Gabriela Jaúregui: “Good culture never depends on power, it is always despite power”

The co-author of Typing Workshopspeak for Public of life and death, friendship, love and the current rebirth of the Mexican cultural world.

The Mexican writer joined forces with three other women to write a book with four hands typing workshop who has made history.

On July 24, 2007, the writer Aura Estrada was fatally trapped by the waves of Mazunte, a small town on the Mexican Pacific coast. If Joan Didion momentarily tried to erase the reality of the death of her daughter and her husband through the writing of The year of magical thinking (2005), Francis Goldman He entered fully into the creative world of his wife, compiling all the posthumous published stories under the title of My last days in Shanghai (Editorial Almadia). Far from being a sad belated panegyric, the book demonstrates not only Aura’s prolific creative sensibility, but above all one of the most interesting voices in contemporary Mexican literature.

In 2011 Tumbona Ediciones publishes a four-handed booklet, Shorthand typing workshopfrom Aura Estrada, Gabriela Jauregui, Monica de la Torre Y the visual artist Laura Toledo. The purpose of the book was thus explained by Aura in a letter that she sent to her colleagues at the beginning of the project: “to promote our creativity through collective work and collection. To form a collective of words in any of their forms: graphics and sound, fiction and non-fiction, poetry and anti-poetry and others that come along the way. The long-term purpose is to have fun productively and with a little seriousness. The short-term purpose is to have fun productively and with some seriousness. a little serious.”

How did the four meet?

With Aura we studied English literature at UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico) and we had many friends in common, at the same time she became a partner of Francisco Goldman, also a writer, who I had known for a long time. I met Mónica de la Torre who is an editor, translator and poet because we both lived in New York at the time, and Laureana Toledo through common contacts in the world of contemporary art. They were bonds of friendship built at different times, even in different countries and for different reasons.

How was the idea for the book born?

He was born from Aura, from that letter that is published at the beginning of the book. During a summer in Mexico, the two of us began to talk about literary world of our country, it was made by many men who took up too much space, dictating what was important, what should be written about, what were the funny jokes… We were fed up. And if on the one hand we were lazy, on the other we thought that there had been many avant-garde groups of male friends who had a great time. But we didn’t feel part of that, nor did we want to just be like the cheerleaders of the group of male writers. “We are friends, we get along very well and we laugh a lot: well, let’s do something ourselves.” We had no idea we were going to make a book.

What kind of literature did Aura aspire to?

There is a book of short stories that was published and there is a sample of what she was doing at that time, right now who knows what she would be writing… But let’s say that she focused more on the narrative, she inhabited a very interesting space between a narrative more experimental, to call it in some way, and a more conventional narrative. Neither of the two terms are derogatory, they are simply ways of looking at writing, and both can be wonderful or they can be bad depending on who is writing them. But Aura inhabited that in-between world that had not existed before. Before, you were either a commercial writer or you were an experimental intellectual with a capital “i” doing avant-garde. There was no space in between, least of all for a woman writer, least of all for a young woman writer. Today there is, for example, Margo Glantz, who is another Mexican author, who inhabits that space very well.

In other words, the idea was to make avant-garde literature but with irony.

There is in the book the intention of doing exercises, setting rules with irony or rather with a sense of humor, because there was no sense of superiority, we did it to laugh at ourselves too. That’s why I told you about the title of Shorthand typing workshop: the only place for women in the avant-garde and in literature in general was taking dictations from Tolstoy. We wanted to pay tribute to all those women who were able to start occupying the public and work space as secretaries or stenographers, because it was not frowned upon. Sure, it wasn’t ideal, the ideal was for her to be a devoted housewife, but it wasn’t totally frowned upon. It is thanks to a couple of generations of stenographers that we were able to have the luxury of going to university, studying and being ironic.

Where does this book position itself in the panorama of Mexican and Latin American letters? Is it still present or was it left as a slightly rare jewel?

It was not what is considered a commercial success. It was published by a very small publisher, which many of us respect and admire as is often the case with certain iconic, alternative and independent publishers. But now Tumbona disappeared, in fact I was surprised when I saw that in Spain there was a bookstore [Lata Peinada] that he had several copies: I have only one copy of the book, also stained. It’s like when you see an album that you like from a rare edition, from a band that made only one album and it’s very difficult to get… Yes, I think it could be considered a gem in this sense.

Aura died in 2007, if I’m not mistaken.

Yes, the book didn’t even exist. It was Aura’s death that prompted us to put together all the exercises and texts that we had done together. We told ourselves “we have to turn it into a book to honor her memory and her writing”. It was a project that had not been born as a book, but as a project of research, experimentation and laughter, of writing as joy.

Do you believe in the distinction between female and male literature? Or do you think on the contrary that we should overcome this dichotomy?

All dichotomies would have to be overcome. The dichotomous thought seems to me a limited, totalizing and even totalitarian thought. However, having said what I think is important, there are thematic or formal differences that could be considered typical of women’s and men’s literature. I think for example of Philip Roth. Roth talks about a lot of masculine themes but is considered a classic of contemporary American literature: that is universal, even if he is telling us about his impotence problems or his lovers. But if a woman starts talking about menstruation then that is called feminine or domestic literature. There are certain writings that tend to mark their gender and it can be interesting to think about it, study it and read it as a topic, but ideally, dichotomous divisions should be overcome. And not only in the case of male/female but in human thought in general.

How do you see the state of Mexican literature and Latin American literature in general?

I feel like we’re living through a really emotional time. And perhaps not only in literature but speaking in general in the political and social spheres, many things are moving in Latin America and in Mexico. Perhaps as a result of the dictatorship in many countries, or in Mexico of the soft dictatorship and all the years of exacerbated neoliberalism. This has spawned interesting and very powerful resistance movements. And in that mixture of effervescence or political boiling, then, obviously, literature and the arts are a reflection of what is happening and accompany it. When we started the Shorthand typing workshop it was difficult to see books by young authors, now there are a lot of writers who break with aesthetic standards. Twenty years ago we would never have seen Camila Susa Villada win the Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz award [en 2020 con Las malas] or Fernanda Trías who won now with a book [Mugre rosa] which is both wonderful and strange. Aura had a bit of that weird and dystopian thing, with a great sense of humor and at the same time with the depth that Fernanda has. These books did not exist or were published in very small local publishing houses, which did not circulate as much as they do now. I feel very excited to see my classmates and younger women doing so many things that move me, move me and make me reflect.

And that thanks to AMLO [Andrés Manuel López Obrador, actual presidente en México] or despite AMLO?

I believe that good culture never depends on power and in general is always despite power, whoever is in power. Unfortunately, we thought it was going to be a left-wing government and in the end it turned out to be very austere. They have followed austerity policies that are neoliberal and right-wing, specifically in the field of culture there have been a huge amount of budget cuts. It could have been a moment of panacea for art and it has not been, but happily in culture it is in moments of adversity and crisis when the most interesting things come out.

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