Excerpt by Beatriz Salcedo-Strumpf
I see that you command much as I tend to do. This is the second part of my reply: the hectic pace here at my office makes a long Internet letter practically impossible. I continue with responses.
I don’t believe that women have something different to say from what men have said already. Beyond sex, we are all beings that share humanity, speech, and we use our words and our imaginations. The language of fiction has been modified, (primarily by men, but that is of no consequence) and it is the same fundamentally, modelized, semiotized, utilized by any writer, regardless of gender. To separate literature between that written by men and written by women, and another by lesbians, or by homosexuals, is to introduce a biological category or psychological or even physiological into the structure of literary taxonomy and reflection. The thematic, or rather the personal, even less. I believe that we should make a clear difference between “author” and “narrator”, between private life and literature: the contact points between these categories are “fields” of contact, bridges and not mirrors.
I don’t wish to talk about some writers of Mexico because I think that literature shouldn’t be divided this way, along sexual genres. It should partitioned on the basics of quality, style, theme, or whatever, but it must be something that has to do with literature proper. What do I care if Sor Juana is a woman or a nun, or that Shakespeare is an unknown homosexual or not, or bisexual or even a woman. It’s all the same to me that Clarice Lispector is female or that Abert Camus was born in Africa. It’s the biographical and social nature of the citizen who writes what interests me, and candidly, much less than the works themselves.
Women who write currently in Mexico don’t figure, not a one of them, on the list of women who have contributed masterful works that I annexed in the other letter. If we should choose whom to study, why not select the best? And above all: I refuse a su-category between women who write-men who write. So it is said,
Both of us are enraged as we finish reading his latest letter.
“Your friend is right in the last line when he refuses to make a sub-category between male and female writers”, observes Angelica.
“Yes, I agree on that point, but the main reason why Sor Juana was refused access to learning was precisely because she was a woman. She begged her parents to cut her hair and dress her like a man in order to be able to attend the university and, in that way, sate her need to learn. And when those dreams were denied her, the only alternative she had left was to shut herself in a convent. In those times, women had two options: the nunnery or marriage. Sor Juana to satisfy her thirst of knowledge, chose the first; she never had interest in getting married. And as to the writing of Rosario Castellanos, trough her work, she permits us to see the injustices that women suffer. It is obvious that a writer’s personal life is an essential ingredient in his or her writing. Besides, we shouldn’t forget that, of the four greatest Latin American female writers, one committed suicide on account of the lack of understanding and prejudice that she found in the world that surrounded her. Another was murdered by her husband, who later killed himself, she she asked for a divorce. So biography and the social ambient go hand in hand with the life of the individual and the opus. It has always been said that a writer should create what he or she knows most and best. And clearly, the majority of the time that we read a work, we are allowed to penetrate the experiences and the macrocosm that revolve around the life of the author. And obviously imagination plays an extremely vital role in any writer. Infancy, naturally, is a great detonator for artistic inspiration, as Antonio himself affirms.” I end my dissertation, my eyes glued to hers.