Luis Landero’s El Balcón En Invierno (life related biography)
In this article we will try to present an honest review of book Luis Landero’s El Balcón En Invierno
Luis Landero’s El balcón en Invierno is a lovely, if occasionally irritating, book. All of this might be said much more simply, clearly, and probably with more instant impact. However, if it were written that way, it would lose its unique and exquisite appeal, as repeated motifs take on the flavor of what the writer plainly intended to say.
While El balcón en Invierno is ostensibly an autobiography, it frequently reads like fiction, a bizarre experience written in a style akin to magical realism. Long before the book’s conclusion, its characters have acquired for the reader the near-mythical status they have for the narrator, who is presumably a child of the large family depicted.
We are hurled into a world of recollections. This recollected universe is that of a college-educated, Madrid-based adult guy who is still pursuing a career as a professional jazz guitarist. Every aspect of that desired and pursued identity would have been beyond not only the family’s experience or competence, but also the limitations of their enculturated imagination. While guitarists were undoubtedly present in this world, jazz was recorded music that was internationally marketed and relied on involvement in an economic structure that this community was unfamiliar with. It would have been unthinkable for the grandparents, who were so vividly reminded of times shared. It’s a measure of how much change may be imposed from without on a single generation of human existence such that the grandson accepted as normal what the parents could not imagine.
El balcón en invierno’s protagonist was raised in a rural community near Badajoz in Extremadura, not far from the Portuguese border. Families in the area shared a similar outlook on life. They were all unique, but they were all reliant on a local economy anchored in the soil, agriculture, smallholdings, the processing of the land’s products, and meeting the community’s needs. The ambition was limited to the next village. And it is precisely this all-encompassing, all-encompassing, nearly closed, repeating, and repetitive manner of life that serves as the backbone of nostalgia throughout the novel.
But not for this writer the repeated daily tasks of chicken coop maintenance, goat care, water drawing, vine pruning, cow tethering, and donkey leading. Not for him gazpacho preparation, bread making, stirring an olla seething with cocido over an open fire, kneading dough, or grinding flour. He is not permitted to chop or press grapes, select oranges, dry tomatoes or figs, or collect nisperos. The lasting ambition of his life was to become a jazz guitarist. And that would necessitate a trip to a city. What a city! What is it? And why would you need all that training, all those lectures and examinations and expensive pieces of paper dubbed qualifications, if none of them teach you how to milk a goat, produce cheese or butter, or press an olive?
And it is this access to schooling, to an education that undoubtedly existed throughout his grandparents’ generation, that genuinely offered the means of modifying life and initiating the process that would bring an end to a lifestyle. Schooling was certainly a commodity that grandparents and parents both avoided, as it provided no contribution to the necessities of a life that was all-consuming in its fundamental activities. However, as schooling revealed, it was also a self-reproducing prison, with relevance limited to within its own, diminishing confines. There was living elsewhere, and it was encroaching.
In less capable hands, recreating rural life through nostalgic photos may have devolved into a romanticized fantasy, a long-forgotten imagined ideal world that, in reality, was harsh, merciless, frequently fleeting, and, to be honest, far from ideal. The reader is frequently taken on a tour of this existence’s recalled reality, yet the lists of things, foods, and everyday duties may have been culled from someone else’s remembrance. However, in Luis Landero’s hands, list processing becomes a cultural experience, a fleshed-out landscape, rather than an ego-trip down memory lane.
The beauty of the balcón en invierno is not in its sensitivity, in its sympathy. However, its lesson is that lives become what time and circumstance conspire to arrange and that, in the end, we can only idealize the lives we have not lived. On the other side, the one we have lived devolves into the commonplace, the difficult struggle that life has always been, even that idealized, recalled and reimagined rural living for those who lived it. Read it in Spanish, but disregard the fact that it contains numerous outdated terms. Simply go with the flow and take note of the author’s juxtaposition of nostalgic vision and stark reality.
Eileen McHugh – a life recreated is a novel about a sculptor whose artistic career came to an abrupt halt in the 1970s. She left no work, but an archive of her notes and sketches has been acquired by Mary Reynolds, who is determined to bring the artist’s life and work back to life. She makes touch with individuals who knew Eileen when she was a youngster and a student in London. She reconstructs the artist and her work using these fragmented memories.