I don’t know if you’re familiar with the term. I wasn’t, myself. But since it was made up of two words that involve two of my favorite activities, I supposed it would make a great combination. So, a literary walk means following the path marked by literary characters guided through by their creator, the author himself that placed them in a certain moment in time on that particular stage. It means recreating a universe that’s already there, remodeling it, giving it new shades and interpretations. Living in fact, in your own way, a story that is not about you, but at which you were invited.
I took such a literary walk a few days ago, when we were invited to discover the universe created by Olga Xirinacs, a Catalan writer, born in Tarragona and still living there, near the seaside. From her balcony, Olga Xirinacs sees the sea, with its ebbs and flows and the sea that “always starts fresh. It’s not like a river that flows pass you, always bringing new water from up on the mountains. The sea it’s not like that. It goes away for a moment just to come back at you again.”, to paraphrase the author’s words. The walk started under her balcony, watching away into the horizon to see the harbor. In her novel, Zona marítima [Maritime Area], Xirinacs beautifully described the colors the sea turns into depending on the hour and the aspect of the harbor and of the big cranes unloading shipping containers.
Then, the walk continued on the footsteps of two girls, the main characters of the novel, and got us into a park, then almost on the seashore and we finally ended up at the gate of an old cemetery where the crew members of foreign boats used to be buried. Every stop was marked by reading a short passage from the novel, that talked about that place. I was trying to imagine all those sights not as I was seeing them, but as they were presented to me in those short paragraphs of the novel. It was such a synaesthesia of different senses that were becoming more present in my imagination: the smell of pine trees and of salty water, the view of the sunset and the harbor, the noise of the waves and the wind… Literature, and art in general, is meant to shake you off your feet and make you achieve catharsis, that state of releasing emotions that any art work should have on its reader, viewer, etc. And this literary walk or walk into the literature of Olga Xirinacs managed to do that to me. I felt like I was part of a creation, I was just another character in her novel.
I have to confess that I didn’t know Xirinacs that much before of the walk. I had only read some of her short stories about death and mystery, but I discovered Xirinacs in the most pleasant way you can discover a writer: submerged in her literary universe, starting just under her balcony. Since then, I’ve done some research and I discovered the interesting personality of an important literary figure of our days, who not only is a writer, but a complete artist, attracted by all arts – painting, music- who made me think of the Romantic ideal of a “round, complete human being”. Apart from that, this year is Xirinac’s eighty’s anniversary, celebrated by the author with a new novel La crisi dels vuitanta [The crisis of the eighty] and with the poem published in Catalonia and translated into 20 languages on the occasion of the International Poetry Day celebrated last March.
“Everyone has a story to tell” says Xirinacs, and the duty of the author is to “present a certain view” on that story. That day I had a story and I, myself, was part of the story.