The House of Literature

-by Ethel Krauze-

translated by D. Ohmans
(c) copyright 2011

Text imprint Mexico City, Universidad Autónoma de la Ciudad de Mexico, 2d ed. ©2009

INDEX The key: the word The floor: language The windows: the senses The doors: genres THE KEY: THE WORD
Literature is made with words. Not with ideas, not with emotions, not with outbursts of the senses. At the bottom line what we have on the paper are words. They alone, naked, all-powerful. What are they? How do they work? What mystery do they hold? How can they nourish our hearing, open the imagination for us, sharpen our intelligence, make our spirit robust? If we want to enter into the house of literature, we should have the key. The word is that key. Its minimum unity. And it is a living being that travels and that pulses and that changes like all of us. The word sleeps and the word speaks. It sleeps and speaks simultaneously. And both actions are inherent, defining it. It is not, as some ages thought, a nucleus of meaning wrapped in a sonorous skin; a fruit whose pulp is the content, and the husk, mere form. The 20th century opens with a new conception of the word, seen as a coin with two faces: the signified and the significand; neither of the two is privileged, both are substantially necessary. Ferdinand de Saussure had posited the example of a leaf of a book written on both faces: we cannot burn just one side. We cannot, then, strip the dressing from the word so as to leave its essence. Because the dressing is an essential part of its meaning. If I suddenly decide to call the ball, "window," it would be splitting the function of the word, which is a sound with a meaning for my interlocutor. It would be using half of the word window, and half of ball; that is to say, nothing in reality. Translation to another language is the action of legitimately splitting the words. For window we exchange the Spanish sound for the English sound, such that the English-speaker understands what we want to say even though she hears something different. Nevertheless translations never are total because each language imprints its own modulations onto its words. "Vaso" in Spanish refers to the receptacle, to the item; "glass" in English, to its transparent material; "verre," in French, to glass itself. I recall the lovely experience which we spectators had in the Mexico City Museum during one of the international poetry festivals, before a Japanese poetess who spoke her text before the translator. The poem had been artificially divided, for necessary reasons, into sound and meaning. First we heard it, later understood it. Yet only thus did we access the fullness of the work. A translator is in reality an interpreter, like the pianist being an executor of Chopin's work. And it depends on her talent, not on the fidelity to the words being translated, but instead on the spirit of the text; perhaps the less the skill the more the subservience. Sometimes, the interpretation is totally unfortunate, as if the violinist were to play like the throat of a cat. Milán Kundera tells how in one paragraph where he had expended his literary labors to deliberately repeat the word "house" to succeed, it had been supposedly improved by the translator who used all the synonyms in the dictionary: abode, dwelling, home, et cetera. Kundera still has not recovered from the blow. Synonyms are nothing more than ghosts of the word. Because none is total. Each word is individual and has its own matrix. Like brothers, the more they appear identical twins, there is a metric that distinguishes them, the centimeter more of height, the less effusive temperament. There is no single act of birth for them, each one being a distinct being with its own digital track. We note for example the popular refrains: -Public virtue, private squalor. -Between a rock and a hard place. -Whoever sows the wind, reaps the tempest. In general these are phrases that are formed of two parts, each one of which contains its key word, the noun that contains the fundamental signification. In the first refrain, virtue and squalor are the key words. In the second, rock and place; in the third, wind and tempest. If we exchange these words for synonyms, we discover that the refrain is broken, that is to say, its common usage. The nuance that the synonym introduces into the sentence, however small it may be, serves to approach the same phenomenon from a new angle. -Harmony in the street, chaos in the house. -Between danger and fear. -Whoever sows violence reaps desolation. The more distant the synonym is, the more originality the sentence will have. We can do the same with the remaining words: -Harmony in public, chaos in private. -The danger here, the fear over there. -One who burns with violence ignites desolation. If we play with the order of the phrases, and also with the order of their parts, we shall have our own poem, absolutely original, born, paradoxically, out of the more current and common areas of popular speech: -The inside of your fear stings in the air, here the harmony is only chaos, and the chaos there is harmony. -Danger is that which you ignite like violent solitude. The variants are as many as the possibilities themselves of the language. As a text it brings all texts along with it. To write is to have found the thread, yet not the black one, but that of an endless tangle. Each word, then, is a world. The Alpha that Borges describes, that infinitesimal point which contains all existing points. It is the microcosm that encloses the macro-cosmos. It is the door through which we enter to everywhere. It is the atom that contains the universe. It is the key to the whole language. Let us put it to the test. We will explore the word from within. We shall decompose its atom as in a nuclear explosion. I choose at random and insist that any can serve for the example: DIAMANTINE. I am going to extract from this word some of those that are contained in it. Those that begin with the sound DIA: Diary Diadem Dialogue Diabolical Those that end with the sound INE: Unforeseen Citrine Figurine Intervene Thus, I have four pairs of words: diary - unforeseen diadem - citrine dialogue - figurine diabolical - intervene In order to unite these pairs I am going to extract new words that relate them. A writer is always a marriage consultant who intertwines words so that others will be born. She is also an engineer of bridges and roads who constructs paths between words according to the distance, the characteristics and the necessities of both. I then discover that: My diary for tomorrow still unforeseen, tonite by the moon's diadem of citrine I hear dialogue, and see a silent figurine, and something diabolical will intervene. But it also could be that: Diary, such sadness was so unforeseen, the loss of my diadem of yellow citrine, no dialogue can recover that figurine unless diabolical luck can intervene. And if I take liberties to play with this entire heap of words born from DIAMANTINE, I could say: Tell me, o unforeseen, diadem of the moon, of your dialogue with the citrine light whose kiss enfolds a smile. What diabolical desires convene to unite or untie sadness and joy, from peace thawing memories still frozen as that marble figurine. To write is to play with the dictionary. As the great Michelangelo said: "The perfect form created by the mind of god already exists in the marble block; I merely remove the excess marble." If we propose it, the entire dictionary of the language could enter into the poem born of the word DIAMANTINE. Even the word "crap" can have a diamantine glistening when it petrifies beneath the sun by a dumpster in a literary description. It is the magic of the language. The genius that inhabits it. The human creation par excellence. They are the same words that are used to converse, for a telephone message, to create the grocery list, for a political discussion, to pray, to do philosophy, to scold the child, to demonstrate love, to hurt, to write a story, a novel and a poem. They are the same. There are no catalogs of words. What makes them different? The same word changes in function if we use it to order breakfast and later for a poem. In the first instance, the word is literal: "bread" means only that, bread. In the poem it can mean many more things: