María Teresa Andruetto: “Reading is a phase of knowledge and self

Maria Theresa Andruetto. Photo by Juana Luján.

“I’m still amazed at what happens when you’re reading. You run your eyes over some black-inked marks that turn into a story, an essay, a poem, a novel or a short story. It’s still amazing to me the things that they happen when you are reading. From the other side, when you are writing, it is done from a duel with a possible other so that one day someone can read that text”, these words come from María Teresa Andruetto after a silence.

We had a phone conversation and there was space for silence, to reflect on what happens to her as a reader and as a writer.

This Sunday’s interviewee studied at the National University of Córdoba, was part of numerous provincial and national reading plans. She accompanied writing processes with children, adolescents, youth at social risk and adults in official programs and private institutions, inside and outside the school institution.

He taught at the middle and tertiary levels. She is a great reader. As a writer, she has published “Mother Language”, “Los Manchados”, “Stefano”, “The girl, the heart and the house”, “The country of Juan”, “Veladuras”, “The enchanted ring” and “The sleeper”, among many others. Throughout her career, she has received numerous distinctions, such as in 2012, at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, she was awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Prize, whose distinction is considered the Nobel Prize for Children’s Literature.

“The word is like a key / it can open it can close / it will have to be turned around / to help me enter”, reads a poem by Laura Devetach. In this section of Más lees / Más ves, we have interviewed several teachers and librarians who spoke about children’s and young people’s literature. Many considered that “as María Teresa Andruetto says, literature has no adjectives.” Under this premise, we look for María Teresa to tell us how she came to this concept, what children’s literature is for her and what reading means, among other questions. In addition, she left us here her recommendations, the “5 essential books” of children’s and young people’s literature, which, as she well stated, is a mobile list that for her can always vary. We turn the key to enter Andruetto’s universe.

— From the beginning of this cycle of interviews, several interviewees evoked you for the concept of “adhering to a literature without adjectives.” How did this concept come about?

— It appeared at a conference I gave in the early 2000s. Later it ended up in a book called “Towards a literature without adjectives.” When I wrote that conference, I came from a context where I was annoyed by the directionality, the demand for certain content that thrived in texts aimed at early readers or children and young people.

I come from literature. It is along this path, due to this training, that I began to write for children and young people. For a long time, this has been a field that was reached from Pedagogy, from Educational Sciences. I remember that while I was preparing my presentation I had in mind a text by Juan José Saer where the writer from Santa Fe proposes a literature without attributes, where he denies costumbrism, the regional, he skips those pigeonholes, those ties. Somewhat enlightened by that and other readings, I took that conception to the field of children’s literature, in which I worked, in which I participated.

When speaking of a literature without adjectives, what I sought to raise was the need to focus on writing itself and on language: language. Working the language as required by a text that aspires to be literary. In other words, it was about the noun Literature being more important than the adjective Infantile. It must be borne in mind that books dedicated to children and young readers are still frequently supervised books, in the supposed need to “supposedly take care of these readers”, which often causes flat, chewed, unidirectional texts, far from any discomfort for these readers. When in reality what literature has to give us is the possibility of thinking and feeling what we had not felt or thought, offering us a certain discomfort, a certain dissidence, a certain disobedience to what is correct, to what is accepted, to what is official.

— Before, then, I should go more to the bone and ask: what is literature?

— For me, literature, art in general, is a path of freedom, reading fiction, poetry, watching theater, opens unique forms of freedom of thought. That is why humanity has preserved fictions, poetry, wherever a community arises, a story appears, this since the beginning of time. Reading these texts, listening to them, gives us the possibility to disagree, to travel without leaving our house, it makes us think, makes us feel and even disagree with the other. It is a place of non-domestication, of non-standardization of our ways of thinking.

Maria Theresa Andruetto. Photo by Florencia López.

— I imagine that that presentation at a seminar at the UBA and proposing this position of adhering to a literature without adjectives will not have been easy. When did you take dimension of what you had proposed?

— I did not have the recognition or the path that I have today, and then I feel, I felt at that moment, that there was a before and after that reading for me. At the beginning it caused some discomfort because there I questioned the field of children’s literature, towards us, the writers. I questioned myself and with that I questioned others, about what we were writing and what was being edited. That’s why it bothered me a bit at first. In 2008, when the book in which that text was included was published, what you mentioned at the beginning began to happen. Today, teachers and librarians talk about that concept of literature without adjectives, and for many it is a guideline for writing.

