

In Carnival, the theme of her stories, we took the kids to some secret club saloons from our neighborhood where costume contests were placed. we dress them up as pirates, with rubber boots rain and some Scottish little shirt and the rest was relatively easy and inexpensive. And birthdays. We never stop celebrating one birthday, although some of them-between the two met six- deny now that are grown up.

Not dreamed of positions of power, we would never have thought of plotting to take place someone or hold positions not deserved. Went generous when others were petty, as when toasted with cider because Borges and María Kodama decided to marry.

Graciela was my friend, the friend of youth and adulthood. Once jokingly told me we said we were cousins. She always had the right gesture for me. We never ever fight but could not match. But she always listened. Organized a surprise party when I was appointed deputy director of the National Library and made me a cake with pyrotechnics and nearly burned the house. We accompany us at all times, good and bad.

Would we have been happier in a different country? We were poor and yet we were not missing anything. She was interested in the trees, family networks, the names of the streets, the old stories, neighborhoods. To me, film, political debates. both of us, literature, well placed words, memory with imagination. Recall that her first book was a book of poems.

Then came her other books, over sixty, she said proudly. Hyacinths, the Barbapedro, the Tomasitos, Lady Straightener, Little Women was obtained before, Gardel, The roses, Toby, Family Secrets, the Bible, Fear, could not name them all. As she wrote The oldest emotion Forest wrote books and spoke on the phone all the time.

She enjoyed her travels, with narratives in schools, with trips to Chaco where she was the queen . In 2001 we were together and we share the room and we were dying of laughter recommending the same as we have recommended our mothers forty years ago: bring a bag.

So to the end, every day on the phone, where as there was no reason. The readings always shared: St. Teresa of Avila, a plan could not be completed. And the key for me in the history of Graciela's book, The Indomitable, where anorexia appears magnificently interpreted as a symptom of female rebellion women like Catherine of Siena, Antigona and Simone Weill.

And farewell, I'd rather not remember. Because the personal stories contain the keys to great history are those spaces where one can calibrate the tensions and hopes of a society.

Graciela was a great writer. Many times i told her that for me hers was beyond her labels. I want to believe that her success had to do with the quality of her work and not the secrets of a successful business.

Why? What were the keys to his writing? Rereading some of her books, some flavor of old thing she received from family but was inventing stories as she wrote and researched recovers. Always researching. The heinous remedies each time, always alternative medicines offer hope where there is not. Neighborhoods, customs. But with imagination. Nothing plain manners. She built unforgettable characters. Women. Graciela's women are strong, rebel, as indomitable.

As the baby of woman happy life as grandmother's roses, or Rosina, who falls for the Italian puppeteer. Women do terrible things: are locked in the bathroom when they will present them to a suitable boyfriend or threaten to eat the box of matches. Or refuse to prepare breakfast. Or change their Maja costume by one gypsy whether grandmothers. To Lady Straightener, this endearing character who decides when reviewing her life to defend the rebellious daughter who wants a chemistry set instead of a seamstress.

Graciela's literature is a literature against mediocrity of the bourgeois world, paradoxically, because she loved the family-against those families who imprison their members and prevent them from being what everyone decides to be, but are wrong. She was a masterpiece of humor, and the built-in phrases Humor: "The heart of a mother is never wrong", or is that always said, sometimes a bit serious, "who better than the parents to decide the fate of their children, especially their daughters. "

One is the memory and imagination of Argentina middle class, which comes from immigration, which has no fields or horses or old houses but the history and lineage of their ancestors told through stories that crossed the seas.

The roses are one of my favorite stories, not just because I prefaced it but because the power of fantasy appears before a life of sterile rituals. The blue rose, sought by the grandmother through complicated recipes is achieved by the power of love and love is art and poetry transmission. When Rosina appears dressed in a white suit anyone identified as costume-even that was encoded, the costumes, the girl says fascinated "is Titania, the fairy queen," and there is Graciela, who probably knew at eight years love of Titania and Puck worth the Winnieh Pohh and even Harry Potter books and expensive advertising campaigns crazy.

Her novel Keeping Mum can be seen today as the corollary of the original and rare work among us. Back to read it is the best tribute, the best memory. Read Graciela Cabal's work, for what it was, the work of a great writer.

(From the forthcoming book, In the garden birds sing. Literary Memories)

traducción: Belén Zapata