spirit, heat, embrace, life, sun. "The bread of your gaze...the warm bread of the horizon extending itself around me." But furthermore, the elements of the word are allocated in a different manner. In the spoken word the meaning weighs more than the expression. The what, has more standing than how it sounds. And this because in speech we use other complementary languages which embellish it, such as the tone of voice, manners and the gestures. On the other hand in writing, and above all in literary writing, the signifier is more important. The word is only the paper, blank, without visual, tactile, olfactory, gustatory, or auditory accompaniments, over and above the sound of the letters themselves. It has to justify itself through its primary natural resource, by which it penetrates the speaker. To give the what of literature, one must handle the how. The former always depends on this. Therefore the true meaning of that that we are attempting to communicate is implicit in the signifier which we have chosen. There is a primitive example that almost sins with clarity, and is the following set of phrases which the husband speaks to his wife: On their honeymoon: How do you feel, old lady? At 20 years of marriage: How did you become an old lady? After 40: How! You still feel, old lady? The differences are made by the commas and the modulations. Yet these are not sufficient, one has to relate them varying the tone of voice. If we desire to take this joke to literature, we would have to use other words, those that are contained in the phrase "old lady," to provide, within writing, the variations of the voice. Now it would not be a joke, but a story: How (s)he awoke fresh. How (s)he awoke ugly. How (s)he awoke dead. Whose variant also can be a poem: How you awoke feeling rain, how you awoke feeling wind, how you felt the waking earth. Thus, by forfeiting the advantages of speech, I have obtained the advantages of literature. Writing, then, is not transcribing speech, but instead making it intelligible, universal and memorable. Play with the words. This is the door by which to approach the literary creation.
In the beginning was the verb. And God said, "Let it be the light," and it was the light. And this means that the word of God is action. It names and creates the entire universe, in a single movement, at the same time. The divine word is, then, the object. The human word is nothing more than a metaphor of that object. For God it is the act; for us, only the desire for that act. Are we, made of image and resemblance, not perhaps only metaphors of God? Therefore when we discover words we become human, we ascend that scale towards the Creator, converting ourselves into his echo across the face of the earth. Thanks to words we transform ourselves into the only beings with divine aspirations, we learn to name and to create our own interior world: the ideas, the fantasies and the hopes that only acquire body through words. We invent the language, and it chiseled us, differentiating us from the rest of the species. The spirit breathed into us, and with it, the consciousness of a destiny, the notion of time, and the impetus for transcendence. The language par excellence is our language. All living beings have languages; that is, systems of communication. From the odors that signal danger or pregnancy, to long-distance smoke signals. These are sensory languages and acquire complexity according to the level of evolution of the species. We humans too use many of these avenues of communication, and even have added more sophisticated forms, when we change our style, for example, in the language of social class; or the chocolates and the flowers in the language of courtship. Nevertheless, they all continue to be sensory forms of communication. When our ancestors discovered and invented words, the verbal language was born. In that moment, we too were born as human, and to our animal condition the title of rational was proudly added. The verbal language or tongue is the only one that uses words, therefore is not only sensory. We recall that the word is comprised of signifier and significand. The first is the sound, the part that corresponds to the auditory sense, its sensory element. Yet the second is the concept, and to understand it reasoning is needed. A tongue is the finest, most complex language, with the greatest expressive capacity among the others. It is up to now the most complete, although not unique. Today we keep using numerous languages in daily life complementary to the verbal, without which we would have been unable to survive. But poverty in the use of the language implies an impoverished, elemental life, almost animalistic. That which defines us par excellence as humans is precisely, the language. No other species has gained access to this expressive capacity. A person with few words in her vocabulary is an unevolved person; a stammering people is a population of servants capable only of taking orders from those who do talk, not of commanding. The richness of our verbal capacity is at the same time the measure of our spiritual development. Which came first: our evolution as a species, so as to reach language, or the fortuitous encounter with language, which led us to evolve? One and the other. The chicken and the egg were born together. And our brain was ready to take the leap. And the surroundings required better responses from us to survive. One day someone paused to hear that the sound the herd made resembled thunder. And another day someone else heard how each one seemed to be positing with their mouths the sound of that beast itself. And at last it occurred to someone to produce those sounds without there being thunder or being among the herd. Then the others bristled as if before thunder or animals, and prepared themselves for the danger. The miracle happened. They intuited how those sounds, made deliberately with the mouth, which tried to imitate the natural sounds, had a unique power: they caused the object to appear without its being present. Where would it appear, if it were not opposite us? Within consciousness. With lightning speed, consciousness was taking shape in our primitive humanity. Then, we were truly prepared to invent the language. Paragraphs above I said that we discover and invent the language; and it is no contradiction. We discover the power of the word as a metaphor for the object. And we invent the language as a human system of communication. During that night in the times we just evoked, the discovery was made. The invention emerges when the group notices there are many variables in human sounds and that one must choose the right one for each case. It is not possible for each member to interpret at will the natural sound reproduced with the mouth. To perfect this communication system it must be regimented. All rules are artificial; they are assumed by consensus and are arbitrary in the purest sense; they are the result of the faculty of selection and determination of who holds the authority. Here, the authority is the consensus, which selects among many a single sound to hold constant, inaugurating the new system. And this fixed sound is called onomatopoeia. We have arrived at the first level of the language, constructed from onomatopoeias that capture the sounds of nature. All languages in fact retain their onomatopoeias, although each one has been fixed into a particular manner. In Spanish the rooster sings kikiriki; in French, cocoricó; in English, cocka-doodle-doo. Some foreign onomotopoeias can seem demented to us, like this last. But thus they were originally set by the respective group. The diversity of tongues, which are the concrete forms of language, is no more mysterious than the obligatory isolation under which human groups lived in the past, for geographical and climatic reasons, and from the imponderable distances. Not even in the 12th century of our era could Latin remain intact throughout the Roman Empire, and it began to flower into seven distinct languages among which is ours. And ours also starts to become dialects in the 21 countries where it is spoken, in spite of satellite communications, television and the international computational networks. Modern linguistics now does not refer to the Spanish of Mexico, or to the Spanish of Colombia, but