As it happened, the same day I finished reading The astronauts (Alfaguara), by Laura Ferrero (Barcelona, 39 years old), seen at night aftersun, the debut of Charlotte Wells (Edinburgh, 36 years old), a novel and a film irremediably linked by an invisible thread. Two works in some way related, both possessing a tenderness and delicacy that move, and a sadness that, nevertheless, is revealed to be profoundly luminous.
It is the clear autobiographical character of both works, the recourse to autofiction used by the two authors, the search for explanations, of who we are, in the gaps of our childhood memory. “Lately, I feel that I write for him, that I am my son’s correspondent, that I write dispatches for my son, live and direct from the time he will forget, from the erased years. Perhaps my writing was never more justified, because to some extent I write the memories that he is going to lose”, reflects Alejandro Zambra in the pages of Children’s literature (Anagram).
Wells and Ferrero do not have texts from a father like Zambra to cling to. Just gaps. Memories which are not memories, but the memory of the memories of others, that family mythology on which our lives are often based. Until you stop doing it. Or, in the best of cases, memories of which, upon reaching adulthood, one begins to doubt if they are truly a memory or what we are left with is only the memory of a memory, as the widower Morales (Pablo Rago) in the movie The Secret in Their Eyes. “We are made of stories, of stories. Our memories are not any impartial accumulation, but a narrative that suits us for some reason that is sometimes mysterious to us”, Laura Ferrero writes precisely.
They don’t have Wells and Ferrero, he said, texts by a father like Zambra to cling to. The protagonist of the film by the Scottish director has some videotapes of the last summer that she spent with her father. Laura Ferrero, for her part, has an old photograph. In it, the Barcelona writer appears, when she was barely a few years old, together with her mother and her father. A completely normal photo, except for those who have grown up with two separated parents who took it upon themselves to set fire to all traces of what they once were as a couple, as a family; to the point that that girl grew up without being aware that once she too was part of a family.
In these tapes, the protagonist of Wells’s film seeks an anchor point between her diffuse memories and the reality shown in the recordings. Details that were overlooked in the lightness of childhood that last summer, gestures and words of her father that explain what, thanks to the tremendous and unforgettable ending of the film, we intuit that came after her. For his part, Ferrero Inicia, through the photograph of his family, an investigation that soon turns out to be impossible, an almost obsessive immersion in his family memory to try to understand who they were, who he was, who he is.
And although it is not said, one intuits that what both are also looking for, one already a mother, the other with the doubt of whether or not to be one haunting her head (“how can I, who have never known what a family is — that I had it but it disappeared, and the memory of the living stole it from me—, to have one of my own, a family of my own?”), is the memory of some paternal (and maternal) figures in which to find oneself, that “order and a code older” to which Manuel Vilas referred in Ordesa.
Because it is precisely then, when one goes through that vital stage in which, due to age, one appears with more or less desire to the balcony of motherhood and fatherhood; when one could become or has become a parent —which is also another way of becoming a child—, when one becomes more aware of what the writer Jesús Carrasco stated in an interview: “That fathers and mothers are one of the most central characters in the life of every human being, those who must be constantly interviewed”.
I myself have seen myself investigating in recent years with greater intensity in episodes of the life of my parents that I was completely unaware of. Interviewing them without any pretension of an interview, immersing myself in memories of my childhood that I took for granted and that; however, and taking into account his version, it turns out that I had adulterated, adapting them to my own narrative, surely to my own interest.
There is in these interviews, in these trips to the past through narrated memories, VHS videos and photographs, a reality that allows us to glimpse the last scene of aftersun and that Laura Ferrero wonderfully sums up in a round sentence: “Stories that look to the past only serve, in reality, to be able to look to the future”.
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