Argentine writer Maria Sonia Cristoff at Penguin Random House in Madrid.Jaime Villanueva
Just a few days ago, dear reader, my eyes crossed, on some page that I do not remember if it was printed or digital, with a photograph in whose extreme left appeared the writer María Sonia Cristoff.
I am sure that this photograph, at another time, would not have caught my attention as it did, but chance – that thing that makes one look for without knowing what he is looking for – led me to stumble upon it just a few hours after finishing reading the most recent novel by the Argentine author, in which her talent, Among many other things, it again overflows intelligence, sense of humor and aesthetic accuracy.
Intelligence, sense of humor and aesthetic accuracy: as soon as I write these qualities, my gaze moves a little away from the image now trapped in my memory and allows me to see it complete: next to Cristoff appears Cynthia Rimsky – I do not think it is necessary to insist that, to her, those words also fit like tailored gloves. The photograph, I remember, is a snapshot taken after the presentation of The favorite color, the beautiful essay by Valeria Tentoni that folds on itself, to let the appearance of its leaves —what is an interview— become an animal —what is the admiration that becomes obsession—, an origami animal that presumes movement —what is the obsession that becomes learning that becomes literature—.
The covers of the books 'Derroche', 'La revolución a dedo' and 'El color favorito'. Penguin / Penguin Random House / Storm Grey
But back to Cristoff
I am almost certain that I had never used, in our newsletter, the word overflow. So if I use it now it is conscientiously and not for nothing. Nor is it just because reading Cristoff – it does not matter if one gets into False calm, Include me outside and Evil of time or if one gets into Passage to the East, Patagonia and Foreign Accent, that is, it does not matter if one reads his narrative, his chronicles or his essays – is to experience, literally, that what one is facing, It is about to overflow the pages that are sustained, or that, where it suddenly is, is about to show the reader the thousand exuberances of which a language is capable. No, if I use the word overflow it is, in fact, because the word burst I plan to use it within a few more lines and because the word waste – that other word that, like burst, I could have chosen to define the literature of the Argentine writer – was already used by Cristoff herself, as a title, in addition to everything, for his latest novel. The novel that I finished reading just a few hours before crossing that photograph of which I spoke towards the beginning of this installment.
—Coincidences, when unleashed, do not come alone, perhaps because that death comes in three, should, better, be used with talents: suddenly, as soon as I wrote here about photography, in the retina of my memory (yes, memory has its own retina and its own vitreous humor) I see the smile again as Rimsky's burst, who is sitting on the right Cristoff, who is surely sitting in front of Tentoni, who therefore does not appear in the image. And I think, then, that I had long wanted to write in this space about the work of the Chilean author, about the very intelligent and corrosive The future is a strange place, or about the unsettling funny and paradoxically luminous Yomuri (very close relative of The Tempestalidas, Gospodinov's book that is causing such a stir), or about the stark and exact The Revolution by Finger, in which the author reviews the trip she made to the Nicaragua of the eighties and whose thickness and intellectual clarity, as well as its temporal arc, dialogues, sometimes in the same sense, sometimes in the opposite direction, with Cristoff's most recent novel.
Now, let's go back to Cristoff
Waste, this is the title of Cristoff's most recent novel, in which an old woman inherits from her niece a letter that, beyond telling her her life, along with the secret that sustained her and gave her meaning, seeks to bequeath the possibility of a transformation: that of the very life of that niece, to whom everyday life, vain ambition and, above all, work and its contemporary ethic – self-exploitation, said Byung-Chul Han – have eaten away at his existence. The fundamental thing, from which emanates the waste of Cristoff's story, is that secret, which I will not reveal but which I will admire: thanks to him, the novel of the Argentine explodes in multiple directions: that of intimacy, that of the most twisted yearnings of the spice, that of politics and that of ideology as traps. that of modern slavery...
—Point and aside, in this novel that wastes points and asides, great snapshots that I would not finish here to list, not so much because space prevents me as because it does not fit so much in my memory, are the three or four pages in which a miner who lies trapped underground, after a terrible accident, When they are about to rescue him and a couple of other companions, he decides that he, thinking about it better, does not want to get out of there: "We are not for ironies. Not us or anyone. The world is not for ironies. Let's say then that I prefer to die buried alive. And here there is no epic, but a replica. Come up. I'm staying."
The waste of Derroche, however, goes beyond history, because it is also formal. I mean: the outburst is also that of the narrative virtues of Cristoff, who is shown in possession of a beastly talent: in addition to the letter, the novel is threaded by theater scenes, profiles, a voice from beyond, telegrams, WhatAapp groups, emails, songs and even a chronicle written by a wild boar —"work is the best police / It curbs appetites for autonomy / It distracts us with anything / it steals nervous power / From morning to night / They forbid us to waste."
Every explosion, every waste, however, to be literature, to be literature of the best, in addition, it has to know how to be channeled, every big bang, then, demands that its possessor knows how to turn it into a river, in the flow that will allow or not the reader to enter its channel, to be part of its journey.
This is the last great virtue of Cristoff's book, because it is the last great virtue of the author: she knows, she is very clear about how to channel her outbursts and wastes.
Cristoff knows how to make the best literature.
Derroche was published by Random House, as was La revolución a dedo. The favorite color has been published by GrisTormenta.