instead to Mexican and Colombian. There even are those who mention Vera Cruzian as against Yucatanian, for example. Even the barrios or neighborhoods flaunt their particular modes of using the language: the girls of Polanco, the guys of Tepito. The specific manner of using the language is called speech. Yet there always should be a group which uses it. A single person does not comprise a consensus, is insufficient to create speech that, furthermore, would have no communicative function. Every word is a cog in the system and, as such, obeys the fundamental law of the language: paradox. On one hand, it is born from a natural sound; on the other, that sound is artificially set by consensus and judgment. Both faces of the paradox need to be fulfilled for the language to continue to exist. Discovery and invention. A personal anecdote in relation to onomatopoeia: when I was 15 years old I lived almost a year in Canada with exclusively English-speaking persons. A moment arrived when I missed my language so that I would sigh crossing the street. One day I heard a dog barking and my heart leapt with happiness, thinking "he is speaking Spanish!" More accurately, I felt it. Clearly, it was the most familiar sound to reach my ears in many months. I "heard" the dog in Spanish, because the onomatopoeia of the bark in Spanish was known to me: guau. But with perfect security the Canadians who accompanied the dog "heard" it bark in English, with its corresponding onomatopoeia: arf. Thanks to the first level of language, the human being begins to communicate and to grow. First one's needs grow. Onomatopoeias are no longer sufficient. The expressive capacity must be refined. Our level of evolution is shown by the complexity of our needs. The cow is happy with its pen, its hay and its bull. The modern woman needs, in addition to roof, bread and man, professional realization, to be economically independent, to vote, to do aerobics, send faxes, read the newspaper, go to therapy, to the beauty salon, to have a computer, to enjoy Jaime Sabines, among thousands of other things. Onomatopoeias evolve, then, so as to widen their range of expression and so cover the new needs. One must say whether the thunder is strong or restrained, if it already sounded or is still to sound. Then grammar emerges. And we are entering upon the second level of language: symbolism. On being grammaticized, the onomatopoeias lose a little of their fidelity to the sound of the natural phenomenon. But they gain in nuances of the concept they represent: thunderous, thundering, thundered, to thunder, thundersome, thunderlike, thunderness, being words already converted into nouns, verbs, participles, adjectives, and adverbs. Symbolic words, because their sound is only the symbol, and not a reproduction of the original. Every language will trace, by the same arbitrary consensus, the lineaments of its own grammar. Yet in all the symbolic words the sap keeps flowing that makes them part of nature. Thus the most diverse languages retain their resemblances. With this second level language has grown exponentially, because every onomatopoeia is capable of engendering dozens of new words. It is the miracle of the loaves and fishes: there always is for those who truly need it. And those who labor most in this world of symbolic words are the writers, those who seek, more than to communicate, to cause emotion to be felt. In many forms it is the symbolic words to which they refer, because these are incarnate sounds. The word "whisper" is a whisper, is whispering. Upon saying "shiver" we are already shivering, because we repeat, in fact, the physical reaction that the cold provokes. On the other hand, political discourse that is characterized by lack of compromise and its demagoguery avoids this second level of language, with the goal of wrapping the information in an excess of signifier words, that is, with abstractions. And we attain the third level of language, which is, precisely, that of the signifier words. These words have no referent: there is not an object or phenomenon that might be named by them. They are only signs signaling nothing individual or particular. They serve only to create relations among the other words. This level appears due to the necessity of creating better and finer nuances in communication. And it is formed from the words of grammatical relation: conjunctions, articles, adverbs, prepositions; and by those of abstract relation, which are many of the verbs and their subsequent nouns that serve to express processes between one phenomenon and another, and between one object and another. For example, to love, to educate, to grow, to think; and the nouns derived from them, like love, education, growth. The new words are also considered on this third level of language, which are those that keep emerging as civilization advances, so as to baptize the objects created by human beings. The new words of the 20th century are easily identifiable: astronaut, computer, fax. But we think that the words, table, spoon, plate, tablecloth, armchair also were in their moment new words. Although they do have objects that they designate, these words belong to the second level because they did not arise from natural sonority. There was no phenomenon of origin which brought light to them. But in order to obey the fundamental law of language, which is the paradox between the necessary and the arbitrary, the selection of the new words has its own process. When a new object is invented, like television, first the function for which it was created is defined: to see what is far away, thus the speaker goes back to the origin of her language, which is the remote in time that can be reached. In our case, to the origin of Spanish, which is Latin and Greek. Tele in Greek is distant, "vision from afar." Lastly, from the many possibilities that are found to combine: "visiontell," "teleview," et cetera, the one most adequate to the sonority of the language is chosen by consensus. Spanish does not permit too many consonants together; since its nature is vocal, we adapt the new words which actually come to us from English by adding an initial e yielding esmog, estrés. To create neologisms, or new words, is always valid when no word exists in the language to designate the object, given that it complies with the baptismal law of origin, and always attends to the sonority of the language itself. The three levels of language are inclusive, co-exist simultaneously and complement each other in perfecting the verbal expressive capacity. To know words according to the level to which they belong permits us better dominion of the discourse. And literature is what is sought: to say it, and say it well. In a poem by Carlos Pellicer there is a verse that is a clear example: Grand, solemn wings folded in the distance. Their crystalline cry shivers the border. There all notes tumble into the tomb, here glass and crystal are crushed to order. There are no onomatopoeias, but there is symbolism: folded wings, to shiver, crystalline, tumble into tomb, crushed, crystal, and glass. The remaining words belong to the third level, of grammatical relation (articles, adverbs of place and of quantity, prepositions) and abstraction: grand, solemn, distance, border, all; and new words, like notes and to order. We noticed that the poet chooses key words whose sound resembles that which is symbolized: tumble, into, notes, crushed. With this a sonorous atmosphere is achieved that tries to reproduce echoes of the phenomena referenced, like the rhythmic movement of the sea. Thus it causes us to feel, more than understand. Or better, we understand because we feel. Yet if we leave only the symbolical words in the verse, we shall read: Folded wings shiver, cry crystalline Tombs tumble, crystal and glass crushed. The poem continues to exist. We have reduced it to its most authentic sonorous expression, to its idiomatic brain stem. The poetry exists, palpitates, nourishes, then, through the symbolism of its words. It is what we call its humus of origin. Even the foreign speaker will vibrate to the rhythm of the wings hearing those verses without needing to understand their meaning. The rest of the words are nothing but accompaniment or embellishments with which Pellicer adorned the core.
