May 18, 2022 3:44 pm

Who was Agota Kristof, the author of the phenomenon Claus and Lucas

the hungarian writer Exhausted Kristof I knew suffering. He analyzed it like an entomologist looking at a fly to draw it. He felt it up close, but he was able to distance himself and relate it in a direct, raw, wild way. “Surely my way of writing comes from the theater. pure dialogue. Just right, no filler, no fat. Why go around?” he said in an interview in 2007.

As a child, she liked to tell stories. Sometimes, her grandmother visited her: she tried to put her to sleep with stories that she had already heard hundreds of times. depleted I told him not like that. She could better explain that story to him. It started with a sentence, it didn’t matter which one, and everything was chained. The characters appeared, the dialogues, and the plot spread like the shards of a World War II bomb.

At the age of 14, she entered a boarding school: halfway between a barracks and a convent, a mixture of orphanage and reformatory. In the study rooms they demanded silence. A restless adolescent silence. Agota did not know what to do: “I start to write a kind of diary and I invent a secret writing so that no one can read it. I write down my misfortunes, my grief, my sadness, everything that makes me cry in silence at night in bed. I mourn the loss of my brothers, my parents, the family home where some foreigners now live. I cry, above all, my lost freedom, ”recalled the author in the book The illiterate, a compilation of autobiographical narratives that he edited in 2004 because he needed the money and later regretted publishing.

In November 1956, at the age of 21, he had to go into exile from Hungary. Her husband had participated in the revolution against the pro-Soviet regime, but the revolt was put down. They had no choice but to run away. One night, with her four-month-old daughter, she crossed the border between Hungary and Austria. “Sometimes projectors and rockets illuminate everything: we hear firecrackers, shots. Then silence and darkness return.”

He arrived in Austria and then traveled to Switzerland. There he went to work in a watch factory. Her companions were pleasant, they smiled at her and spoke to her in French: she did not understand a word. She got up at 5:30 in the morning, dropped her daughter off at the nursery, punched in her card at 7:00 and for 10 hours, under the thunderous noise of the machines, made mechanical movements, clocked in again, looked for the baby He put her to bed, tidied up the house, washed the dishes, and only then sat down with his notebook. “To write poems, the factory is very good. The work is monotonous, you can think of other things and the machines have a regular rhythm that helps count the verses. In my drawer I have a sheet of paper and a pencil. When the poem takes shape, I write it down. At night, I clean it up in a notebook”.

The factory, the tedium of working in a factory, will appear in the novel Yesterday (written in 1972 and that the Libros del Asteroides publishing house has just published in Spanish), but not yet. Back then, depleted I wrote anonymously. Even when that only interested her, even when she had the impression that it would never interest anyone. It was still in the dark, like when he walked with his daughter in the middle of the flashes. He accumulated manuscripts in drawers and forgot them to write others. Meanwhile, he was fighting against the French language: a stark fight. At the factory, she only spoke to her colleagues in the bathroom. While they smoked, they taught him the essentials. They touched his hair and called him “cheveux”. They touched his arms, his hands, his nose and in that strange language they repeated: “bras”, “mains”, “nez”. She nodded. She would win that fight: 50 years later, after she died in July 2011, French critics would consider her one of the most important writers of late-20th-century French-language literature alongside Samuel Beckett and Eugène Ionesco, but not yet. . At the time, she considered herself illiterate. She signed up for summer courses at the university to learn to read, and after taking a placement test, she was placed with the beginners.

Ten years later, he finished two plays in French that were presented in a bar. Every Friday and Saturday, the few attendees applauded her. The sound of those palms encouraged her to continue writing.

Then, he sent some texts to the radio: they were read by professional actors and actresses. Between 1978 and 1983, Swiss Francophone Radio premiered five of his works. He began to write short stories about his childhood memories. He did it with patience and obstinacy, without losing faith in what he wrote. For two years, he narrated the story of two brothers. Those stories were forming a novel.

In fiction, the brothers Claus and Lucas also write. “We have a very simple rule: the wording must be true. We must write what it is, what we see, what we hear, what we do. It is forbidden to write: “the town is beautiful”, because the town can be beautiful for us and ugly for other people. We will write: “we eat a lot of nuts” and not “we like nuts”, because the word “like” is not a safe word, it lacks precision and objectivity. “We like nuts” and “we like our mother” cannot mean the same thing. The first formula designates a pleasant taste in the mouth, and the second, a feeling. The words that define feelings are very vague; it is better to avoid them and stick to the description of objects, human beings and oneself, that is, to the faithful description of the facts”.

Although it was the first novel he had written, Kristof I had the conviction, the certainty, that it would be published without problems. He sent three letters, together with three manuscripts, to the most important publishers in Paris: Gallimard, Grasset and Seuil. A month later, he was surprised by a polite and impersonal rejection of the first two. Seuil’s publisher called her and told her he wanted to publish it. Came out with the title The great notebook it was translated into 18 languages ​​and won Italy’s Moravia Prize, Switzerland’s Schiller Prize, and the Austrian Prize for European Literature. Later, Kristof continued the story: wrote The proof Y the third lie, which the publishing house Libros del Asteroides published in Spanish within the trilogy Claus and Lucas. Without a doubt, one of the best novels of recent times.

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