Angélica Gorodischer, Palito de naranjo

October 2, 2014 § Leave a comment

Para empezar, a las mujeres encarceladas nadie las visita nunca.  A los varones sí, siempre.  Siempre la mujer o la madre, y hasta la hija, pero eso es más raro, va los jueves a las dos de la tarde con paquetes de comida y de ropa, a veces con revistas, a veces con un ejemplar de la Biblia.  Eso es maravilloso, no solo porque una ve una cara conocida y porque siente que a alguien le importa que ella esté en donde está, sino porque la visita significa que el tiempo existe.  Es maravilloso porque entre una visita y otra se escanden las horas, los minutos, los meses.  Si no hay visitas el tiempo es un largo, larguísimo intervalo blanquecino entre dos paréntesis, la vida que se va olvidando y la esperanza que va desapareciendo, convirtiéndose en otra cosa, en algo algodonoso y turbio que reclama que una lo vea y lo toque, y una sabe que no hay que rendirse a la tentación de hacerlo porque si lo hace, si toca eso, nunca va a encontrar no digo consuelo, nunca va a encontrar ni la más mínima tranquilidad, ni el más insignificante jirón de sueño.  Pero si alguien llega de visita, si viene este martes o este jueves y una puede imaginar que va a venir el próximo también, entonces el tiempo existe:  hay horas, hay días, hay espera.  El varón encarelado tiene otro horizonte a la vista y en ese horizonte está escrito «cuando yo salga ella va a estar esperándome».  A una mujer nunca la va a estar esperando alguien.  Y ella lo sabe.  Sabe que el afuera va a ser una prolongación del adentro.  Es posible que piense «aquello era preferible a esto».  Y para seguir, la mujer que está en la cárcel no encuentra nunca alguien con quien hablar.  Y no me refiero a conversaciones ni a confidencias.  Me refiero a palabras que van de una persona a otra.  ¿Ha pensado usted alguna vez que cada palabra que se pronuncia es como un morral o un zurrón que contiene carne y sangre y hueso, historia, intenciones y horror, sobre todo horror?  ¿Ese horror que es el precio que una paga por imaginar lo que de un momento al otra le va a suceder?  ¿Se ha dado cuenta de que las palabras lo traen, al horror, digo; de que las palabras no son solo sonidos ni una letra detrás de la otra sino que cada una contiene un mundo? (p. 29, iPad iBooks e-edition)

Argentine writer Angélica Gorodischer has had several genre careers within her lengthy writing life.  From a SF writer in the 1970s to a fantasy writer in the 1980s to a contemporary fiction writer who focuses on feminism and society for the past two decades, her works, diverse as they are, have a few things in common:  PoV characters who probe deeply into their societies’ fault lines and prose that makes these examinations feel not just important, but vital for understanding our own selves and our own places in societies that may or may not be conducive for the lives that we wish to live.  In her just-released novel, Palito de naranjo (Orange Stick in English), Gorodischer utilizes a singular character, Féry, to tell of not just the burdens that the dispossessed experience today, but also the joys that they might experience on the other side of suffering.

Palito de naranjo is dialogue-heavy; almost the entire novel is devoted to the conversations that the aged Féry, who has experienced privation and incarceration, relates to an interviewer.  The stories that Féry has embedded within her comments on her rough life (the lengthy quote above is about the different prison lives that men and women experience; Féry notes the numerous visits that male prisoners receive weekly from female relatives and compares that to the near-non-existent visitors for female prisoners) are fascinating.  Characters appear in one place, living solely through Féry’s ability to make them seem alive even when they are present only for a singular moment or sentence before giving way to another.  As Féry talks, the contours of her life comes into greater focus.  The cumulative effect is to present, similar to a finely-detailed mosaic, a life that is fascinating for its experiences and its insights into modern life.

The prose here is nearly pitch-perfect.  A dialogue-heavy novel can be tricky, as the author risks loses the reader’s attention can wander if there are not breaks in the conversation and it can become easy to confound which speaker is talking at any given moment.  Yet Gorodischer manages to make this into a vivid character sketch, as Féry’s detailed accounts of her life and the people she has come to know works well within the strictures of dialogue description of these others.  As Féry talks, she begins to describe situations and people that are notable despite never speaking of their own accord.  We come to understand Féry more through her descriptions of these fellow travelers than we might have if these characters were presented through direct interactions with Féry in flashback sequences.

There is no single concrete plot here, instead it is through Féry’s numerous recollections of her past that we come to see that it is her life, her time as a prostitute and an inmate, that is the plot arc we are following.  We see her at critical points in her life, sometimes in a bitter lamentation over the social inequalities that women experience in all facets of their lives, other times in her reminisces of others in her life, and the crises that she describes (and has largely overcome in her path toward some measure of contentment, if not full happiness) feel real because of the way they are related to us.  There are no lulls to the tale; Féry slowly yet steadily builds toward a solid, moving conclusion.  Palito de naranjo may differ significantly in form and purpose than say Kalpa Imperal or Bajo las jubeas en flor, but it is no less of a significant work than these two older works of Gorodischer’s.  Highly recommended for those who are fans of her earlier fictions.

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