The senses are the windows of perception. If the body is our house, we have five windows through which we receive the world. If one closes, the other four are there to make up the lack. Even one alone suffices to maintain communication. Our first contact with the world is always sensory. Sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch are our first-hand informants. Cold is a tactile stimulus, for example. It makes me tremble, my skin bristles, it afflicts me. Due to these sensations, certain emotions of anguish, of desperation, are produced in my interior. Then, I notice there is born in me the sensation of impotence, of abandonment, and even up to hate. In that moment there arises in my mind the idea that the cold is harmful and must be avoided. I elaborate a set of propositions whose conclusion is that we all should have roof and blanket to protect ourselves from the cold. I put forth equality and love of the neighbor. And the first thing I do is to share my overcoat with the poor. This is the natural process of human beings in relation to their world. Life is defined, precisely, by the bilateral relation between an inside and an outside. When the chemical elements grouped themselves in such a way that one could differentiate an interior and an exterior following the emergence of a membrane, life was born. Was it simple chance or the imponderable divine finger? Everyone should choose the reply. That which is within our reach to understand is that the greater the interchange between inside and outside, the richer; that is to say, the more evolution. The unicellular organism exchanges few chemical elements with the environment; the human being, millions of subtle nuances at the flight of a bird, in each vibration of light, in each tearful blink. And this relation begins with the five senses. Starting from them we receive the stimulus that the world sends us, we develop it through a process of assimilation, and we give our response in the form of actions. With our action we return to the world what it has given us, and we return it enriched; that is, we transform it. The action is our human capacity of creation, our manner of dialoguing with the Creation. We shall return to the example: The world initiates the dialogue with us, and sends us a stimulus: STIMULUS FROM THE WORLD: cold. We receive it through the senses: SENSATION: bristled, chapped skin. And we assimilate it in our interior: EMOTION: anguish, desperation. SENTIMENT: impotence, abandonment, hatred THOUGHT OR IDEA: the cold is harmful and must be avoided. IDEOLOGY OR SET OF RELATED IDEAS: justice. DOCTRINE: Christianity, socialism. The we return it to the exterior with our creative response: ACTION: I share my coat and distribute the riches. Thus, we have transformed the world, improving it, adding something to it that it did not have before; in this case, the distribution of wealth, yet it well might be that the action is a poem about cold: we also would have added something new to the world, a way of causing the reader the feel the crudity of the cold, which can itself convert into the stimulus that the world sends to move toward a transformative action, although one may not have felt cold in one's own body. The dynamic of this relation, the intensity and the frequency of activity in this process reflects the degree of creativity of each human being. Creativity is namely the capacity to be creative, to create through action; in the last analysis, of transforming the world adding to what it had, enriching it with new content. A cup is a human creation, also a highway, a philosophical tract, a symphony, a verse, a caress that forgives. Therefore the senses, perfectly open, attentive, in a perpetual state of alert, are this basis of our creativity. And we have been closing them without noticing; some are almost asleep, anesthetized by lack of use, and only reacting confronted by brutal stimuli. That converts us, though, also into brute beings. How long has it been since we paused to contemplate the spiderweb of the sun between the branches of a tree? We would not be able to say what the fabric of our clothing is made of without seeing the label. Now we feel nothing more than blows or burns. Do we hear the tinkling of the ice in the glass, as part of the ritual of refreshment, before drinking the water? Do we know how a night of rain tastes and smells, a night of love? To complete the creative cycle one must pass by each of the points in the process. We cannot arrive at the idea without having passed through the sensation. All action should be in its turn a product of the process to achieve its transformative function. The problem occurs when we want to separate and confront the sensations and emotions with the ideas and actions, as if they followed different processes. It is common in our western civilizations to posit a horizontal line, as if feeling and thinking were rivals. It is such that we have convinced ourselves that our senses fall on one side and our thought on the other, and we become the battlefield for two irreconcilable enemies. We accept ideas that come to us from outside, only because "society" imposes them, and we do not notice they are not our ideas since they have not emerged from our own process; that is to say, they are not the confluence of our sensation, our emotion and our feelings. Therefore we feel they are enemies of our profoundest intimacy. Yet we do not believe in this profound intimacy of ours, because we have not been trained to value it. On the contrary, we have been taught not to recognize it, not to give it credit, to consider it suspiciously imaginary, contradictory and irrational. For the sake of obeying the mandates of foreign thought, we have forgotten how to decipher the message of our inwardness. Frequently we ask which of our loves we must serve: those I feel or what I think, what I desire or those I owe. And this is no more than a false problem, an artificial dilemma, manufactured by the vices of mass society, whose objective is to control, manipulate and impede the complete existence of the individual. Feeling and thinking are on a vertical line in our dynamic of incorporating the world. They are two stepped functions complementary for integral development. They are our resources, both perfectly valid, necessary and inclusive so that our actions shall have meaning, orientation, coherence, and efficacy. I feel, then I want, then I think, then I act. To feel is the patrimony of art, and as such, literature has its place during the first steps of the process. Literature functions as the original stimulus that first provokes sensations in us, which we elaborate towards emotion, feelings, thought, and action. A story, a poem, a single verse, should make us feel, for example, the cold of snowfall upon the skin even if we are in the tropics. Thus literature is life aggregated to actual life, permitting us to have the experience through the words. The author posits the words that will provoke sensations. If achieved, the writer and reader, between them, will do all the rest. To obtain this objective one must convert to literary language and this primarily means, to go to the most primitive sensation. How to literately communicate the sensation produced by a swig of beer upon the palate? If pressed, we say it tastes...well, of beer! and if they insist, we explain that it is half bitter yet rich. With this we say very little and it is so abstract that it also fits many other beverages, including lemonade. We are remaining on the terrain of the adjectives, "bitter," "rich," whose interpretation is totally random. In truth, we are "half" communicating something we cannot describe without tacit, cryptic and even tautological elements. With that phrase we do not stimulate in the questioner the sensation we propose: our words do not cause her to feel the mouthful of beer. The purpose of literature is substitute stimuli, which words transform into the fact itself; for in them the beer spills from hearing to the palate. How to accomplish this? I insist: by recovering the original sensation. Beer, does it prick the tongue, the throat? Yes, its bitter bubbles produce pinpricks, feeling like a knockout with stars. And, since it is a liquid, they seem to swim in the sea. Thanks to that we felt the sensations of the pinpricks we could compare them to points of starlight. Why stars? Perhaps because although it prickles and is bitter, the sensation is pleasurable, like being in a kind of heaven. We also compare its liquidness with the sea, and then we launch a phrase where beer is: a bitter knockout of tiny stars in the sea of my throat. Thus literature is born. In this manner abstract adjectives are converted into phrases of substance, that is, with nouns which place us in the center of the phenomenon itself. We are embarking, then, on the purest terrain in literature: metaphor. We recall that the word is a metaphor of the object, and literature is the metaphor of the word. To be effective in provoking sensations, metaphor is our tool. And the simplest method of defining it is the capacity of the language to use different words referring to the same object. We recall also that language is a convention and we cannot alter it without consensus. The sun is a star in the sky because we have so decided to call it. Yet thanks to metaphor I can speak of "the shining suns of your visage," although this does not refer to the celestial body, but instead to the radiance of your gaze, the brightness of your eyes. And to express the many nuances of that gaze of yours I can use the entire dictionary, practically any word fitting: "the enormous plates of your eyes," "the blue silk of your gaze," "the steady orbs with which you look at me"... The construction of metaphor has three fundamental steps. 