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Posts Tagged ‘Talking To Ourselves’

Andrés Neuman is an Argentinian born Spanish author. I am going to consider him Argentinian 🙂 Because I haven’t read any Argentinian author other than Jorge Luis Borges. I loved the premise of this book, ‘Talking to Ourselves‘, and so I thought I will read it.

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Talking to Ourselves‘ is the story of a family. There is the father, the mother and their ten year old son. The son, Lito, keeps asking the father, Mario, whether he can go on a road trip with his uncle, when his uncle takes out the truck and drives long distance to make deliveries to customers. Mario keeps denying that request, because Elena, the mother is against it. But when Lito, tries it one more time, Mario agrees. When Elena protests, Mario pulls her into the next room, they have a long heated conversation and after that she agrees to the trip. Lito and Mario leave on the road trip while Elena stays at home. We then discover that Mario has a terminal health condition, and as he wants to leave his son with a lasting final memory, he agrees to this trip. And Elena protests, because she is not sure Mario should be going on this trip with his condition and she is also not sure Mario will return from this trip. Lito, of course, doesn’t know any of this. So father and son go on this trip and mother stays home and we hear the story through their respective voices – on the son’s fascination with the trip and the new things he discovers, the things the dad wants to tell the son, and the way the mother copes with their absence and with the impending doom.

I loved the three narrators of the story – they were different and unique. My favourite was Lito – his narrative voice was charming and authentic, and made me remember my ten year old self. The truck that they are travelling in is called Pedro and the observations that Lito makes on Pedro are beautiful to read and warm our heart.

For example, this sentence :

“The streets are empty. The only thing moving is Pedro.”

And this one :

“We leave Pedro under some trees so he doesn’t get hot.”

And this one :

“Wow!, awesome!, Pedro’s super fast even though he’s big!”

And this one :

“Sometimes we pass other trucks. We say hello turning Pedro’s headlights on and off.”

In the charming voice of this child, Pedro becomes more than a truck and almost a human being with a personality.

There is a place where Lito discovers that maybe he can manipulate the weather. Here is how it goes :

“…and then it happens again. The sky clouds over. All at once. First I thought it was a fluke. No. No way. I’ve done loads of tests. And it works. If I concentrate really hard, the weather changes. I don’t know who has the power. Pedro or me. But it’s true. Maybe that’s why they gave the truck that name. Wasn’t he the saint who carried around the keys of heaven? I was worried that Dad might laugh at me and all that. I know him so well. I’m glad he takes me much more seriously now. That’s the good thing about being ten and sharing a truck. So I told him about my discovery. Dad tested it too. And he saw it was true.
      It depends on my mood. If everything’s okay, it’s sunny. If I get bored, it clouds over a bit. When I’m restless, it gets windy. If I get angry and cry, it rains.”

It is so incredibly beautiful to see the world through the eyes of a ten year old child.

Elena’s narrative voice was fascinating. She comes through as a complex, flawed, beautiful person. The way she copes with the impending tragedy in her life is by reading books, trying to find nuggets of wisdom in them which will help her cope. And then, one day, she meets her husband Mario’s doctor to discuss Mario’s health condition with him and before long, she starts having an affair with him. She feels guilty about it – cheating on her husband when he has a terminal health condition – but she can’t resist it. Elena’s narrations have some of the most beautiful, contemplative passages in the story. Her thoughts on life, the passages from books she quotes and how she finds them applying to her current situation – they are a pleasure to read. I am sharing below some of my favourite passages from Elena’s narration.

“At least they were thoughtful enough to send me two messages. Mario’s strikes the right note. Concise without being evasive. Affectionate without sounding sentimental. He still knows how to treat me, when he wants. That’s what made me fall in love with him : his ability to handle silences as well as words. Some men are brilliant talkers, I’ve met many like that. But almost none of them know when to be silent. Most of my female friends confuse the tough guys with the silent types. I think that’s a movie myth. The worst examples of male aggression I’ve come across have been intolerably verbal. At full volume.”

“Lito sent me a wonderful e-mail from Salto Grande. With his comma-free sentences, his strange spelling. I miss him as never before, in a way that feels more like physical pain than affection. I feel ransacked inside. As though all the energy I normally spend on my adorable and unruly son had been extinguished due to the absence of any recipient. People who don’t have kids think they suck you dry (which they do, I swear), but they don’t realize that this energy, which our kids guzzle down like water from a canteen, is the exact same one we stole from them. It is like a two-way circuit. Without Lito here I work less but get more tired.”

“My parents have always believed that things are less frightening when they are fine. Not me. When things are going fine, I think they are about to get worse and I feel even more scared.”

“”It is a commonly held idea,” I protest through a novel by Javier Marias, “that what has happened should be less painful to us than what is happening, or that things are easier to bear when they are over with,” and it is the opposite : when things are happening we have to deal with them, and the anaesthetic comes precisely from dealing with them.” 

Mario’s narrative voice is interesting and adequate. I can’t just ignore him and so here are a couple of passages from his narration that I liked.

“…you know what it looks like?, the dawn, I mean?, an insult, that’s what it looks like to me, when I was young I was a night owl, I liked doing things while everyone was asleep, I felt untouchable, as you get older you become a lark, you start to worry about being late for things, night owls think they’re stealing a march on everything, but the moment they wake up they’re already running late, since I got sick I don’t like the morning so much, it’s, I don’t know, too loaded with expectations, and the silence of the night scares me, I prefer the afternoon now, it’s less demanding, so I’m watching the sun go down, and I start to wonder, you see, where, where the hell does beauty come from?, not from things, that’s for sure,”

“that’s the weird thing about drugs, the ones that supposedly cure you destroy you on the inside, and the ones that supposedly aren’t the cure make you feel like a person again, does that mean you have to stop feeling like a person in order to get better?, maybe that’s why for so many of us it doesn’t work, because we won’t let the poison in completely.”

I loved ‘Talking to Ourselves‘. It is a beautiful, charming, poignant and sometimes heartbreaking story told through three authentic narrative voices. I loved all the three voices and the insights they shared. I can’t wait to read my next Andrés Neuman book. His ‘Traveller of the Century‘ is acclaimed and I am hoping to read it soon.

Have you read ‘Talking to Ourselves‘? What do you think about it?

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