Archetypes: A Reading Guide
Books are full of words that are ingested like medicine. Their benefits, largely intangible, linger long after the book is closed. Books are powerful with the capacity to change lives and alter how we relate to the world. As Mrs Constance Winterson liked to say, ‘The trouble with a book is that you never know what’s in them until it’s too late’.
A book is a presence conjured by a being that speaks to us of other realms. The creator embodies an archetype to shape a work with a life of its own.
…works with a spell, deceiving the reader with straightforward words and a mischievous dark humour, an invitation further into the web.
The magician has a light touch. One does not realise they are under a spell until multiple books have been devoured and then the reader emerges—blinded, stunned, still enthralled.
Eduardo Galeano is one such magician. His works are inventive and he does not observe the boundaries of genre categories. His magical artistry makes reading him a state of play. Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone and Football in Sun and Shadow are two recommended excursions into the Galeano world.
There is also Open Veins of Latin America which really requires its own introductory note. It is an analysis of the impact of colonisation and its historical basis for the inequality in the world. We like to see ourselves as heroes but the crimes and beneficiaries of colonisation are great.
…of course is feminine, of course is bewitching, of course has disciples, converts, defenders, of course she is in a league of her own. You will try to shake off the lethargy and web of her enchantment. Afterwards, the world appears the same except it is fragmented and strange is the reflection of light. The heart understands but the mind will struggle to make any sense.
Her name is Clarice Lispector. You sidestep reality for her universe and afterwards you do not recognise yourself.
Água Viva, Near to the Wild Heart and The Hour of the Star.
A warning: there are no guides. When you go to the witch, you go by yourself.
…builds tapestries with intricate fibres woven seamlessly. Memoir, fiction, history, politics blend together, the details carefully balanced so the story thread is not weighed with the deadness that buries other stories.
The storyteller is the oldest. The community gathers in the night to listen to words that entertain and instruct, words that are reminders of our humanity and the precarious gift of life.
Isabel Allende needs no introductions. There is The House of the Spirits, and then her memoirs—Paula and My Invented Country—read like stories that could begin with once upon a time…
…said we meant to live like lions, not castrated cats. This is the sad destiny of the masses despite the promise with which we start our lives.
The rebel has a vision that is grand and has its origin in poetry. This is because the poet takes the purest experience and then distils it into words that can be relayed.
The rebel has a manifesto and it has all the optimism and wild energy of youth. The written works later retain this energy that is also dazzling and bright.
His name is Roberto Bolaño. He traded poetry for literature to give his family the security he rejected earlier in life. 2666—a cryptic title—is the magnum opus but The Savage Detectives is youth rebellious and very much alive.
…is the common, a regular person living a simple life. The realist does not judge, does not mock or fill stories with caricatures from real life. More importantly, the realist is not here to preach to you and I.
Life is tragic, people are complex, the universe cannot be categorised into two opposing sides.
Mario Benedetti was a realist. There is simplicity in the commonplace. This simplicity has a neat and methodical grace. There is The Truce and then there is the unforgettable Springtime in a Broken Mirror. Both are very human, both are written with a quiet grace.
…is written about, commented on, analysed yet evades attempts at categorisation.
There are no defined entry points. The work resists literal interpretation even though the symbols are drawn from life.
The poet is figure X. Rich words, an instinctive flair, X will not yield to your vision of his word. He is called a poet but he lives beyond poetry’s world. His legacy is like his resting place: both are solitary, both exist in a land unknown.
Federico García Lorca.
Poet in New York, poet forever alone.
…casts a shadow over a continent, over the entire world. The master is the innovator, the thinker, the builder of a labyrinth universe. The master floats freely and feels his way by intuition alone.
There is poetry, there is prose, there are the stories with mirrors, labyrinths, the structure elusive yet the reader understands. Then there is his thinking about language, about literature as humanity’s conversation with itself.
He is the master Jorge Luis Borges and his presence is unique in creating a literature at home anywhere in the world.
Labyrinths is the perfect introduction, a word that has become synonymous with Borges.
Yumna Kassab’s first story collection, The House of Youssef, was listed for the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award, Stella Prize and the Readings Prize. It is available through Giramondo Publishing. Yumna tweets @KassabYumna