1. ESTRANGEMENT Our gaze at the object in question must become estranged. My pen, for instance. I am going to describe it, as I use it, as if one did not know what it is. "A cylindrical object that leaves a track by being scraped over a surface." I have, then, three elements: the cylindrical object, the track and the surface. 2. ASSOCIATION Now I associate those three elements that comprise the function of my object with three others similar in use: A needle that leaves a border around a cloth. A knife which leaves a scar on the skin. A ship that leaves a wake in the sea. A skater who leaves a scratch on the ice. I can continue almost infinitely. I have once more felt familiar with my pen because it has delivered its function to me in the form of a needle, a knife, a ship, a skater. These are those which occur to me. 3. RETURN TO THE ORIGINAL OBJECT Now I can construct my metaphors, making the associations become comparisons with my pen. Each one of these associations carries a different nuance. In fact, I do not have only one pen, but four, because there are four modalities in which I can write with it: My pen is the needle that embroiders love onto the fabric of your heart. I write you with the strokes of a scalpel, intending that my words leave scars on your skin. I do not want my pen to be like a ship that only leaves a wake in the sea, do not want to disappear so quickly, need you to hear me and thus I write to you. This verse has come from me with the speed of a skater, and we hope it does not simply scratch the ice of the page. You do not always have to expressly use the word "pen," but can slide to others that it contains, like "to write," "verse," "page," et cetera. What is important is that the possibilities for expression multiply. Furthermore, with these same metaphors we can construct many more sentences, including contradictory ones. For example, to make the needle sharp and not a signal of amorous constancy, that the scalpel be a sign of precision and not of aggression, that the ship be more fast than evanescent, that the skater suggests cold more than quickness. I can go on almost forever. Metaphor enables my pen to be capable of everything. These capacities flourish thanks to our cerebral potential. The brain has two hemispheres: the left for logic and the right for intuition. Both are equally necessary and complementary for human development. Logic is not necessarily "reason," and intuition is not merely "emotion." I mean that reason is the product of both; and emotion is the origin of both. Pure logic is simply an empty pathway; pure intuition is an unbridled and blind horse. Only their integration can put the horse on the path, cause it to open its eyes and conserves the passion. Curiously this cerebral structure has impressed itself on the geography of our planet in a more or less artificial manner. West and East, beyond both cultural antipodes, continue to imagine themselves as two separate cosmic visions. In the West logic is privileged because it is what differentiates the human being from the rest of the species; in the East the human being is seen as one more part of nature, thus it privileges intuition, which is the fount of primal understanding. Then the rivalries of the competencies are created. Which is the best? Which is true? We would say, neither by itself. The West has forgotten ecology due to dehumanized technology. The East has forgotten progress due to an abstract mystique. Furthermore, no country is purely western or oriental. Everywhere both cosmologies exist, above all in actuality. Even more, in every individual there lives a westerner and an easterner, because every brain is comprised of both hemispheres. At times we tend to be more western when we favor logic in our decision-making; at times, on the contrary, we are guided by the wisdom of our intuition. The ideal is to recognize that both of these two forms of knowledge of the world exist, that they are not at odds, and that we have them at our service. It is not necessary to choose one, as if they were exclusive. They are steps in the same process. Let us return to the origin: sensation is the window of perception; emotion and feeling, the raw material of intuition; the idea and its derivatives, the substance of logic. Reason is the culmination of the cycle. Sometimes logic is confused with reason, and intuition with unreason; on occasion it is said that logic is cold, and that intuition is foolish. It is like saying that our right arm is better than the left, or vice versa. Both turn out to be supremely useful for life, and it is absurd to have one paralyzed and the other overburdened. We have limited our senses in this way, according to the education that the culture to which we belong has imposed. In the West the senses are arranged in the following manner according to their order of importance: sight, hearing, smell-taste, touch. Smell and taste we presented together because without the first the second does not function, speaking physiologically. In the East, the order is exactly the contrary: touch, smell-taste, hearing, sight. Each culture has its explanation, certainly convincing. For the West, to see is synonymous with "to understand"; light, with knowledge; darkness, with ignorance. On a second level, to hear is also a way to assimilate, to comprehend. In third and fourth place, to smell is to capture, to taste is to approve or disapprove. To touch is somehow dangerous, threatening; touch now breaches the logical defenses, which is why is corresponds to the final level. For the East touch is the fundamental sensation of existence, the most primary and the most complete because it embraces the entire skin. If the newborn is not touched, it dies. To feed itself, it sniffs and suckles; thus, taste and smell are next. Those three are indispensable senses for survival. In fourth place, hearing, which occurs in the round and at a distance, to flee in time or to approach as that is indicated. Lastly, sight, the least trustworthy of our senses; its field is only frontal and any wall stops it, and further is susceptible to multiple optical illusions. It is the sense that we ourselves deprecate when we wish to submerge ourselves in the deepest sensations of which we are capable of feeling. Do we not close our eyes to feel the humid heat of a kiss? Both arguments have their weight. Yet the consequences of falling on one single side are also weighty. In the West it advances in the democracies, but sex has been genitalized and the human relation is given through gadgets and plastic; in the East all sorts of dogmatisms and fundamentalisms appear, yet eroticism and the integrative doctrines are a lesson of humanity. Ultimately certain oriental notions continue to enter into western culture. We recall the quote from Helen Keller, blind and deaf since birth: I have heard talk of the rainbow, of the stars, of the play of light among the leaves. I would like to see all that. Yet much more than sight, I would wish to access them through hearing. The voice of a friend, the happy and noisy sounds of the neighborhood, the fantasias of Mozart... Life without all that is much darker than blindness. Starting from this declaration from one who has suffered in her own flesh the lack of two senses, doctor Bernie Siegel, the American doctor, professor and author of various books, indicates that "blindness separates us from objects, while deafness separates us from people." Elsewhere, in the University of Miami in the United States, an Institute of Touch has been created to study the repercussions and therapeutic possibilities of developing that sense. These are only two brief examples. We return to the same: it is not necessary to choose. The hierarchy must be surpassed. Sight is light, but is not totally trustworthy. Touch is fundamental, but