In any case, it is something that within my own writing I put in tension and in discussion every time I write, because it is not just a flag, a slogan, it is necessary that this concern remains alive, that we do not let let it coagulate

— If we approach the first readers of literature without adjectives, we can approach all the topics with them. Is it so? Why?

– That’s how it is. In principle, all issues can be addressed with early readers and with older readers, as well as with adult readers, the question is how to do that and by what paths do you get to a text that has enough ambiguity, enough load of meaning so that the reader has a place there, so that the reader works and collaborates in the joint creation of that text. Because from literature you can address all issues. Now, you have to be careful because “good intentions” appear in the middle, the thought police, political correctness, what should be, utilitarianism in fiction, especially when it comes to books for boys and girls. .

In this sense, I am concerned about the fictions that are instruments to teach certain subjects, before they were texts that taught to behave well, to be respectful with parents, among many other things. Now the issues are different, but with the same objective, multiculturalism, gender inclusion, non-violence or whatever, predetermined.

The problem is the demand, that this personal or school or social demand leads to writing, that it be written “to” teach how to be in this or that way, and not that the issues are the result of a search for writing and for that reason path appear in their greatest complexity. I am concerned that there are texts for early readers where the focus is on teaching or transmitting this or that thing.

In particular, I am interested in the writer making a path towards himself, a path that is complex, sinuous and that we do not know where it may end. But the result of that path can touch the reader without us knowing exactly where or in what. It is a struggle, a tension between the desire that leads to writing and the external demand for utility.

— In that sense, you are concerned about keeping boys and girls away from that literature that could be…

— Servile. Those texts that are servile to certain issues, even if those issues are the most interesting from the social point of view. I also agree with gender diversity or with the social inclusion of all sectors. But I do not agree that literature becomes a servile text to any issue because from that servitude it is intended to teach the reader that he should think or feel about certain issues, instead of provoking him to feel and think on his own. In literature you work with Language, that is matter, that is clay, with this material the writer can make things come out of himself that he did not know he was thinking or feeling and make the reader discover things about himself that he did not knew. It is a position that has to do with art, it doesn’t matter if we talk about literature for children or for adults, it is about not writing texts that are servile to social or school demands or to political correctness.

— Now, taking the talk also to the active role of those who are in front of the text, what is reading for you?

— Actually I don’t know what life is without reading because since I can remember there have been books. The books came to me very early but also the stories in general, the stories that I have been told since I was little are part of my reading. From that point of view, reading for me is many things, it is entertainment, it is a way of knowing and self-knowledge, it is also a work tool, it has been a way of earning a living, because I have read for others, to children in a school or in a workshop, to the elderly in a nursing home, to young people in a prison, and so on. Through the readings I can also learn more about the society where I live. Reading then is many things. In my case it is work, it is recreation and it is passion.

—Can that passion for reading be contagious?

— Totally, I myself have been infected by reading and I have infected many. When someone is passionate about what they do, it is contagious, if you are passionate about reading, surely you are going to infect someone with that pleasure and that well-being that reading produces in you. Many times, in childhood, this passion is contagious when we see it in someone from our emotional environment, a mother, a father, an uncle, a sister, a teacher, a neighbor. Where there is a reader, surely there was before another reader who extended his hand.

— You have carried out workshops, training, you were a proofreader, you are in permanent presence in forums or conferences on reading and writing, what is your perception of reading? Did you read more before?

— To disarticulate this question I take the “se”. Before, people read more, and then we can ask ourselves who are those who used to read more and who did not read before. Because when you say before, you read more, you are thinking of a certain social sector of that before. In principle, it should be noted that a few decades ago there were no other forms of entertainment other than stories, there was no television, much less the Internet. Then reading occupied a stronger place of entertainment in a larger public. Reading was part of leisure in a sector of society. When it is said before you read more, I am referring to when I was a girl, I met many people who at that time did not know how to read or write.

If we think of that more, not as an intensity of readings but as an extension (quantity) of readers, we can say that today people read more. Today we have many more people who have entered the world of reading – school through, State through – and in that sense we could say that today people read more.

María Teresa Andruetto: “Reading is a phase of knowledge and self-knowledge”