Solitude and the City


For the last three years, the Association of Cultural Attaches of Latin America, Spain and Portugal (ACALASP) has presented the only literary festival dedicated to promote our literature and so kindly have let me collaborate with them as co-curator. The location is the wonderful Foyles bookshop in Charing Cross in the heart of London, the perfect place to gather Ibero American book lovers.

The festival started last Monday with a session dedicated to Colombia’s award winning author Evelio Rosero and on Tuesday it was Mexico’s turn in the spotlight with the presence of the celebrated writer Chloe Aridjis.

Chloe (apart from being the daughter of the renowned poet and writer Homero Aridjis) is the author of a fantastic novel called Book of Clouds, published in the UK by Vintage. Unlike many conferences where the author talks about the book half the audience hasn’t read, Chloe was accompanied by an extraordinary chair: Darian Leader. Without revealing much about the plot of the novel, Darian and Chloe focused on the most relevant topic in the book: solitude in the cities.

Chloe said to always been interested in the relation people have with the place they inhabit, especially now a days when people live in cities without any family roots. The main character in novel, Tatiana, experiences feeling lonely surrounded by a crowd, and in this way Chloe Aridjis makes clear that solitude is detached to the physicality of people and perhaps a key element in contemporary life. By doing this, the city in the novel (Berlin) becomes a character as well, capable to interact with its inhabitants by provoking a variety of feelings: anxiety, disorientation, happiness and, of course, loneliness. I guess she’s right to say that at the end of the day, our lives in an urban space are determined by how much the city gives and takes away from you. This is food for thought for all of us living away from our home town, and definitely a must read novel.

So thumbs up to Chloe Aridjis and Darian Leader for a fantastic event!