can be dangerous. Hearing is my communication, and also my guardian. Taste is my nourishment and also my form of approving. Smell is for perceiving and for evoking; and the more capacities there are, the more open will be my windows of perception. At the beginning literature is the art of translating into words the perception of my five senses. To better understand its complexity, we have to approach the world of the brain and its functioning. The brain consists of three systems: the reptilian, the limbic and the cortical or neocortex. The first is the most primitive and it empowers us for the defense of our territory and for the use of aggression as a form of survival. The second embodies the sensations, the emotions and sexuality. The third, the most evolved, is that which handles ratiocination. Art, because of its sensory nature, accesses the limbic system. Every work of art is in principle a visual, auditory, tactile stimulus, and even olfactory-gustatory in the case of culinary art. Thus we "feel" art more than understand it. Dance, music, painting, are forms made of sounds, colors, outlines, lines, which convert into emotions within ourselves. They are pure signifiers, without a predetermined meaning. Each spectator will encounter her own meaning, according to their biography, their culture, their particular spiritual state. Yet literature is a separate case among the arts. We recall that the word is simultaneously signifier and signified. This causes literature to be an art like the others, and at the same time, totally different. Due to its signifier aspect, that is, by the sounds of the words, literature is an auditory stimulus that reaches the limbic system, like music. But by the meaning of the words, literature is already a conceptual proposition which also accesses the cortical system or neocortex so as to be understood by reason, in addition to being felt through emotion. Literature fulfills two simultaneous functions in the brain, although the emotional is that which rules, or that which in the first instance calls the tune. By this we wish to say that beyond the meaning, the signifier should be the standard-bearer on the road towards the brain. It is the form of touching the door, and the limbic is what opens it. Then, once inside, the concept clears the way toward reason. Were this not so, one could not distinguish between a philosophic essay, or a list of purchases, between a poem or a story; or worse yet, these last would have no object, which take the long road yet the most beautiful to reach in the end the same destination. Certainly the poem and the story merge in reason, but after approaching every corner arrive charged with emotional baggage which has satisfied the heart with those "reasons of the heart unknown to reason." Therefore they say more, with more depth, with more fineness, than the simple direct voyage in a straight line of the idea. The resources of literature for this enriching travel are the handling of symbolism in the signifier, and metaphor in the signified. Symbolism sonorously creates the phenomenon; metaphor creates the image of the concept. The result of them together is the creation of more sensory stimuli for the limbic system, and more associations for the cortical. In this brief exploration of the brain, we have seen its structural aspect divided into two hemispheres; its functioning, into three systems, and now we shall conclude with its dynamic, in four states or levels. According to the number of brain waves per minute, the state or level in which we find ourselves will vary with precise characteristics. In beta, we are perfectly vigilant, on alert, we might say, with an average between 12 and 14 waves per minute. In alpha, we are dozing, as if in a waking dream, between nine and 11 waves. In delta, it is light sleep like that of a nap, between seven and nine. In theta we sleep profoundly, with four to seven waves per minute. The alpha state is that of creation. To perceive the world more widely and deeply we should drop total vigilance, which supposes directed attention, turning from all that is not its objective, its theme. For example, if we are driving in the rain on an unfamiliar highway, we do not pause to contemplate the scenery, because what is important is to arrive safely. But if there is no threat, we drive automatically and can enter into the alpha state to appreciate the light through the clouds, and wander among the daydreams that that sensation awakens in us. The pediatric doctor and psychoanalyst Winnicot calls this state the third space, that which is created to relate inwardness with exteriority. It is the space bridging two worlds that normally are found separated. The psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung speaks of the "active imagination," which is the process of union between consciousness and the unconscious. In any event, this state is like the crucible where the elements are mixed that are going to originate the work of art and which are born as much from the physical stimulus as from the emotional movement: sensations, images, memories, fantasies, dreams... We can all induce this state, seek it, name it, evoke it. The techniques are varied, from meditation to the diverse methods of mental control. But we do not forget that the best manner to inhabit it is to live with the senses open to the meaning of life. Nor do we forget that it is the road towards aesthetic experience, and that this occurs by perceiving as much as producing, which are the two stages of artistic creation. There is no better technique for entering into this state than the discipline at one's desk, be it reading or writing. What has been called "inspiration," the "muse," "divine dictation," or "magic touch" can be evoked though a pivot in our attitude and be the outlet of our creative will. Lastly, we approach the conceptual, the literal, the figurative, and the sensory. These are four modes of assimilating in our interior that which our senses trap of the external world. We consider the example of sight, to achieve greater clarity. Before a photograph of some wrinkled hands, we can see the same image conceptually, literally, figuratively, and sensorially. In the first case, we shall be inferring: "It pertains to an old person." In the second, we would simply say they are some wrinkled hands. In the third, we could allude to the nobility or dignity of a life fully lived. But in the fourth case, which is the least practical, we would only see, truly, what the photograph displays: lines that cause grooves in a ridged and wavy surface. The four ways of seeing are important and complementary for our perceptual capacity. Yet for literature the third is particularly rich. The figurative glance permits us to strengthen our associations, to linger in the sensation while composing a cosmology, that is to say, a proposition for understanding the world: the bird is the fowl, but also liberty; the flower is a plant, but is the symbol of the fugacity of beauty, et cetera. However the fourth type of seeing, the sensory, is indispensable for literary creation, because it is there that the fount of metaphor is born. The lines and the furrows that form wrinkles on the hands in the photograph can be compared with the lines and furrows of the dunes in a desert, or to the lines and furrows in a pleated blouse, or with some rippled hair. Thanks to these visual comparisons, exclusively sensory, the description acquires previously unthinkable dimensions, and there opens a practically infinite range of variants. The ancient hands may be as immovable as the silent desert, or as pure as the fabric of a never-worn blouse, or may evoke the waves in all the hair they have carressed. In order to accomplish the act of authentically seeing, one first must see. And seeing is primarily a sensory act. Yet it happens that our education has placed much more focus of attention upon the conceptual terrain, to the degree of passing over and above the literal. If we perform the test and show someone the image of a tiny foot, they will instantly exclaim that it depicts a baby, although only the naked foot appears in the picture. If we insist, perhaps there will be someone who perceives innocence and tenderness in that image. And it is unlikely that someone might see, for example, the crest of a rooster with its five colorful points, although sensorially, the image of the five toes might resemble it. There is no way of seeing better than the others. Just as there is none for hearing, smelling, touching, tasting. All are necessary, inclusive, constructive, and form part of our integral development. What is bad is to favor some at the expense of others. To open the senses to all these steps in the process of assimilation is also a matter of conscience and discipline.
