Sunday, September 26

‘A place saved for something’: Luciana Cáncer, on anorexia: “My body saved me, it ignored my head” | Culture


Luciana Cáncer, author of 'A place saved for something', in Buenos Aires last week.
Luciana Cáncer, author of ‘A place saved for something’, in Buenos Aires last week.SILVINA FRYDLEWSKY

“I would like to say ‘I am cured, I am fine, my life is completely normal’, but in the head it is a distortion that remains forever,” says Argentine Luciana Cáncer when talking about the anorexia. In a place saved for something (Penguin Random House), her moving first novel, the protagonist narrates her coexistence with that disease that became an omnipresent monster on a daily basis, around which only emptiness grew: in her stomach, in love and in a family marked by absent father.

– If you keep eating like this you will get fat.

Her uncle uttered that phrase when Cancer was a 14-year-old adolescent and was five feet six feet tall. The words triggered a crack in his head. He does not remember whether or not he finished eating the red apple in his hand that afternoon, but he does remember that at night he told his mother that his belly hurt and he ate less than half a plate of white rice. “I separated the chicken. I separated the peas. I looked at the mayonnaise with contempt. I pushed the bread basket off my plate as if bread were a mortal sin. It was the first time that I dissected food conscientiously ”, he describes in the first pages of his autobiographical fiction.

Today, at 46 years old, he admits that by working on memory and recalling scenes from his childhood, he realizes that he had started to go there years before. “As a child I was on a highway that took me there. If something happened to me, it would manifest itself in this way, I was not going to be a drug addict, “he says during the interview.

“When I was six years old I slept with a muscular turquoise that reached my feet. Above me, I was fastening a thick elastic belt, very tight, which closed with a silver buckle and gave me the chills when it touched my skin. I needed to feel the edge of my waist, catch it in a specific circumference, contain it. Limit it even when I slept ”, he recalls in the book.

The tyranny of fashion and its unhealthy ideal of feminine beauty has affected generations of adolescents, but few decide to make the extreme decision to stop eating: “You have to have a mind ready for that. Willing to surrender. The people I know who got sick are like this: obsessive, methodical, good students, all ten. Like me, I get into something and I get involved with everything ”.

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He says that from the age of fourteen to twenty he did not grow up, neither physically nor mentally. All his time was consumed by disease. “I spent the whole day thinking about how to not eat, to control hunger, measuring myself, weighing myself three times a day, just thinking about that, it was exhausting.” After finishing high school, he moved from his small hometown, Lobos, to Buenos Aires, to start a degree in systems. He soon realized that he couldn’t handle her. “It forced me to be deep inside myself, about the numbers, doing programming. The very high demand and the problem were the subjects that required creativity, because in systems you have to project, and part of the problem I had was that I couldn’t wish and then I didn’t have the imagination to project anything ”.

Panic to hospitalization

When she left college, she also began to come out of the deep well in which she was stuck. “I spoke with my family and they told me that if I did not do my part they would have to admit me. That made me panic. So I looked for a job and that started to help me look good, to get up every day. Grooming myself and having a goal kept me from being depressed. And then I also started to get hungrier, it was another life, my hips started to widen and I looked more like a woman. I could no longer do those fasts that I did and I would get angry with myself and with my body, which did not respond to me, but at the same time, my body saved me, it ignored my head ”, he replies.

The book narrates fragments of those years interspersed with the emptiness left by her father when he left home when she was six years old and a love story sustained through a telephone that almost never vibrated and when it did it was at dawn, like a call relief to defeat ghosts and sleep. “They were mirrors of one thing to the other. The disease, the love story and the lack of a father ”, he sums up. The beauty of the prose displayed allows one to go through such suffering, narrated with great honesty.

For the author, the writing of the novel, which began in 2018, was “an important part” of the recovery because it allowed her to understand some ideas that had turned in her head for years. By accepting himself more, he also felt less guilty. “I am happy with the person I am now and I would not be the same if I had not traveled this path. I wore a lot of people who suffered with me and it was very horrible, but at the same time today I feel very loved, very accepted, very strong and very empathetic because when you come out of that dark selfish and individualistic moment you can understand the breakdown of the people because you have it, you had it ”, he highlights. She works as an accountant, but in her spare time she writes and reads with astonishing voracity. Every two or three days upload to your Instagram account the cover of a book next to a latte.

During adolescence, her gaze was distorted to the point of not realizing that even the clothes of other very thin girls were too big for her, but she could perceive how others were looking at her in fear. He confesses that the fear of looking in the mirror has not completely disappeared, but he can control it: “I know that it is an operation of my mind and I can hold onto it, I can go through that little bit of anguish and obsession and then get dressed. I touched the bottom a long time ago and now I am always climbing, sloping up ”.

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