The shelf of the unusual

“Sometime you will find yourself facing your actions turned into irrevocable stones…”

Elena Garro. The fault lies with the Tlaxcaltecas.

In Puebla, land of epics and heroic deeds that she would study and see with crude filters, she was born on December 11, 1916. Her family welcomed her to say goodbye to a year and celebrate the significant 1917, of laws and national consummations. As if she caught on to the spirits that December usually brings, between joys, toasts, melancholy and nostalgia, the girl would jump for those sensations with humor, with bad humor, accurate and lost, with an intelligence that was a catapult and a attempt. That was Elena Garro, an impressive writer. She did a work worthy of her best insignia, while the woman behind her pen lived with the best of her, but against herself.

And they lived in conflict forever

Elena Garro moved with her family, with the social schisms of her time, until she settled in Mexico City. She was passionate about dance, but academically she was more into literature and theater as a student at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). Cheerful, happy and spontaneous (her father accused her of being “frivolous”), Elena met a student who equaled her in ingenuity and vision: Octavio Paz. On May 24, 1937, the young Elena and Octavio were married. Possessors of immense talent, capable of losing themselves in their intellectual exchange and in their contemplation, they were a perfect love duet. Analysts of their world, translators of emotion, promoters of culture, they had immediate conflicts and differences forever. They also had a daughter: Laura Elena. The hecatomb of her romantic and intellectual disagreement would give Elena to dedicate a good part of her strength to that denial of the other, nothing in Peace.

memories of the future

In the work of Elena Garro coexist surrealism, mordacity and the dawn of a magical realism that she did not embrace as her own name, refusing to be the mother or godmother of a current that would achieve all the international awards under the signature of other authors. In her lines, the absurd is usually atmosphere, as well as the placement of the choleric reality of someone who lives under a yoke of some kind, as in the wonderful story “Lost Child”, part of the book We are fleeing, Lola (1980).

Perhaps it is unfair that other of his works are not considered in the same way, but it is true that his novel The Memories of the Future is absolutely portentous. With magnificent language and a framework that touches the wild land of Mexico with its revolts, its loves, its dead and her passages as vestiges of what she was, Elena won the Xavier Villaurrutia award as the consecration that would later be denied her. Arturo Ripstein made the film version in 1968 (with meager results), with Daniela Rosen, Renato Salvatore and Susana Dosamantes in the central roles. His play Felipe Ángeles (1979), crossed the battlefields of social tragedy in another way for the never-redeemed triumphs of the Mexican Revolution, where heroism is image and discourse, but the execution can await a dark end. Everything flows in the thought that gives prison solitude and the memory of battles, rifles and promises.

the sinister mistakes

Elena was a defender of what was just and said she was permanently injured, separated. But, what was fair in the times of a mandate like that of Gustavo Díaz Ordaz? Was she wrong or was she a militant or was she confused or…? The documents and indications are multiple, serious and vague, well-founded and fantastic. Her realities would always weigh on her: she pointed to definitive cultural actors of the Mexican left as co-responsible for the horrors of the 1968 military action, which she also justified. It was not an erroneous statement, she was digging her grave or raising her fence against critical journalism, social groups that defend students and human rights, society itself. Worse yet, she was branded as a spy for the regime. No one is given an infiltrator credential, so whether or not they have spoken with the Ministry of the Interior, the military or the Presidential General Staff are things that we will never know, but they certainly seem excessive. We know what she came after her: Mexican culture turned its back on her.

Elena took her daughter and went into self-exile. She went through New York, Paris and Madrid. Two decades outside of Mexico; neither as penance nor as oblivion, living or, mostly, surviving. Here no one wanted her literature or her opinion. The quality of it might not fit a praise or a critical note, but the shadow of disgrace was great. She defended herself from anywhere and she never stopped writing. Paz wrote to him and that is condensed in Odi et amo: the letters to Helena (Siglo XXI, 2021). She protected the correspondence that was recovered after her death. How much they said and kept silent, has too many nuances for a plain reading, even more so when between both figures an unfortunate crossing of fronts has been drawn: with Paz or with Garro.

The author wrote Testimonies about Mariana (Siglo XXI, 2021), where she delves into her relationship with the poet. According to the interview conducted by his biographer Patricia Rosas Lopátegui (author of Testimonies about Elena Garro: Exclusive and Authorized Biography of Elena Garro, 2002), Octavio did not want him to write. However, in the interview with the journalist Luis Enrique Ramírez (La Jornada, 3/13/94), the writer says that she is proud of the acknowledgment of Paz, of her Nobel Prize, she denies having hated him and, contrary to other versions in which he distanced himself from creation and even asked him to incinerate his drafts, he presents him as the propellant of his literary vocation. “It terrifies me to think that one day I will no longer be in the world”, she expressed as if it were part of one of her poems, a lesser known space of her creation.

The heart in a trash can

As he wrote in the literary dawn of Memories of the Future: “I would like to have no memory or turn into pious dust to escape the condemnation of looking at myself”; he doubted what he remembered with all the passages and protagonists of it. The memory, the memories, the instants, what petrifies over time and is a rock of memories, all of that is recurrent in his narrative.

It bothered her that they compared her to Sor Juana or that she was spoken of as the best Spanish-American writer of the 20th century. She rejected labels in all fields, but the reality is in her open pages. She was truly a disturbing, innovative and brilliant writer. Her characters are complex and can be as enigmatic as the realities of her setting, which can be seen in stories such as “What time is it…?” or in her brilliant novella The Heart in a Garbage Can. In the first, the guest Lucía Miter is shedding her jewelry for months to continue occupying a hotel room, awaiting the arrival of her lover; she seems crazy, but she keeps the truth from her, creating an unstable and highly attractive climate for the reader. On her part, the novel presents Úrsula, cosmopolitan, free, worldly, intelligent and desirous of the confusedly colluded but elusive love of her three lovers. They go out of their way, she is above all. The author was like that kind of women: center, desire and turn, like an unexpected spell from intelligence and humor.

Roofed by the eternal spring of Cuernavaca, La Garro left in August 1998, four months after Paz. Far from her multiple controversies and disputes, she is survived by the most important thing: her lyrics. It is what that insomniac memory ordered as a prodigy that is story, poetry, novel and theater. Elena Garro, with that look that she kept looking for from Mexico or from Paris, surrounded by her cats, with the perennial cigar guarding her vertical, will continue telling us from her best voice while we return to her books.

We want to thank the writer of this write-up for this remarkable material

The shelf of the unusual