Suddenly, I observe that I am in the middle of the house, because having the key in my hands, having walked across the floor and having approached the windows, I have arrived at the home of literature. I am here, living the incomparable experience. Now I want to share this world, communicate with the outside, share what is happening to me, how it enriched me and continually transformed me. The need is born in me to express myself. But I notice that the house includes several doors. If I wish, I can hasten out through one of them. Or walk slowly towards the one positioned for sunshine. Although I could also go through the back door, or through the narrow one, or through the wide crystal one... What do I prefer? Where do I wish to exit? If I fly, my exit will be dazzling and quick; if I walk through the small door, I should do so with minute precision; if I opt for the ample one, my attitude will be different, and I would want to say that I need that space in order to walk with liberty. How to know where I should exit? I alone can recognize this within myself. It depends what I want to say to the world. Or better, where I want to place the accent on what I am going to tell them. If I know beforehand what each of the exits offers me, I shall have better possibilities of choosing the most adequate for my desires. Because, if I do not select correctly, I run the risk of remaining stuck in the middle. I am selfsame, wherever I exit, but my message will reach the world in a different fashion from each exit, because my manner of expressing it will have a distinctive nuance. At first probably always to choose a single door, which already worked for me and that I know; yet soon I shall discover that at times what I want to say is better heard if I attempt another of the exits. Only after having explored them all, will I be able to say I have taken possession of the house. The house is mine and I enter and leave as the owner I am, soaring and with feet on the ground, every time I wish to express something. And since my relationship with the outside has become more enriched through so much entering and leaving, each time I have more things to say. The house is literature. The word is the key to enter. The senses are the windows through which the world penetrates and nurtures me. The doors are the literary genres from where I want to voice my response to the rest. I am the prime material which boils in my interior and seeks to be born, expose itself to light, to reach your other me, the male or female reader. Let us make a survey from the origin of the genres to their current state. At the beginning of language, it was the word; and at the beginning of literature, was poetry. Thus as the word is a metaphor for the object, poetry is the metaphor of the language. Poetry, from the Greek poiesis, means "creation." Effectively, poetry is the human creation; a duplicate human creation, the creation of a creation. If God created the world, human beings created the language, which is metaphor for the world; and with it, created poetry, that is the metaphor of language. Art was born then. The art of the word, in its origin, is poetry. A day arrived when humans discovered that words not only served to refer to objects, but also that to play with them, they themselves created new objects, imaginary objects that awakened sensations and provoked emotions even more intense than those natural. This "supernatural" capacity, that is, which is beyond nature, and that is the product of the human being, is one of the defining ingredients of art. Art is the human equivalent of the divine creation that is nature. Poetry, whose original meaning extended to all human creation, is the source of what we call literature. Today the word, poetry is used academically to define only one of the several literary genres. Nevertheless, it still retains echoes of its beginnings, when we use it trying to praise the quality of other genres-"This novel is pure poetry"; and we do it extensively almost with any human product of excellent manufacture-"These enchiladas are a true poem"; we even use it to be admiring of the scenery-"What a poetic afternoon!" The expression and the concept of literature are born during the modern era, when human knowledge is reclassified to make it more functional. But this art is born as poetry, which is the language's song, the language that is beyond itself, language as verse, the language as the summum of its capacities as signifier and significand, as the splendor of the sound and the gold of the meaning; poetry, jewel of language. We remember Alfonso Reyes: "I was born making verses, I continue making verses, I shall die making verses," which did not match with his excellent prose, because he knew that every writing man or woman, if they are truly that, is a poet at the root of their pen. And even those who never have exactly written a poem, seek for poetry, that is to say language's song, to be present in the soul of their text. Almost since the beginnings of poetry it expressed itself via three fundamental dimensions. The epic was the receptacle for the collective experiences of the outside reality. In it were sung the feats of the people and their heroes. The Mio Cid or The Iliad are perfect examples. It stood in for history, because that did not yet exist as conceived of today, a social science. In lyric poetry personal emotions, the inner world that identifies us as human, were expressed. Love, fear, solitude, mortality, the passions, and the secrets. Practically all love poems belong to the lyric, from Catullus to Garcilaso de la Vega, from Sappho to Sor Juana, from Rubén Dario to Octavio Paz. Drama had as its goal to represent an action, to bring a determinate situation into the present moment so as to present it in a more lived and direct manner. Sophocles, Shakespeare, Molière, only to mention some examples so distant in time and space, belong to dramatic poetry. The epic, by its historical quality, traps past time; the lyric is non- temporal because it planes above the differences and defines us by the essential; the dramatic is the here and now, the present action. Between the three, the art of the word complied fully with its expressive function: to tell, to sing, to represent. Until the society evolved and the necessary changes emerged. Art is a cultural phenomenon, insofar as it exists in a society, and thus its essence is permanent change, as with all living being. Poetry, like all living entities, not only this alone, lives in company with others. The others are the other cultural phenomena. And all interact among themselves, nourishing, modifying, recreating, becoming new phenomena. Philosophy, which was the mother of knowledge, gradually accumulates so much within that ultimately it needs to share with the sciences. The exact sciences and the social sciences. As the daughters they are, the sciences obey the law of life and separate from their mother. Parenthetically, philosophy kept staying apart and lean, and even ran the risk of perishing, for the sciences finished by robbing all its functions. It raised ravens. However, at its final extremus, it found a way to survive, becoming an analytical method. During the last century, philosophy moved from being the sovereign mother to be the servant of the sciences, which used it simply as a