En este momento estás viendo The wanderings of persistent memory
Mario received a short story scholarship from the Centro Mexicano de Escritores and the Jóvenes Creadores programme of the Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes (National Fund for Culture and the Arts). Photo: Courtesy of the interviewee

The wanderings of persistent memory

Mario Carrasco Teja won the Casa 2024 Prize in the category of Literature for Children and Young People, with the novel El latido de los días (The Heartbeat of the Days).

For the writer or the reader? It is difficult to decide the starting point when talking to someone dedicated to the word, because there is always a strong link, visible or not, but never avoidable, between the works he or she nourishes and those he or she creates.

This is the case with Mario Carrasco Teja (Mexico, 1972), who spoke to Granma about the Casa de las Américas 2024 Prize for Literature for Children and Young People, which he won for his novel El latido de los días (The Heartbeat of the Days).

«I hardly ever visit the new books tables because I have nowhere to put any more books at home, so in recent years I have devoted myself to reading what I have in my personal library,» explains Teja, who is also a publisher.

Precisely, in some of the pages read and even listened to, were the inspirations for the text worthy of the Casa: «One of the stories that has never left me since I was a teenager is Casa tomada, included in the Bestiario del gran cronopio and which was fundamental in configuring the invasion that takes place in the novel.

«Along with oneirisms, fantastic elements and nods to the myth of Sisyphus, Alice in Wonderland and some other readings from my youth -and not so much-, the plot was rounded off with war allusions and a persistent memory from my early childhood: the story of the witches and the woodcutter, a popular tale from the oral tradition.

«As far as I have traced, it has medieval roots, with multiple variations in Latin America, Spain, Italy, Japan and even some version by the Brothers Grimm. I remember hearing it for the first time on FM – on the frequency of Radio Unam or Radio Educación, I don’t quite remember – while my brothers, my cousins and I were having pitched battles in the car and driving our mothers crazy, stranded in the coven that is Mexico City traffic».

According to the jury – Ricardo Fernandes (Brazil), Geraldine de Santis (Dominican Republic) and Liuba María Hevia (Cuba) – her work vindicates the power of brevity, promotes universal values through the regional, and possesses a unique voice to tell stories that ignite the spark of intelligence and curiosity in her readers.

«The seed of The Heartbeat of Days is a short story I wrote when I was a scholarship holder at the Mexican Writers’ Centre, inspired by the real event of my mother’s mitral valve failure.

«In that first moment the narrator was a young man, as I was. The fact is that the story was put aside for a long time, until a couple of years ago I resurrected it – along with my writing career – and turned it into a novel from the perspective of a boy on the threshold of puberty.

«In stories in which the quotidian prevails – even if at some point the fantastic element bursts in – it is usually inevitable to spice up the writing with elements of the immediate environment. In this case, I needed to imprint on the voice of the young protagonist a way of speaking that was alien to the neutral Spanish that I myself, as a professional editor, usually seek out».

Mario has previously won the 30th edition of the Edmundo Valadés Latin American Short Story Competition, the theatre prize organised by the Centro Toluqueño de Escritores, and the national competitions for the Black Humour Short Story in Morelia, Michoacán, and for Chronicle and Short Story in the Mexico City Metro, but the Casa is dear to his heart:

«It is one of the literary awards with the longest tradition in our America, and the greatest recognition I have obtained for my writing. I sent it to the competition with the illusion, shared with many people, of being part of this prestigious list.

«I have had the opportunity to travel to Cuba twice and on both occasions the Casa de las Américas was a visit that I did not allow to be omitted from my itinerary».

-What attracts you to writing for children and young people?

-In July 2013 I received an email from Ariadne Ortega González, a splendid editor of children’s and young adult literature, inviting me to proofread a novel for Ediciones Castillo.

«That work, which was part of the saga of the archaeologist Nils Hazard, by the French writer Marie-Aude Murail, was the starting point for me to enter this wonderful world, first as an editor and now as an author.

«The spell may have been cast because I myself qualified as an archaeologist, a discipline I never practised professionally, but which unexpectedly set me on the path to literature and publishing.

«Eleven years later, day after day and reading after reading, I see that the literature for children and young people published in Mexico and all over the world enjoys an unbeatable quality that asks nothing – quite the opposite – of the commercial bombshells for adult audiences. (Written by Yeilén Delgado Calvo)

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