Friday, 28 August 2009

 Imagine, if you can, being a teenager, in Argentina during the political turbulence of the eighties and nineties. Those Argentine winters can seep into your soul, and if you love to read, like I did (and still do) it’s almost natural that the melancholy words of Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer will become the echo of your soul. I don’t remember when I read him for the first time, but ever since, and even though I don’t especially love poetry, he became my favorite writer of all times. 

When I took a Spanish literature class at BYU, I wrote a report on him, and I said that dying young, and of tuberculosis, made him the epitome of the Romanticism man: desolate by unrequited love, poor, sick, romantic to the last fiber of his soul, and exceptionally talented in the arts.
Poor Gustavo; he had a harsh childhood, and was never happy with the woman he loved. Instead, the woman whom he married cheated on him, his brother and friend Valeriano died too, and it was natural that he would quickly follow. He was only 34 years old when Death took him.
Here are two of his most famous poems:
The dark swallows will return
their nests upon your balcony, to hang.
And again with their wings upon its windows,
Playing, they will call.
But those who used to slow their flight
your beauty and my happiness to watch,
Those, that learned our names,
Those… will never come back!
And then perhaps, his most renown poem:
What is poetry? you say as you fix
on my pupil your pupil in blue.
What is poetry! You’re asking me?
Poetry is you.
When I am writing my novel, his words from his Leyendas are always in the back of my mind, especially “Green Eyes.” When you read my book, you will know why.
I just barely bought my own copy of his Rimas y Leyendas (Rhymes and Legends), and even though my dear Gustavo was never famous in life, after death he became one of the most celebrated authors of the Spanish language. I hope not to share your fate Gus, but I thank you for the musicality of your words, for the feelings you put into paper, and that almost 200 hundred years later, still have the power to arise the same feelings in others. That is pure genius; that is true immortality.

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Yamile Saied Mendez

Yamile (sha-MEE-lay) Saied Méndez is a fútbol-obsessed Argentine-American, Picture Book, Middle Grade, and Young Adult author.

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