The hard and compassionate stories of Lucia Berlino

When David R. Godine bought the Black Sparrow Press from John Martin, who had been the owner for the past 36 years, he was required to make a round of compromised calls to get free space in the warehouse where there were thousands of copies of the fund from the publisher. One of the authors who had to do without it was Lucia Berlin, who had published the last three collections of stories, nostalgic (1990) So long (1993) i Where I live now (1999). Berlin had died in 2004, at the age of 68, and shortly after his death, Godine spoke with one of the four sons of the author, Jeff, to offer copies of his mother's books for a dollar. Berlin had collected the stories he was publishing in magazines in eight collections, starting with A manual for cleaning women (1977). An average of a thousand units had been sold of his books, a very small number that took into account the size of the North American market.

There was nothing that could suggest that the discretized impact of the writer, who had never earned a life with literature, could change after his death. One of Berlin's best friends, Stephen Emerson, wanted to change the small fortune of the author, bringing together 43 of his 76 stories in an anthology published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 2015. "Lucia's writing has energy ", he defended at the beginning of the volume. And also: "The prose advances through the pages with the nails.It has vitality.It is revealing." Emerson also stressed "the joy" that issued some pages, which the author combined with the "absolute desolation" of some of the stories. Surprisingly, the book worked from minute zero in English. "I would say that Berlin has not been successful in life for two reasons," says Farrar editor Emily Bell. First of all, because of the historical reluctance to read the writers who wrote on the West, but also because the material of their narrative had been driven mainly through men. Addiction. Poverty. Infidelity ".

Lucia Berlin, at the end of the years & # 39; 50
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Catalan and Spanish editions of Manual for women doing jobs They arrived in March 2016, eight months after they were published in the United States. Eugènia Broggi, of L & # 39; Altra, discovered it by chance. "The writer Joan Flores wrote me on Facebook who had just invented a novelty that could interest me," he notes. That same day a friend called me while I was going to La Central del Raval and asked him to buy it because later we had to see. There was only one remaining copy. That same night I read the first story of the collection, Angel's coin laundry [[[[ La Lavandería del Ángel ]. I was very impressed. "Broggi could not stop reading." I remembered some authors I had read, like Raymond Carver, but he was more sordid, "he says. characters with motherhood, work life and love stories There are very difficult stories, but the joy of life is everywhere, even in the most difficult moments. "

Singularity and sense of humor

The writer and critic Patricio Pron was one of the first readers of the Spanish version of the manual, published in abundant spring. "Berlin has a remarkable ability to evoke, rhythm, talent for the absurd comparison and sense of humor," he says. Moreover, he had a unique life: a difficult childhood, alcoholism, income in rehab centers, problems with the police, divorces and an anger of modest occupations. "Although he alternates between first and third person stories, the protagonist often shares the biographical circumstances of the author." He could write about everything with a distant, compassionate look, paying attention to specific details and the economy. media, "says Pron," these are the four characteristics of the fine story writer according to Txekhov, from which Berlin was a consequence ".

Marta Orriols, who has just published Learn to talk with plants (Periscopi / Lumen), emphasizes that reading the stories of Berlin "do not go unharmed". "Their stories are absolutely sensory and electric," he adds. Seemingly chaotic, with many characters and places that are often repeated and appear on stage without obeying clear planning. "A good example could be Good and evil. Focused on Santiago de Chile in 1952, it could be a history of institute, but drifting towards the (bitter) reflection on the communist revolutionary spirit and the limits of being a woman – and this involves trying to overcome them. "I like to read the complexities and ambiguities of the human soul under the direction of a woman of great modernity", continues Orriols. Sometimes I think it might have gone unnoticed when I was not a complacent writer, but to write about harshness and ugliness from sarcasm and female sourness. "

Revive the story

The Spanish edition has sold 100,000 copies. Of Catalan, just over 10,000. In June 2016 Manual for women doing jobs won the Llibreter prize. Mireia Gispert, from the La Memòria bookshop, was one of the five members of the jury who voted for the Lucia Berlin collection, which at the end of the year would have appeared at the top of the most popular books in the various media: "In my case He took into account the great quality of both the form and the content -explains- It was a pleasant and also passionate discovery.This year the jury also wagered to evaluate the story as a narrative form. 39. teacher We ventured This genre often increases the decline, even in good readers ".

Two years and a half later comes the first goal An evening in paradise, with 22 stories. "Before starting to read the English version suffered," says Eugenia Broggi. And if they were empty? "Fortunately it was not like that." new the stories seem the same, and one of the successes is the chronological order that follows the vital stages of the author, "he adds. Musical toilet facilities, focusing on the trapellerías of a narrator accompanied by a friend who ends an incursion into the low funds of El Paso, continues with the adolescent enthusiasm of going to see a motorcycle race involving the man of whom you are in love From dust to dust ), returns to influence – as happened to manual – in a traumatic family meeting ( Christmas. Texas. 1956 ) and is darkening, with some particularly bloody specimens, such as the descriptions of Buzz's heroin addiction, the protagonist's husband The boat of the illusion, inspired by Buddy Berlin, the third and last husband of the author. "Mom wrote true stories: not necessarily autobiographical, but close enough to reality," writes Mark Berlin in the prologue of "An evening in paradise -. The stories and memories of our family have been rebuilt, embellished and modified to the point that I no longer know exactly what happened. Lucia said it was so much: history is what matters. "

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