Tagged: Carolina Sanín

21. Reading: Alto Rendimiento

Someone recently critiqued my closed-mindedness when it comes to different writing styles (I’m not a fan of traditional scientific prose, for example), so I made an effort to expand my exposure to text forms, genres and styles that would not be the easy choice for me. In the case of Carolina Sanín’s Alto Rendimiento (2016, Matera libros) it was both topic and form: a chronicle about the Olympic Summer Games of Rio, taken from her Facebook page. I have to say that it positively surprised me, especially because I didn’t think I was a fan of obviously ficticious fiction. (This might be worth a longer discussion at another point…) For now, suffice it to say that the chronicle is fun, and with the short entries an ideal bedtime treat.

Also, it is beautifully illustrated by Manuel Kalmanovitz (when was the last time you read an adult book with images that where not photographs?), and an interview with Sanín about the project and how it came into being. It gave me accute flashbacks to that writing seminar with her, as she poignantly corrects and reformulates the interviewer’s questions (not in the literal sense, though), so as to make them meaningful and be able to give a truthful answer.

How did I come across the book?

It was part of my book shopping spree for female Colombian authors. So far, none of the works disappointed me!

When and where did I read it?

In Konstanz, before bedtime, during the last weeks of the semester, and before I started A Field Guide to Getting Lost.

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10. Reading: Ponqué y otros cuentos

As I said a few times, already, I am not a big fan of short stories. This, mostly, because I really like slow character development and a story that takes time to reveal itself on at least 100 pages. Which is a totally arbitrary approach, I know. Nevertheless, there are always exceptions to my rules, and Ponqué y otros cuentos (Laguna Libros, 2016) by Carolina Sanín is one of them. The collection contains 7 short stories, all of which star strong female characters. It is this aspect I liked most about the stories, which depart from everyday situations like riding a train, listening to the radio, or reading a hand-written note, and usually revolve around quirky aspects of the main character, if not her surroundings. Especially the last two stories stroke chords with me, the darker Carolina en su funeral for its factual approach to loss, and Ponqué, the title story, because it reminded me of the Satanic Verses. This, mostly, because it combines a story of a young woman from Bogota going out to live in New York with the biblical narrative of Joseph (son of Jacob) from the book Genesis.

I was utterly impressed by the accuracy of descriptions and wording. For a long time I haven’t read anything as precise and therefore enjoyable in Spanish, and I am often bored by too long and too forced sentences when reading Colombian authors. I was very happy to see that a different style is possible, and one that appeals to me both in topics and style. And as if marvellous writing wasn’t enough, the book is also really pretty. The edition and illustration are beautiful, and the thick paper makes for a pleasant tactile experience, as well. For so many reasons, this is a book I did not want to stop reading.

How did I come across the book?

I took a creative writing seminar with Carolina Sanín, which turned out to be a live-changing experience. Not because I think writing fiction could be a thing for me – I still don’t, really – but because it happened at a complicated moment in field work and brought back the curiousness about the topic and the willingness to write. I started reading her books only after the seminar, in a way attempting to continue the conversations on writing. Turns out Carolina is not only an amazing teacher, (so if you have a chance to take a course with her: GO DO IT!) but also sticks to all of the rules she teaches. Speaking of authenticity in teaching, she is most definitely a new role model for me to follow.

When and where did I read it?

I started on the plane back from Bogota to Zurich, to make the passage a little lighter. I finished it within the first days while trying to get rid of the jetlag. But fortunately, there are several other works from her left to read in my bookshelf.