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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Writers @ Grinnell: Carlos Gamerro

Carlos Gamerro, pictured in 2015, read from his book “Cardenio” on campus. Wikicommons.
Carlos Gamerro, pictured in 2015, read from his book “Cardenio” on campus. Wikicommons.

This Thursday, Argentine author and guest professor Carlos Gamerro gave a reading of his latest novel, “Cardenio,” to a full audience in lecture room in the HSSC. Gamerro is this year’s Grinnell College fellow at the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program and is currently teaching an English short course entitled, “The Vanishing Narrator.”

Gamerro has written many satirical novels that use history as a jumping off point but take a turn toward the outrageous. “Cardenio,” Gamerro told his audience on Thursday, is a fictionalized portrayal of playwrights Shakespeare, Fletcher, Middleton and others as they navigate the landscape of 17th century English theatre. Gamerro explained that based on his research of these historical figures, he envisions what their lives, careers and interpersonal relations must have looked like.

In the passage he performed at the College on Thursday with the help of professor Dean Bakopoulos, Gamerro captured the excitements, tensions, insults, wit and ego of these playwrights as they collaborated with one another in the world of mass-marketing plays. Gamerro told the audience that in the time of Shakespeare, “theatre was a brand.”

In the Q & A session that followed, Gamerro discussed Argentine politics, guerrilla movements and how “The Vanishing Narrator” shapes his short course and his writing. “The Vanishing Narrator”, he explained, is literature’s evolution from a very obvious and didactic narrator to the narrators of the present day, who are much more limited and often not discernable at all. His short course investigates this narrative evolution.

Gamerro said the Vanishing Narrator makes an appearance in his own work as well. He told the audience how his decision not to have a narrator in “Cardenio” was, more than anything, “an act of basic cowardice.” As he put it, 21st century authors find it “difficult to access” what life was like in the 17th century—a challenge that gets in the way of developing a convincing narrator.

“The narrator forces you to see the way everything is,” Gamerro said.

To make his historical fiction as realistic as possible, Gamerro found other methods.

“I got the verbal texture of the time,” he said. He used this “verbal texture” as a template for writing with historical accuracy.

During this process of creating a realistic vernacular, Gamerro recommends reading period literature aloud instead of in one’s head.

“If you want to incorporate the language instead of just imitating it, it has to come through the ears, not the eyes,” he said.

Gamerro’s short course seminar meets on Thursday afternoons and runs from September 5th to October 10th.


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