The “Caudella” Auditorium in the Balş House was not enough yesterday at 12.00h, when the Alecart meeting was due to start, hosting the writers Care Santos and Ioana Nicolaie. Aside from the students, the discussion also involved the writer Mircea Cărtărescu, and at the end, the audience enjoyed a brief concert.
The moderator of the meeting, Nicoleta Munteanu, told those in attendance that their two female guests have more in common than it may appear. “They both write poetry and they both write books for children, although writing literature for children is sometimes more difficult than writing for a public that is already familiar with the mechanisms of reading,” the moderator explained. She was also the one to open the dialogue, asking Care Santos to what extent the characters of a book become the author’s spokespersons. “Obviously, we, novelists, in talking about our characters we end up talking in fact about ourselves. Even negative characters have something of ourselves. I must confess I have a penchant for defenceless characters, young people who do not know where their place in the world is,” Care Santos answered.
The next to answer the moderator’s questions was Ioana Nicolaie, but the question “Are there any differences left between male writing and female writing?” did not surprise her, as the author said she had hear it many times before. She replied that “authors, be they men or women – that is unimportant in my opinion –, bring their own perspective, that is their difference, and this is the most important thing in literature. Perceptions can vary widely. And, fortunately, we are living in the best possible world for us, girls – in terms of literature, art, culture –, of all the worlds that have existed so far. For us, guys, things have been a little better. But today we all have equal chances, and that is wonderful.”
Care Santos joined the discussion and said she believes that “all the women who write have had enough hearing about this. In fact, there is no such think as feminine literature, there is good literature and bad literature and, with all due respect to the critics who frown when we say this, I believe there is just one topic that is different. It’s parenthood. I believe that women and men have different opinions about parenthood and different forms of perceiving it. I must admit, I would be a very different person, were I not a mother.” Both guests stated that the topic of parenthood is very frequently found in heir books, but Care Santos more often than not writes about clashes between mothers and their children. “I write for young people and my novels are full of horrible mothers. I myself had a terrible conflict with my mother when I was a teenager. Therefore, my novels are filled with conflicts between mothers and children, things that I got to understand much better after I became a mother,” Care Santos confessed.
Fortunately, we are living in the best possible world for us, girls – in terms of literature, art, culture –, of all the worlds that have existed so far.
Ioana Nicolaie associated the experience of motherhood with “crossing a strange town, in which the expecting mother doesn’t know any junctions, any buildings, and she still needs to find her way, to map her route, so that at the end of the journey, the place she needs to get to, she can make as much sense as possible of what she has seen and experienced on the way there”.
Make friends with the heroes of books
The guests liked the students’ questions and the moderator Nicoleta Munteanu signalled her approval after reading an excerpt from the Spanish writer’s book, when one of the students pointed out enthusiastically that that was precisely the excerpt she wanted to hear. Amused by the coincidence, the moderator underlined that she did not discuss with the students about the questions they would ask the guests. One of the questions put to Care Santos concerned the fate of her books. “Oh, if I only knew…” the guest replied, causing hilarity. “For the time being, I cannot complain about the fate of my books. One of their destinies was for me to be here, in Iaşi. There are many readers, in many countries, who read my books, translated into languages I myself will never be able to speak. All of these are much more than I expected,” answered Care Santos. Even though she said she could not foresee the destiny of her books, she did talk about their ideal destiny. “An ideal fate for them would be to fall in the hands of someone who can become happy reading them, be moved by reading the stories I tell. Emotion is very important to me. I can forgive anything about a novel, except it leaving me unmoved.”
This point of view was shared by Ioana Nicolaie, who added that when a book moves you, you gain something. And, without a doubt, everyone will remember the characters of the books that made an impression on them, because “our brains prefer emotion to suffering. One does remember suffering, but at the same time the brain fights it off. Therefore, my message is: make friends with as many heroes from the books as you can!”.