Tuesday, 8 February 2011

El Tren - OQO Editora

El Tren, by Silvia Santirosi, illustrations by Chiara Carrer, OQO Editora, February 2011

When Silvia told me her first book was about to be printed, together with the joy I felt as she was crowning such a nice dream, I immediately thought I would have had a nice surprise, and I was right. After all, I expected nothing less from someone as intense as she is.

In this poetic story, made even more profound by Chiara Carrer's marvellous illustrations, Silvia tells us about a difficult topic and she does so without choosing easy loopholes, on the contrary she undertakes the bristliest path, putting salt over wounds, showing in all its excruciating power the strength of sorrow: El Tren is the story of a child and her dad, the story of a trio left maimed for the loss of a vital part, the mother, the story telling of the attempt to fill an emptiness that becomes ruinous precipice.

A father and his daughter, alone, looking at the stars and a newborn bright dot, in the distance. A little dot that seems almost reachable, the hand stretching out in the emptiness. And then, in the silence of await, the voice of a child telling of a recurring dream: there's a train she must get, though, despite all effort, it leaves solitary leaving the disheartened girl on the empty platform.

In the alternation between the telling of the dream and acts of everyday life, we assist at the dissolution of pain, at the metamorphosis that makes ineffable more real and real less defined, maybe less definitive as well.
The father listens, patient, curious and defenceless at the same time, he feels all the difficulty enclosed in that repeated dream to which none of them can give an answer.

" Come posso dirti che le persone che amiamo muoiono, ci lasciano e vanno via?" * wonders the father. Maybe there's no way, maybe we should all find our own way, or maybe we could just tell another story, like the one of the blind man asking his neighbour to describe the colour white...

and in the act of sharing, everything might change once more

I particularly like the way the text renders the simplicity of a conversation between father and child, the way in which more simple gestures leave place to higher moments: without ever leaving behind the central subject of the book, the author allows us to share life passing by, imperturbably following its own rhythms and logics.

To my opinion Chiara Carrer's narration adds, weights up, moves, interprets this beautiful text sublimely. As I was saying above, the story is built on a double reading level, alternating dream and real, emotion and gesture, reason and feelings. To realize this difficult dichotomy, if we just take a look back at her other works we realize that Chiara has chosen an unusual interpretation (even if many germs of this last work can be found elsewhere as well): while real has a more graphic quality, dreamlike has a pictorial quality, here is an example

in the moment of dream, and from the psychological point of view in the moment of sorrow as well, the sign blurs to leave place to colour and its matter, the table is stained so as to become almost mark in order to give voice to all you can't explain otherwise; in the moment when the account starts again, the fogs of colour clear out in favour of a renewed sign.

All is revealed in the mirror-image above, turning point of image narration, because it represents the moment when dream and real touch for the first time: on the left the girl is represented while dreaming, we can understand she's about to wake up thanks to the more punctual definition of her silhouette compared to the previous image, on the right the moment when the girl questions her father about the meaning of the dream is represented. The identical pose of the girl, the reflected expression of emotions and pain narrated in this double image, the colour and its absence, all tells of a highly symbolic moment that flows into the absence of concrete answers and in the necessary absorption of reality.

From this moment on starts the father and daughter's route towards a new day...

a day when we shall just stretch out our hands to reach the stars we love...

I want to express my best wishes to this beautiful book, may it find place in many shelves, my congratulations to the publishers (as well) for their courage and for the professionalism they have in dealing with difficult themes, without ever drawing back.

* " How can I tell you that the people we love die, that they leave us and go away?"

Copyright© text and images OQO Editora, 2011


  1. This really does sound like a beautiful and poignant story. I love this line Come posso dirti che le persone che amiamo muoiono, ci lasciano e vanno via?" * :) I shall certainly be recommending this for the Italian section of our school library.

  2. Hi Joanna! I'm glad you liked the story, it is beautiful, though the book is in Spanish for the moment, I still don't know wether they will be publishing it in italian as well, most probably in french but I might get info!!

  3. haha of course it is El Tren and not Il treno :) Sometimes I read, understand but am not even aware which language I have read in. We have a Spanish section too as the school is International.

  4. Well, language mixup is always nice, if we think of it it's a creative act! :)