methodology. Only in recent years, and beginning the third millennium, philosophy begins to obtain new impetus, or rather, recovers the old one, when with good reason it demands that which always has belonged to it: that lingering in the ultimate questions, which neither the sciences nor religion have been able to answer. Neither scientism nor fundamentalism have satisfied the needs of the human spirit. Philosophy has returned to the attempt, at least, to be in the fight; this is its true function, to clear the way, without the arrogance of the sciences or religions which have wanted above all to arrive at a theme to be imposed as unquestionable. The term "literature" to define the art of the word was coined around the 18th century, the so-called Enlightenment century, for their eagerness to systematize knowledge and arrange it with new nomenclatures and definitions. It was then when different literary genres were described. But at the beginning the sacred word, separate from a god or "the muses," the word that transcends, that creates, that transforms, was named poetry. Maybe this term will continue to be the purest, the most direct, that which reveals the very entrails of its art. Everything that was written was done in verse, but when the notion of literary genres emerged, and also the notion of "writer," instead of poet, the definition of "literature" occurred and the functions were distributed among them and the new social sciences emanating from philosophy. When history became an autonomous social science, and journalism appeared as the mouthpiece of the news, epic poetry had to find new nourishment. It renounced verse and returned to being narrative. The narrative gave birth to the novel, to the chronicle and to the story. Dramatic poetry evolved in its function as scenery and sought other languages than verse, such as the corporal, the gestural, the visual, et cetera, until becoming another autonomous art: the theatre, among the scenic arts. Only lyric poetry remains intact and is what today we call simply "poetry," combining verse and the lyric sentiment of origin. History appropriated from general truths the orientation of a nation or people. And to narrative remained the concept of fiction, which is not synonymous with "lie," as many can mistakenly think, but instead refers to the particular truths of individuals. While history provides an account of the events of the Mexican Revolution, the writer Mariano Azuela, in his novel The Underdogs, recounts the history of one of the anonymous protagonists of such events. History and literature turn out to be complementary for profound comprehension of the human condition. Indeed the literary genres have remained classified in the following form: NARRATIVE: story, chronicle, novel. POETRY: in its distinct classical or contemporary varieties, with or without rhyme, but always in verse. ESSAY: an adopted son of literature, whose natural mother is philosophy. Narrative, as we already stated, narrates individual truths in prose, presented in an academic way: fiction, whose substance is an amalgam of deeds lived, observed, dreamt, imagined, read about by the author or authoress and that independently of their veracity, possess verisimilitude and express human nature. Veracity is the provability of something that is sustained as true. History should be true; literature, lifelike. As chronicle, narrative describes an occurrence, that as its name says, comes in cronos, time. The chronicle has been lent to ordinary journalism as one of its genres. The difference between a journalistic and a literary chronicle is that the first takes account of exteriority, of the news of a fire, for example, while the second reveals the inwardness, causes the readers to feel the fire, the heat of the flames. I prefer to use the terms "exteriority" and "interiority," which are complementary, in place of objectivity and subjectivity, for these result in being ambiguous and almost always provoke antagonistic interpretations. The story is not necessarily a short text, is distinguished by positing a situation, that is, the confrontation of two contrary forces. Chekhov, the father of the modern story, says that the classical story is that which contains the following points: a) Introduction b) Presentation of 1 c) Presentation of 2 d) What 1 does to 2 and vice versa e) Outcome Point d is the key, without it there being no story, and actually sufficing to achieve it. 1 and 2 do not represent characters, but instead forces that struggle: love and hate, prison and liberty, living or dead, et cetera, and whose origin is the eternal battle between good and evil. The novel is the vehicle par excellence for character. A string of events where the character or characters have to decide, act, recognize, evolve, reveal the labyrinthine trace of their steps, is the matter and function of the novel. With regard to poetry as a literary genre, it might be said that it is a song, a wound in the sound of words in order to discover their multiple meanings. Its materials are verses. Every line is a verse. Each set of verses is a strophe. The text is called a "poem." They exist with or without rhyme, with precise, observable measures, or with those that each author may wish to propose. Among its conceptual resources are images and metaphors; and alliteration or repetition of sounds, accentuation and the use of symbolic words are some of its sonorous resources. The essay is the son of philosophy, its expressive medium par excellence. Its function is to propose an idea, a thesis, to argue it and demonstrate it. Literature, like the other scientific and social disciplines, has taken loan of it to make it its own genre. The specifically literary essay is that which addresses themes of literature: theory, the creative process, critique, etc. Rarely is a genre given in purity. All are intermingled, because every work includes song, situations, characters, descriptions, and ideas. What defines it as belonging to a determinate genre is the emphasis that is placed on some of those elements. Every text is born through a poetic impetus, just as children, it is supposed, should be born of love. From the moment of conception, the boy or the girl already has a gender, although the parents do not know it yet. Like the text, even though the author is unclear about it, the work that will see the light will exit by one of the doors in the house of literature, the door which is cut to its measure and that is waiting for it ready to open. If one who writes wants to sing of an emotion, a poem will come out; if one is interested in sharing the crux of a situation, she will give it the form of a story; if we need to relate an event, we have the chronicle; if one is pursued by a character who takes on actual life, we shall follow it in a novel; if he has a fundamental idea to communicate to us, it will be expounded in a literary essay. Nevertheless, faithful to its origin, at bottom they will be like poets, even without writing an actual proper verse in their lives. First, because art was born in this way from the word; and second, because that keeps being its marrow-the search for an unrepeatable form which expresses what vibrates within me. Opening the indicated door, I shall reach you, you shall have me in your hands, and our hearts will beat in unison.