Saturday, December 5

A festival against the pandemic | Culture

Soledad Gallego-Díaz and Manuela Carmena, in a moment of their meeting at the Eñe Festival.
Soledad Gallego-Díaz and Manuela Carmena, in a moment of their meeting at the Eñe Festival.

They talked about the media and politics, about the dystopias and utopias that they have seen and see grow in reality, and in their conversation there was room for optimism. On the sunny rooftop of the Círculo de Bellas Artes in Madrid is where the ex-judge and former mayor of the city, Manuela Carmena, and the journalist Soledad Gallego-Díaz, former director of EL PAÍS, met.

Their conversation was one of the star events on Friday at the XII Edition of the Eñe Festival, which this year is turning to cyberspace. The only act with an in-person audience of the week was held at the Teatro del Círculo de Bellas Artes and brought together the novelist and Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa with the literary director of these meetings, the journalist and writer Jesús Ruiz Mantilla. The author of The green House She received the festival award and spoke about her writing process and her discovery of reading. “The trigger for my novels is always personal experience,” he confessed, before telling that a few hundred meters from the Circle, on Doctor Castelo Street, was where he started to write The city and the Dogs.

In his talk, Carmena defined himself as “optimistic” and spoke of other moments in not so distant history in which society was terrified by annihilating catastrophes, such as nuclear destruction. He also offered an affordable and close definition of utopias: “For them to be a useful concept, you have to understand those things that work badly and need to be changed,” he said, before adding, as an example of a feasible utopia, universal education that many they considered something unattainable and today it is a reality. A supporter and defender of “speeding up the representation contract” that links citizens with public servants, the former mayor believes that the obligations of elected politicians must be redefined.

“We were not looking for perfect societies, but better societies,” Gallego-Díaz clarified when speaking about the ideals of his generation. “Many of those utopias were difficult things to achieve that were achieved little by little, like feminism. And the progress has been very great ”. The journalist spoke of the dangers facing democracies from the fatal sum of pandemic, environmental crisis and surveillance capitalism. “There has been a normalization of democratic misuses,” he explained.

The direct communication that social networks have imposed also carries a great danger. “It is not that politics lies, it is that there is a system based on lies,” he added, referring to the use of the networks of defeated President Donald Trump.

The president of the Círculo de Bellas Artes, Juan Miguel Hernández León, recalled before Vargas Llosa’s talk the first conversation he had with Alberto Anaut more than a decade ago about the Eñe Festival promoted by La Fábrica. Thus he welcomed the audience who, with a mask and distance between the seats, filled the theater for the awarding of the festival’s Nobel Prize. Anaut referred to her own audacity to present one more award to the award-winning novelist, and above all “without financial endowment”, and recalled the words of Esther Tusquets when she received the Brief Library in 1962.

The novel, said the winner, is a gesture of insubordination, reading too. And, of course, a festival in the midst of a pandemic.

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