eduardo galeano | window on the word

6 12 2008


Poetry Dispatch No.260 | December 4, 2008


memoI’ve been talking, reading, writing stories again lately. Which, of course, is where it all begins. What it’s all about. Some never grasp the full meaning of this—-writers included.

How many stories have you heard today? How many have you lived? How many have you told? What stories will you dream tonight?

I love the Latin American’s sense of story—story-soul, if you will.

The first time I read Eduardo Galeano…? Back in Santa Fe, I believe. The 60’s? the 70’s? A little Spanish bookstore, Alla’, on West San Francisco St., off the Plaza, 2nd floor…”arte, libros, musica.” Special stuff. Beautiful stuff, Jim ran it. Owned it. Jim…what’s his name? Dunlap?

I think that’s also where I bought Galeano’s MEMORY OF FIRE. One of those books to last forever. Just so much. So much any writer, reader needs to know.



I hate the term ‘magician.’ But I’ll say something like it anyway. Eduardo Galeano: magic man. He doesn’t so much write as perform tricks and rituals before your very eyes. Words catch fire. Disappear. Become part of your own nature, voice. I love his book: WALKING WORDS. Now there’s a little magic right there!

Here’s more of it. Followed by more concerning Eduardo Galeano —Norbert Blei


Window on the Word (I)

Storytellers, storysingers, only spin their tales while the snow falls. That’s the way it’s done. The Indians of North America are very careful about this matter of stories. They say that while stories are being told, plants don’t pay attention to growing and birds forget to feed their young.

Window on the Word (II)

In Haiti, stories may not be told during the day. Anyone who tells a story before dark is disgraced: the mountain throws a stone at his head, his mother walks on all fours.
Nightime draws out what is sacred, and those who know how to tell stories know that the name is the very thing that it names.

Window on the Word (III)

In the Guarani language, ňe’ ẽ means both “word” and “soul.”
The Guarani’ Indians believe that those who lie or squander words
betray the soul.

[from WALKING WORDS, Norton, l995]

walkingWalking Words is a unique collaboration between the world-renowned author Eduardo Galeano and the Brazilian woodcut artist Jose Francisco Borges—a brilliant feat of storytelling in the tradition of Italo Calvino’s Italian Folktales. With the same literary genius that Galeano applied to his epic history of the Americas, Memory of Fire, he here tells, as he puts it, “the stories of ghouls and fools that I’d like to write, voices I’ve collected in my dreamlike wanderings or heard in my wakeful dreams.” Galeano’s narrative sources are to be found in the folklore of rural and urban Latin America, but this is far more than an exercise in literary anthropology. Instead, these tales and riddles and aphorisms and paradoxes become testaments to the power of stories to make and remake and enchant the world. Through the medium of Galeano’s eloquent language and Borges’s equally rich images, “reality” stands revealed as a poor imitation of the real magic of human life and imagination.



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