BEING THE OTHERS
"Books, in their delusions and excesses, in their magnitude, give us the only imaginable sanity. The one that makes us live without nightmares and constraints, that allows us to live with intensity, transporting us to landscapes that, without being there, we can envisage by reading."
Sometimes, when the night is darkest, I dream that a terrible pandemic will descend upon the world. A glacial and poisonous wind blows through the deserted streets and locks us in our homes. Suddenly, life stops at our door: it does not pass through, and we block its entry. It remains crouched on the landing like an animal mortally wounded. And all we want to do is weep. In my nightmare, we lack our voices, we are an absence of caresses, the broken gesture of a kiss we cannot give, and of a wasted embrace. The eyelids close at such pain and loneliness. The screens – all the screens – speak of the dead – of so many dead –, and we think we see them from our windows in that darkness that never seems to disappear, while the sirens sound go off and we do not know if, this time, they are coming for us.
Sometimes, when the night is darkest, we are just a bundle of fear and confinement. Our ghosts write war bulletins, hold despair-laden weapons against us, and pick up the microphones to whisper fear, heartlessness, and greed.
I had a nightmare, and my nightmare became real and collective. Suddenly, we were condemned to stillness. Suddenly, we were immured, isolated, distant from each other, at such an emotional remoteness that it did not even correspond to the real few or many kilometers that separated us from our loved ones, from our friends. From our dead.
Fumbling in the night, I switched on the bedside lamp. As usual, a handful of books rested there is a common disorder, obeying no clear canon. Some had been recently purchased; others had always been there: a Stefan Zweig, a novel by Dulce Maria Cardoso, a Patrick Modiano, the eternal copy of Don Quixote published by the Real Academia de la Lengua Española, a Jakob Wassermann, the Bible, as the narrative of all narratives, a Theodor Kallifatides, a book of poems by Nuno Júdice... My fingers managed to find them. The night was no longer so dark. Books, in their delusions and excesses, in their magnitude, give us the only imaginable sanity. The one that makes us live without nightmares and constraints, that allows us to live with intensity, transporting us to landscapes that, without being there, we can envisage by reading. In short, that by being ourselves we may be the others everywhere, at all times, pronouncing out loud a verse by Maria do Rosário Pedreira: "Life, for an instant, is immense".
Director of Instituto Cervantes in Lisbon
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Iñaki Abad Leguina (Bilbao, Spain, 1963) has a degree in Hispanic Philology from the University of Deusto, worked as a journalist before moving to Italy to teach at the University of Catania. Since 1991 he has worked at the Instituto Cervantes and has been director of the centers in Naples, Milan, Prague, Manchester-Leeds, and Budapest. He was also Deputy Director of Culture and Director of Culture in Madrid, at Instituto Cervantes headquarters. He currently runs the Instituto Cervantes in Lisbon. His publications include the collection of short stories Barbarie y otros relatos (Editorial Lumen); The habit of war (Editorial Espasa-Calpe); Los malos adioses (Editorial Siruela); and El doble (Los libros libérrimos). His latest novel is Las amargas mandarinas (Editorial Huso).