Elena Poniatowska: ‘My subject is not me’

A few months after her 90th birthday, the Mexican writer Elena Poniatowska maintains the obsession of good interviewers, who keep quiet and let others speak, waiting to catch a good story like that of her new novel, the second part of “ The Polish lover ”.

“I am not talking about myself. My job for almost 70 years is to ask questions of others; I am not dedicated to thinking about myself because my subject is not me. It is a good title for this talk, my topic is not me ”, the 2013 Cervantes Prize said in an interview with Efe this Friday.

The red of a poinsettia half a meter above her head matches the white of her hair. It is the perfect image to talk about because they are the colors of Poland, the country where Stanislaw Poniatowski, the protagonist of the novel, reigned.

“He was a noble man; He must have been good at making love because he was a lover of Catherine the Great and was liked by women. He was very cultured, as a child, he had a warrior father who saved the life of the King of Sweden, but he did not like weapons ”, he assures when referring to his ancestor of more than 200 years ago.


Poniatowska, who won the Alfaguara prize in 2001, the Rómulo Gallegos, in 2007, and the Biblioteca Breve, in 2011, portrayed with his prose a king determined to give everything for his country, and in the text he recreated Europe between 1732 and 1798, the years of the monarch’s life.

Lonely and sad, after Catherine took his virginity, peace and ultimately the country, Stanislaw moves his cards to keep Poland safe from three predatory powers: Russia, Prussia and Austria. In the end he remains a loser, however he dies with the peace of having obeyed his heart.

As in the first book, at the end of each chapter Elena recreates the political and cultural life of Mexico and tells secrets of her life as an advanced woman and as a writer with almost all possible recognitions, except the Nobel Prize.

He insists that his testimonials are not previews of his biography because he prefers to write about others. Now he has only relived memories, of his life, of his relationship with personalities and of the environment of Mexico in various moments of the twentieth century.

To write about the last Polish king, Elena consulted many books in English and French because in Spanish there is nothing on the subject. She confesses that when she was little they didn’t tell her about Stanislaw and when she inquired about his life, she loved his way of being.

Imagine an ideal scenario: the Polish ancestor appears in the garden of his house, presided over by a bougainvillea. Elena knows that this can only happen in a made-up story, but since she is dedicated to them, she is prepared to react.

“If I found him, I would give him the book, I would tell him that I love the name Poniatowski; I know Poland badly and I would buy him a glass of vodka. But he didn’t drink, so maybe he would force it. I would tell him that living in Mexico has been a Polish gift, that here we call politics the Polish, and those things, “he confesses.


In the same way that people her age take pills for blood pressure, diabetes or heartburn, every morning Elena Poniatowska turns to poetry as an elixir, which may not have been the reason for her long life, although it has that it is more beautiful.

He confesses that every day he rereads several poems and mentions some of his favorite authors, including Octavio Paz, Federico García Lorca, Rosario Castellanos, and Cristina Peri Rosi, recent winner of the Cervantes Prize.

“Reading poems every day is something I always do,” he reveals, pointing to his three-meter-high white-painted wooden bookcases, on which major works of literature in various languages ​​rest.

Would it be an exaggeration to say that if we all read poetry, perhaps the covid-19 would not have harmed us?

“Not at all, I think that’s a truth like a kilo of gold,” Poniatowska responds.

We wish to give thanks to the author of this post for this outstanding material

Elena Poniatowska: ‘My subject is not me’