Monday, July 11, 2011

Why can´t we be wizards or magicians for a few hours?

When I was barely 12 years old my aunt Fela Ichaso de Alfonso, my mother's sister, realized I was in need of some additional and more substantial intelectual 'stimuli' --and together with her son, my cousin Johnny Turró Ichaso, took me book shopping in Havana's "La Moderna Poesia", an awesome & huge bookstore.

I remember to this day the early afternoon we went there....And they bought me quite an assortment of books that contributed to who I am to this day: A rare combination of romance, history, philosophy and sociology like "Marie Antoinette", an amazing biography by Stefan Zweig; "El Hombre Mediocre" de José Ingenieros, which at the time I thought was a very ´deep´ book; "El Amor Catedrático" de Gregorio Martínez Sierra, which I loved and had a May/November romance between a professor and a student; "La Casa de la Troya" de Alejandro Pérez Lugín, that made me look for it when many years later I went to Santiago de Compostela for the first time: Un Mundo Feliz de Aldous Huxley que me fascinó leer --and ¡horror! -- the scandalous Buenos Días Tristeza or Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan. (I later read Nabokov's "Lolita" too, but did not enjoyed much)

I remember Tafela never doubted or questioned that I was not ready to read these books, or was too young to understand them...My uncle Paco Ichaso also lent me "Demian" by Herman Hesse (which became an iconic book) and a very old and dusty little book on Schopenhauer's ideas on women --and he always loved to see me 'stealing' books from his amazing home library....And that freedom and sense of trust they instilled in me -my mother had always done the same- was so wonderful as I was growing up and becoming a 'real' adult-- never feeling for a second there was anything 'prohibited'. Mine was not a 'modern' education without boundaries, no, but an education where the key was that they trusted me...Thus I never had any unhealthy curiosity to read 'prohibited' books, nor do 'prohibited' things! It is a good way of growing up, believe me. And I have done the same with my own daughter --and hope to do the same when my grandchildren come along.

Many years later, when I interviewed Francoise Sagan in Paris (my friend Martha Larraz accompanied me that afternoon, while our very young daughters bought 'tarte des fraises' and walked around Paris unsupervised) I told her about reading her book when I was just 12 --and we laughed and talked a lot about it. She was actually a very shy woman --and so very different from the cynical and 'insouciant' characters of her then ´daring´ books. I told her her books had given me permission to be a bit of a wicked & disobedient girl -- and it was one of the most rewarding (and filled with funny anecdotes) 2 part-interview of my career/life.

I am writing this today -a whole new 'life' later, in a city that holds many memories but not the ´vital´ ones from childhood and early adolescence- because I feel very much in need of those memories. And would give anything, absolutely anything, to have my dear, witty and intelligent aunt Tafela, and my wonderful Uncle Paco- and my beloved and so very brilliant mother and father, in my life. Tafela and Tito Paco left my life already when we all were in exile but way too soon. And last night -at the premiere of the new Harry Potter movie- although I am not a Potter follower- I was wondering why we could not be wizards or magicians, at least for a few hours, and bring back for a little chat those we loved and have been so instrumental in our lives. If I only had a wand....Oh, yes...That would be my vision of what God can do and Heaven must be!