“La dos cenizas,” by Ángeles Mastretta
There is a flower in this dry path of writers without any sensibility, soul, and charitas. I hiked a lot, this time, to find it, and it is discouraging to read pages and pages without remembering a single phrase, a colour, or an idea. What are all these books for? Where are we going if we don’t get to fix our compassion, and retrace our meaning and reason and purpose? As one of my teachers, said: “What good literature does is move us beyond merely the narrative. While it is important to tell a story well, what really good literature does is make us reflect more deeply on what humanity might mean, and the consequences of what occurs in a story.”
However, how many writers are able to move us beyond the narrative, or rather, how many of them are just able to produce clean, agreeable, and honest narrative? The Gaussian curve, or the pyramid, as you prefer, is extremely narrow nowadays, and we have to climb steep stairs to reach an acceptable level and find some jewel eventually.
In the peak, when I get a true flower, I confess I often cry. I’m not ashamed of this sentimental trait indeed because I feel comforted by my tears as if they could confirm I’m a human being still able to reach the core of the things. At least of my weakness.
By the way, I also use to cry looking at a good movie, why not? I remember that alone in a summer cinema, watching “Always,” a romantic drama directed by Spielberg, starring Richard Dreyfuss and Holly Hunter, I burst out crying desperately. Two women from the same row, moved, approached and comforted me with their tissues. It was the beginning of a long friendship.
Sorry for the long digression, but when you find a gold nugget you would become cautious. I tripped over “Las dos cenizas,” by Ángeles Mastretta and I shivered while sudden tears confused my sight. This piece is outstanding. The writing, a sort of confession, is a masterpiece, something I want to keep with care in a blue folder, to read again and again.
I remembered “Arráncame la vida,” and “Mal de Amores,” by her. However, I think “Las dos cenizas” is a jewel of a superior quality, which reconciles me with writing and indicates the right meaning of the word literature.
Ángeles Mastretta speaks about her mother’s death. She takes leave of her father and mother, and the elaboration of her loss becomes universal art, high literature, or simply the voice of our heart. The piece is evocative, so aching, and warm. You know, there is our family in “Las dos cenizas,” our roots; there is the same color of our youth, the same scenery. A slow pace, the one required for a painful interiorization; strong voices and stories that we already know particularly well, and life and death.
Ángeles Mastretta is Mexican, born October 9, 1949, in Puebla; she has Italian origins. And belongs to that vein of “South American & Spanish Literature” that for me is the strongest voice in the international panorama today. So, my doubt: is it a matter of enzymes at the end? Do my enzymes recognize and appreciate that taste more than others?
I don’t think so, honestly. I think that it is easier to write superficial accounts, in any language, without a deep sensibility and exposure, only pulled by a good craft of writing. And that Ángeles Mastretta’s voice is different and universal at the same time, able to move us beyond merely the narrative; is humanity.
Here is a small part of her piece:
“La caja de mi madre no dice una palabra, pero me hace llorar como si estuviera perdida en un desierto. Como si, además de sufrirla, esta soledad fuera mi culpa. La de mi madre dice ya no estoy, ya eres vieja, ya te toca ser madre de mis hijos, ya no llores así que no ayudas a nadie, ya ponte a trabajar, ya no me mires. No me mires que aquí no estoy, que ando afuera paseando entre los libros, junto a la mesa, frente a la estufa, bajo los árboles, con los niños, contra todo lo que parezca. No me mires. Quédate con la yo que anduvo viva, que el muerto sea tu padre, que ya él estaba muerto. En esta caja no estoy, llévatela al jardín, tírala, despilfarra. No están aquí mis ojos, ni mis manos, ni mi terco deseo de estar aquí. Llévatela al jardín y ponla con lo que hay de tu padre, con él que no conoció esta casa, ni la extraña, ni sabe que ustedes ya saben que estoy muerta. No me mires. Déjame andar viviendo, sin que interrumpas mi pena con la tuya.”