Twice as brief

Written on August 15, 2013 by Administrador de IE Blogs in Arts & Cultures & Societies

We are told that when the Italian poet Giosuè Carducci was dying, he was asked if he repented of anything he had done in life. He answered admirably: “Yes, I repent of everything.” Then they asked him if he could be a little more concrete. And he replied: “Yes, I repent of having written in four words what I might have written in three.”

In this sense, Merlina Acevedo has nothing much to repent of. Who is Merlina Acevedo? Well, I admit I had never heard of her before. Her chief, indeed only, work seems to be a collection of aphorisms titledPeones de Troya (Pawns of Troy). In reading these small gems of brevity, you often feel the sort of lightning flash that betrays a writer of quality. To discover a writer is always a pleasure; all the more so if you never heard of her before, and she writes in your own language.

On the internet I find that Merlina Acevedo is 43, Mexican, a painter, a composer and a player of chess. For the qualities of short and sweet, try these: “No one knows what he doesn’t know, until he has to invent it.” Or: “In childhood we were all immortal.” Or: “Exaggerated pessimism is optimism in its purest expression.” Or: “Self-love always falls in love with the wrong person.” Another bullseye: “Brevity is an approximation to the infinite.”

I have never taken much of an interest in cars, but this summer, as I crossed Germany in a rented gas-guzzling speedball, spending money I haven’t got, visiting car museums and taking a turn at suicidal speed on the Nürburgring circuit, I felt like the happiest guy on the third planet from the sun. I was with my son, who inherited car mania from my father, and I often thought of a story a friend had told me. He had once dined with a Mexican magnate – reputed to be one of the world’s richest men – whom he lightly asked if he would switch places with anyone, or envied anyone. To my friend’s surprise the magnate took the question very seriously. He thought a while, his brow contracted in a frown. Who could he envy, this man who had everything? But presently his brow cleared and he said: “Yes. I envy my son.”

Continue reading in El País


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