When I asked about Argentinean literature, there is a general consensus that it is often “dramatico”. So it is not surprising that one of the largest bookstores in Argentina and among the most beautiful in the world is but set in an old theatre house.
El Ateneo is found on Ave Santa Fe, a very very long shopping street. If I were not careful and had I not decided to make El Ateneo my first stop, I may not have actually made it there. Upon entering El Ateneo, I was simply taken away by its setting. The old opera house where audiences sat is now occupied by books. The balcony seats are turned into small reading corners. The atmosphere reminds me of Borders where people found their favourite spots to be taken away to another world through their chosen books.
Most ironically, the stage where actors used to sing and dance is now a café. The observers are now observed and real life conversations on display. They had preserved the entire theatre space so sitting in the café, I could see the curtains, the stage platforms and structure, and a view of what actors used to see.
El Ateneo is rather complete with books from all topics from general fiction to medical books, from pop cds to classical music. There is even a section for English books. I was introduced to 2 Argentinean authors by my teachers in school: Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortarza. Seriously, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to read them and safe to say, their writings are rather intense. Maybe just before leaving Buenos Aires, I’ll attempt a short story collection from Borges. For the moment, English translation of Mario Vargas Llosa will do. He’s a Peruvian writer.
I think this post will not be complete without a personal note that I find Spanish literature one of the most romantic in the world, and I speak 6 languages so that could buy me some credibility. Love is universal in all languages and is expressed in every spoken and unspoken language. Spanish romanticism is very deep and intense, sometimes violent but always with gusto. It’s different from the feathery light, soothsaying of the French or the subtle and pregnant pauses of Japanese language. The closest in my opinion is Mandarin which is also my mother tongue. I love all languages and find them beautiful but inexplicably, Spanish way of expression touches me. There is so much “Corazon” (heart) in their expression of love. I shall strengthen my arguments with a post on Tango.
For now, I leave you with 3 verses from Pablo Neruda (who is Chilean). Hear the sounds and how they beautiful they express the longing.
Ya no la quiero, es cierto, pero cuánto la quise. (I no longer love her, it is sure, but how I loved)
Mi voz buscaba el viento para tocar su oído. (My voice searched the wind to touch her ear)
De otro. Será de otro. Como antes de mis besos. (To another, Will be another. Like before my kisses)
Su voz, su cuerpo claro. Sus ojos infinitos. (Her voice, her clear body, her infinite eyes)
Ya no la quiero, es cierto, pero tal vez la quiero. (I no longer love her, it is sure, but maybe I love)
Es tan corto el amor, y es tan largo el olvido. (Love is so short and to forget is so long)
Puedo escribir los versos más tristes esta noche by Pablo Neruda.