August 28, 2015

Open Letters. A Correspondence with Chilean Art Writer Ignacio Szmulewicz, 1

I know Ignacio Szmulewicz is an art historian who lives in Santiago, Chile. Like me, he is an art writer. But I did not have the pleasure to meet him. Instead we met the 21st century kind of way, on Twitter, where we "follow" each other. Curiosity at first, followed by sympathy and, not long after that, a writers' friendship. Twitter's 140 characters messages did not longer do the trick, so we got to emailing. Then I received a letter by Ignacio in my mailbox - not handwritten but a standard letter format nevertheless. It has something to it, letter writing, hasn't it? A sincerity? So here it is, the letter. And I'll be responding to it next week.

Edgar Ende

Dear An,

I begin this letter by saying that I have always wanted to write about the process of writing essays. My fascination, and yours too I guess, comes from a genuine admiration to all kind of arts: from cinema to architecture, literature, and specially the visual arts. I think that every personal story serves to understand the point of view of the writer. Mine begins this way: I had an early encounter with visual arts. I lived with my father in Valence, Spain, between 1998 and 1999, and we travelled all around Spain and later France, England and Italy. In that trip I appreciated the value of cathedrals, ancient cities, old museums, renaissance paintings, and of course, contemporary arts at Reina Sofia and Pompidou.

Growing up in a small town in the south of Chile, one of my favourites things was watching pop movies and listen to pop songs. I could stay up all night watching eighties films (Spielberg, Hughes) or revisiting classics of the sixties and seventies (Scorsese, Coppola). Listening songs of Dylan and Queen like they were my closest friends. 

My fascination with books began very late. I remember my mother giving me books of all kind and maybe it was by rebellion that I liked to reject them all. My attention was spotted by a strange and awkward book of Michael Ende call "El espejo en el espejo" (Der Spiegel im Spiegel), a mysterious collection of short stories. After that came Steinbeck's "East of Eden", a very dark book about the human condition through generations of families. After that I picked pretty much everything from science fiction or fantasy to classics of German (Thomas Mann) and Russian literature. 

I talked earlier in this letter about my fascination with arts. I think that this has to do with the possibility of telling stories. The construction of stories and the stories themselves came to me like a enormous world that someone had created just by imagination. I believe that the possibility of taking a person, anyone, and lift them up, shake them, or as North- American would say, to "rock their world", is one of the most attractive qualities of art. 
Then I became very interested in the context and background of writers. I learned that Ende's book came about as  a tribute to his father, Edgar Ende, a painter of surreal landscapes. I also learned the value of a well constructed character. In Steinbeck's book I first encountered the most terrible female character called: Cathy Ames. This very atypic woman was a disturbing and appealing child.

Kate (Jo Van Fleet) in the Elia Kazan's film East of Eden, 1955

How was your childhood? Which parts of your actual being would you say are deeply related to your earlier memories? And how do you think that earlier memories are something that you carry with you up to your present life? Is there something more defining to you, regarding your writing formation?

Ignacio Szmulewicz

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