CONVERSATION INTERRUPTED, CONVERSATION BEGUN: ON MY FATHER’S NEW MEMOIR


I’ve translated my favorite lines from Roberto Merino’s review, in yesterday’s edition of Las Últimas Noticias, of my father’s new memoir Conversación interrumpida: Memorias (“An Unfinished Conversation: A Memoir”) published a few months ago by Ediciones Diego Portales in Santiago, Chile. My father’s name is Sebastian Edwards and one of the things we have in common is that neither of us has a middle name, quite unusual in Chile and certainly not something I can say about anyone else in my immediate or extended family (though there are so many of us cousins, it’s difficult to know for sure).

Before I get to the lines I’ve translated no doubt imperfectly into English, I want to say three things:

|i.| It’s amazing for me that this book has been published because it feels like a direct invitation to put the gas on the literary memoir I’m working on now, where I’m writing about my father and many other people with candid love;

|ii.| I love love love that one of the book’s two epigraphs comes from the work of Raúl Zurita, the Chilean poet I wrote my college thesis on and whose work I’ve written about in several recent pieces. The epigraph says: “Te acuerdas chileno del primer abandono cuando niño?” (“Do you remember, chileno, the first time you were abandoned as a child?”)

and

|iii.| I translate Merino’s phrase “del espíritu de las distintas épocas” with Virginia Woolf’s “spirit of the age” from her 1928 fantastical novel Orlando in mind.

So now that I’ve laid out my trio of caveats, here are my favorite lines from Merino’s review of my father’s “unfinished conversations” in my English translation:

“Edwards’ memoir is configured in epiphanies, brief scenes of daily life that synthesize situations of greater import. They are the particular manifestations of the spirit of the different ages. The settings: university hallways, parks, streets, offices with neon lights.”

And here is the original:

“La memoria de Edwards se configura en epifanias, en breves escenas de la cotidianidad que sintetizan situaciones de rango mayor. Son las particulares manifestaciones del espíritu de las distintas épocas. Los escenarios: pasillos de universidades, parques, calles, oficinas con tubos de neón.”

What are the settings of my brief and everyday epiphanies? Which parks? Which hallways? Which streets? Or, as Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt (both part Chilean through their maternal side!) say in their joint memoir The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son on Life, Love, and Loss: “I hope what follows will encourage you to think about your own relationships and perhaps help you start a new kind of conversation with someone you love. After all, if not now, when?”*

*From the book’s introduction penned by Anderson Cooper

Roberto Merino’s review titled “El tiempo y los arboles” (“Time and the trees”), which appeared September 12, 2016, in Chile’s newspaper Las Últimas Noticias.
My father with me, sandwiched between my cousins Natalia and Josefina Silva Edwards, in Chile.

Magdalena Edwards was born in Santiago, Chile, and raised in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC. Her undergraduate thesis on the Chilean poet Raúl Zurita’s first book Purgatorio (1979) was awarded Harvard’s James R. and Isabel D. Hammond Prize and led to a stint with the “Artes & Letras” section of Chile’s leading newspaper El Mercurio. She received a PhD in Comparative Literature from UCLA with a dissertation on the poet Elizabeth Bishop (1911–1979) titled The Translator’s Colors: Elizabeth Bishop in Brazil & Elsewhere. Her work has appeared in the Boston Review, The Paris Review Daily, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Rattle, The Critical Flame, Rewire Me, and The Millions. She lives in Santa Monica, California, with her husband and three small children. More at magdalenaedwards.com.

Follow Magdalena on Twitter & Facebook & Instagram.

If you like what you read, please hit the green heart button so others may find this essay. Thanks you.