Paulo Freire quote

As we attempt to analyze dialogue as a human phenomenon, we discover something which is the essence of dialogue itself: the word. But the word is  more than just an instrument which makes dialogue possible; accordingly, we must seek its constitutive elements. Within the word we find two dimensions, reflection and action, in such radical interaction that if one is sacrificed–even in part–the other immediately suffers. There is no true word that is not at the same time a praxis. Thus, to speak a true word is to transform the world.

translated  by Myra Bergman Ramos

Jose Saramago on Carlos Fuentes

Now for a confession. Personally I am not easily intimidated, quite the contrary, but my first encounters with Carlos Fuentes, which of course were always polite, as one would have expected of two well-brought-up people, were not easy, not through any fault of his but because of a kind of resistance on my part to accepting naturally something which in Carlos Fuentes is extremely natural–that is, his style of dress. We all know that Fuentes dresses well, with elegance and good taste, his shirt never wrinkled, but for some mysterious reason I thought that a writer, especially one from that part of the world, should not dress in that way. My mistake. Carlos Fuentes managed to make the greatest critical demands and the greatest ethical rigor–both of which he has–compatible with a well-chosen tie. Believe me, that’s no small thing.

translated by Amanda Hopkinson & Daniel Hahn

Jose Saramago’s response to the question of his role as a blogger on November 25, 2008 at a press conference in Brazil.

Could it be, to put it more clearly, that it’s here that we all most closely resemble one another? Is this the closest thing we have to citizen power? Are we more companionable when we write on the internet? I have no answers; I’m merely stating the questions. And I enjoy writing here now. I don’t know whether it is more democratic, I only know that I feel the same as the young man with the wild hair and the round-rimmed glasses, in his early twenties, who was asking me the questions. For a blog, no doubt.

translated by Amanda Hopkinson & Daniel Hahn

from Ways of Going Home by Alejandro Zambra

Talking to her again was good and perhaps necessary. I told her about the new novel. I said that at first I was keeping a steady pace, but little by little I had lost the rhythm, or the precision.

“Why don’t you just write it all at once?” she advised, as if she didn’t know me, as if she hadn’t been with me through so many nights of writing.

“I don’t know,” I answered. And it’s true, I don’t know.

The thing is, Eme–I think now, a little drunk–I’m waiting for a voice. A voice that isn’t mine. An old voice, novelistic and solid.

Or maybe it’s just that I like working on the book. That I prefer writing to having written. I’d rather stay there, inhabit the time of the book, cohabit with those years, chase the distant images at length and then carefully go over them again. See them badly, but to see them. To just stay there, looking.

translated by Megan McDowell

on Isak Dinesen from Written Lives by Javier Marias

When she finally made her appearance at the numerous parties to which she was invited and at the public readings where she told stories entirely without the aid of notes, they discovered that she was a frail, eccentric old lady, deeply lined and with matchstick-thin arms, all dressed in black, with a turban on her head, diamonds in her ears and large amounts of kohl around her eyes. Despite this, the legend continued, albeit along more concrete lines: according to the Americans, she lived on a diet of oysters and champagne, which was not quite true, for she consumed prawns, asparagus, grapes, and tea. When Isak Dinesen expressed a desire to meet Marilyn Monroe, the novelist Carson McCullers managed to arrange this, and, at a famous lunch, the three women shared a table with Arthur Miller, the husband par excellence, who, surprised by the Baroness’s eating habits, asked which doctor had prescribed this diet of oysters and champagne. They say that America has never seen the like of the scornful look she gave him: “Doctor?” she said. “The doctors are horrified, but I love champagne and I love oysters and they do me good.” Miller went on to make some comment about protein, and it seems that the second scornful look she gave him will also never be seen again on American soil. “I am an old woman and I eat what agrees with me.” The Baroness got on much better with Marilyn Monroe.

translated by Margaret Jull Costa

on Djuna Barnes from Written Lives by Javier Marias

Djuna Barnes’s life lasted ninety years and for far too many of them she either did not want or could not have any lovers and so she had no alternative but to remain silent. Her apartment in New York was her inaccessible refuge. There she received letters and the cheques with which her friend, the multimillionairess Peggy Guggenheim, kept her provided for years, as well as the occasional call from publishers wanting to reprint her few books, and with whom she  invariably grew indignant. (She got indignant with Henry Miller too, whom she thought was a swine.) Sometimes she would work three or four eight-hour days just to produce two or three lines of verse, and the slightest noise would ruin her concentration for the rest of the day and plunge her into despair. According to one of her biographers, she spent more than fifteen thousand days, that is, more than forty years, in her apartment in Patchin Place. And we know that most of them. days and years, passed in total silence without her exchanging a single word with anyone. Just the noise of the typewriter and those lines still unread. In 1931, long before those forty years began, she had written: “I like my human experience served up with a little silence and restraint. Silence makes experience go further, and, when it does die, gives it that dignity common to a thing one had touched and not vanished.”

translated by Margaret Jull Costa