Juan Villoro, a complete weight of literature

“Professor Zíper’s books have made me approach a wider audience than my adult books, which probably reveals that my intellectual age is about 13 years old,” the novelist assured this Sunday in an interview with Efe.

Villoro has just published the fourth installment of the saga, “Professor Zíper and the lost words”, a story edited by the Economic Culture Fund, in which the words begin to disappear, due to tricks of the perverse Control Academy.

“This book has to do with the challenges of language, who owns it, how it is transformed, what rebellious force words can have, what is the importance of poets, to what extent vanity and intellectual ambition can harm a person, even if they are learned people”, explains the novelist.

Villoro recognizes that all these themes coincide with his concerns in the writing profession and the children’s story is a device to transmit it in a fun way.

“In literature for adults you can be oblivious to who is going to read you; you don’t think about whether it is Catholic, Protestant or agnostic, from the left or from the right, from the province or from the capital. You write in the abstract; but when you do it for children, The first thing is to get into your character,” he says.

Although he recognizes that everything begins by respecting the reader, the novelist assumes writing as a shortcut to also be a little playful. He assumes it in a playful way, as happens in his new work, in which his friends Francisco Hinojosa, a writer for young people, and Rafael Barajas, a cartoonist known as El Fisgón, appear as characters.

The disappearance of words such as freedom, energy, imagination and science, due to the work of the Academy, cause concern and after vetoing the endearing teacher Bernardo Banfi, the children Julia, Alex and Asdrúbal look for Professor Zíper to help them with one of their inventions.

The boys live unexpected adventures, the most exciting when Zíper looks for them masks of the poets Pablo Neruda, Gabriela Mistral and Octavio Paz, winners of the Nobel Prize, with whose faces they enter the headquarters of the language controllers and save the words.

“Poetry is the highest form of language and those of us who write in other genres can be postmen for poets; I wanted to introduce three great masters of Latin American poetry, Neruda, Mistral and Paz, and to solve a mystery. I found it interesting that children will replace the poets,” he reveals.

Messages like pills

The first time that Juan Villoro wrote for children was in the mid-1980s, with the volume “Las golosinas secretas”. He then thought that children’s literature would be a break, like playing Chinese checkers after playing chess, but he soon realized the complexity of the child’s mind.

“Children have their own rules; children’s imagination is very baroque, it is open to varied stimuli, but at the same time it seeks logic. Children, when they are focused on playing, have extreme seriousness and I understood that children’s literature was a higher challenge to what I had thought,” he adds.

Like little pills, the new book has messages on topics that Villoro is interested in: friendship, feminism, solidarity and reading.

In addition to Hinojosa, Neruda, Mistral and Paz, in “Professor Zíper and the Lost Words” there are tributes to other writers, such as the director of the Mexican Academy of Language, Gonzalo Celorio, the other face of the Academy of Control ; the Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío, and the Spaniard Ramón Gómez de la Serna, among others.

In these times when spelling suffers on social networks, where many people distribute accents with anarchy of fireworks, Villoro defends the work of dictionaries and academies, although he carries the flag of language freedom.

“In WhatsApp chats, the words face each other on a battlefield; some arrive branded, others bandaged, others wounded. That is a destruction of the language and nobody cares, but in other areas the language seems to me that it must respond to common standards because otherwise we would end up in a tower of Babel; in this sense, the Academy of the language is important,” he says.

Considered a complete weight of literature in Spanish, Juan Villoro goes through life without a grandson. He replaces that lack with the ruse of writing like a warm grandfather, a gentleman telling stories to thousands of children who recognize him as a peer of the same intellectual age.

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Juan Villoro, a complete weight of literature