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The City and the Writer: In Mexico City with Lucia Duero

By Nathalie Handal

If each city is like a game of chess, the day when I have learned the rules, I shall finally possess my empire, even if I shall never succeed in knowing all the cities it contains.
Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

Can you describe the mood of Mexico City as you feel/see it?

On the edge of the moment: an intensive intensity of being.

You know the world is torn apart and you hold to it tight, joyfully.

What is your most heartbreaking memory in this city?

A December memory. The questions I carry inside were staring at me, mute, scared, shining at me like stars, not sure whether to fall or not. The year was dying, suffocating. My eyes, out of its place, were still looking for a beautiful Jacaranda tree rising in front of my window which has been cut to a quarter of its being few days ago. It was a metaphor of another sudden leavingleaving with an absurd explanation. And searching for an explanation is often a heartbreaking memory.

What is the most extraordinary detail, one that goes unnoticed by most, of the city?

Uncertainty can be beautiful and eye-opening. Mexico City will make you worry about tomorrow while at the same time liberating you from tomorrow.

What writer(s) from here should we read?

Amparo Dávila because of her constant presence of unreal in the real. The Empty Book by Josefina Vicens, which thematizes the complexity, desire, and impossibility of writing. Miss Et Cetera by Arqueles Vela, to get to know Mexico’s avant-garde movement Stridentism, and Death without End by José Gorostiza, one of the representatives of the opposing movement, The Contemporaries. Fiat Lux by Paula Abramo, a great story about the human journey and courage, marvelously captured in the poetics of everyday life. And the New York poet adopted by Mexico City, Robin Myers, who keeps one eye in Mexico and the other outside.

Is there a place here you return to often?

Cineteca Nacional, a place that allows you to coexist in several films, laughing in one hall after crying in another; blooming into a complexity of being, watered by wine in La Chicha Bar.

This film city is an extraordinary project for cinema from all over the world. I discovered new heroes and admired old ones there. Come for a film, think about it over a glass of wine, decide to stay for another one, or simply stay stuck and watch one film after another just because it’s the rainy season, and the city lives its daily inundation and you want to wait a bit longer to get wet, because you surely will. Meet strangers passionate about the same directors as you and exchange a complex smile with them. Then go home with the program scanned in your mind and spend the next few days obsessing and going back.

Is there an iconic literary place we should know?

An iconic street that sells old writing machines in the historical center of the city. The first time you walk through it, you might believe you were once a writer and try to remember what you might have written.

Are there hidden cities within this city that have intrigued or seduced you?

Mexico City is divided into floors. Into colors. A hidden city is the escalator between them, that fracture of the city. Seduction is the balancing of the steps when entering that fracture. There is a contradiction in every idea, every floor gives you another perspective.

Where does passion live here?

In walking through different époques of the city through different neighborhoods with their own lifestyle; in walking through the language.

What is the title of one of your works about Mexico City and what inspired it exactly?

El Problema Principal, my first book: ahorita—never—language as a character—coexisting in different languages—looking for roots / my root in the language—countries living within themselves.

It came to my mind that there might be a revolution happening in the meaning of the words.

Inspired by Levi, “Outside Mexico City does an outside exist?”

If outside is the province of the State of Mexico, then it’s the opposite of Levi’s outside. In the State of Mexico, your life is in danger just like in Levi’s inside. The palpitating fragility of existing is felt more intensely outside of Mexico City. But you can also feel outside of the city inside in neglected parts so deeply inside of the city that you won’t dare go that deep.

Lucia Duero is a Slovak-born writer and literary translator residing in Mexico City. Her work has been published in numerous magazines in Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Latin America, and the United States. Her translation of Luljeta Lleshanaku’s Lunes en Siete Días (Olifante, 2017) into Spanish won the II Marcelo Reyes Translation Award. Her first poetic novel, El Problema Principal (The Principal Problem), is forthcoming in Madrid in 2017, and her second book, Orfeo en Quince Fragmentos (Orpheus in Fifteen Fragments), will appear in Mexico City in November 2017.  


Published May 16, 2017   Copyright 2017 Nathalie Handal

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