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From Borges to Maradona: an intellectual memory of Argentina | Culture

Argentine filmmaker and writer Andrés di Tella, photographed two weeks ago in Buenos Aires.
Argentine filmmaker and writer Andrés di Tella, photographed two weeks ago in Buenos Aires.Enrique García Medina / THE COUNTRY

Andrés di Tella (Buenos Aires, 62 years old) spends hours taking notes in cafes in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Belgrano. There he spent his childhood and in those streets also starts the journey of Notebooks (Trojan Horse), his latest book, where personal history intersects with that of Argentina, Great Britain, India and other family geographies. He opens to readers the doors of the house where he lived with his parents, Torcuato di Tella – founder of the famous Di Tella Institute – and Kamala Apparao, and leads them by the hand a few blocks away, to the home of Norah Lange , the great love of Jorge Luis Borges. “Borges dragged her to stick posters with avant-garde poetry on the walls of the city; Norah, for her part, would climb on the roof of the house to shout, to the confusion of the neighbors, ”Di Tella writes.

“There is no exact origin because there was no book project from the beginning,” says the writer and filmmaker. He remembers that 12 or 13 years ago he could not remember what he dreamed of and a friend recommended that he put a notebook and a pen on the table. “The next morning I remembered and wrote it down. The next day too. Every time I remembered more and more details of the dreams, to the point that I started getting up earlier to write them, ”he says. In one of them, a witch guessed his luck not through the lines of the hand or a spread of cards, but by “guessing a photo.” There are images also in Notebooks, also drawings, a reflection of the permanent contamination between cinema, literature, music and visual arts in Di Tella’s work. Director of the documentary 327 Notebooks, on Ricardo Piglia’s diaries, he now turns his story into this book that establishes his own diaries.

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The quarantine for the covid went from “being an adventure to be climbing the walls”. Among the many changes, he blew up a routine that he maintained for years: taking a notebook to cafes after dropping off his children at school. Morning after morning, he recorded the day’s plans, memories, family dialogues about films, film script fragments, lists, notes for his classes, images that passed before his eyes …

On November 25, 2020, Di Tella recorded in his notebook the news that left all of Argentina in silence for a few minutes: Maradona had died. When he regained his speech, each inhabitant of the South American country began to recall matches, anecdotes and phrases of the Argentine soccer god, worshiped even by children and adolescents who never saw him play. Among his memories, Di Tella chooses a match for Argentinos Juniors, his first club, in 1979, and the press conference he gave in 1994, after his suspension from the World Cup. “What struck me was that Diego spoke in front of more than a hundred journalists as if he were talking to you alone in the corner of a bar at three in the morning, it produced an effect of incredible intimacy.”

Even with the fields empty by the covid, the devotion for this sport remains intact in Argentina. The morning of the interview, the front pages of the newspapers highlighted River Plate’s epic victory against the Ecuadorian Independiente de Santa Fe by 2-1 with a squad decimated by the coronavirus and an injured midfielder, Enzo Pérez, in goal. A fan of the millionaire club, Di Tella forms a huge smile when he remembers the triumph and the goals shouted a few hours before.

In the dark room I feel that there is the essence of cinema, in that moment of concentration, of silence, of sharing with people you do not know

Among the customs he misses is going to the movies. “In the dark room I feel that there is the essence of cinema, in that moment of concentration, of silence, of sharing with people you do not know, but with whom a kind of community is formed,” he emphasizes. His last movie, Private fiction, debuted in 2019 at the San Sebastián Film Festival, but could not be released later in Argentina on the big screen and was broadcast through television and platforms online, which led to a huge response from the public, with “hundreds of messages received through social networks.”

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“Before, I once received letters and photographs in which they told me some of their family stories. The autobiographical resonates in the lives of others. Are recontradifferent, but also the same ”, he highlights. “It’s Hemingway’s tip of the iceberg technique. I show a part of my parents’ life, the rest you have to imagine yourself, with your own associations and emotions ”.

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