Elvira Navarro on Luisa Geisler
GRANTA 121: BEST OF YOUNG BRAZILIAN NOVELISTS
Introduced by previous Best of Young Novelists
Luisa Geisler was born in Canoas, Rio Grande do Sul. A columnist for Capricho magazine, she is the author of Quiçá (2012), which was awarded the SESC Prize for Literature. She now lives in Porto Alegre, where she studies social sciences and international relations. ‘Lion’ (‘Leão’) is taken from Geisler’s story collection, Contos de mentira (2010). Here, as part of an ongoing series on the twenty authors from The Best of Young Brazilian Novelists issue – which was first published in Portuguese by Objectiva – Luisa Geisler is introduced by previous Best of Young Spanish-Language Novelist Elvira Navarro.
Writing about childhood isn’t easy. The subject is familiar to everyone of course but also, thanks to our dodgy memories, all too easily rendered through banality and cliché, the graveyard of originality. Which is why we should be thankful for the young Brazilian author, Luisa Geisler. Her story ‘Lion’ is narrated from the perspective of a little girl without once falling into stock phrases that we readily associate with that period.
For Geisler, it’s enough simply to place herself within the perspective of the little girl, without diminishing her with put-on charms or faux-innocent thoughts. To see everything large and to see it all for the first time is what a child’s eyes constantly do, and Geisler goes with these experiences as they unfold. This attention to perspective coincides with what, in my opinion, is one of the basic principles of good literature: making us see things in a different way and, in so doing, plunging us into deep water.
In ‘Lion’, both plot (a little girl whose driving spirit is curiosity and the care of the treasures she stumbles on) and language seek to remain on the plane where life takes place. She reaffirms Mia’s zest for life by contrasting it with adult obligations embodied in the girl’s mother. Phlegmatic and routine-bound, the mother seems not to want to know much about what her daughter is doing, an attitude that generates ambiguity: perhaps her firstborn doesn’t really matter very much to her, although we might also think that in her comic negligence there shines a desire to let the child live her own life. In this way Geisler avoids the hackneyed role of the absent mother and offers us that thing so difficult to capture in writing: the infinite malleability of existence. – Elvira Navarro, Best of Young Spanish Language Novelists, 2010 Translated by Alfred Mac Adam.
Her mother would get off the phone soon. Mia sat down on the kitchen doorstep. She looked at her conquest with a smile. Her dandelion on fire. The long white seeds, each with its own flame, yellow and red and orange and grey and red and yellow. The smell of burned grass. The flame came together around all the seeds, reached the stem of the dandelion. Mia heard her mother say goodbye on the phone. She threw the stem inside, onto the kitchen floor, and trampled it with her small shoes.
When her mother got to the kitchen, Mia was in the garden. But the little stem was by the door, next to the stove. Mia’s mother smiled with her mouth, but not with her eyes. She picked up the stem. She threw it in the bin, alongside burned leaves and napkins and a singed dish towel and a colouring book reduced to ashes.
In the garden, Mia foraged through carnation bushes. It would take her less than a day to find a perfect object. She was the girl with the short blonde hair. Eyes brown like the earth that clung to her knees. At school, Mia was the shortest in her class. Her size helped her squeeze in among the twigs. Her quick little arms between leaves and branches. She didn’t always go looking in the garden. It was in the garden, though, that Mia would find the treasures.
Mia appreciated the rarities. Materials that were different and new. Her experiments had taught her that certain things didn’t work, like spoons and cups. And then there were days that were urgent – days when experiments and novelties could wait.
Translated by Ana Fletcher.