After a very good friend of mine, Victoria, had finished “Within Paravent Walls” I visited her to have a conversation about what she had just read.
I wanted to hear the story from her perspective as a reader, her impressions, emotions and thoughts and I was fascinated by her views. It was a surreal and uplifting experience to hear her talk about the characters and their actions that had formerly existed merely in my mind and lived in hers now too. And we brought them together on her table.
We talked about timelessness, feminism, energy, family and sexuality. It was enlightening to approach and see the characters through her eyes and experiences. A writer is nothing without a reader and vice versa. She added life to “Within Paravent Walls”.
When we were discussing Gabriela’s descent into her own sexuality and that of others, Victoria described it as her letting in a “pedestrian energy”, into her body, into her house, into her room, a pretentious and high-brow sphere of refinement and academia. She explained that this “pedestrian energy”, unworthy of Gabriela, was the only sane and real connection that she has with the outside world and it is a damaging and extreme one. Windows are important and she asserted that oftentimes things need to be broken in order to be freed or cured.
Victoria also had the impression that Gabriela’s life would only start after the novel’s ending, that her womanhood and girlhood could only grow healthily after the last page of a communal story and the first page of her own story.
In the mother-daughter correspondence, I ascertained that Gabriela was talking from the present envisioning her future whilst Estefania completely derails into the past and engages in her detachment from the present. The conversations drift off into opposite directions, the mother unwilling to follow her daughter and vice versa. For Victoria, it seemed to be the very first time that both of them actually speak to one another utterly uninterrupted and reveal their true state of mind through epistolary storytelling.
It is very interesting to me, because in a conversation with my mother, she told me that she thought that Gabriela was highly unreliable referring to her early performative personae and talent to fool people. How personal are these letters? Is Gabriela revealing herself in these letters? Does she have an agenda? Is she telling the truth or is she weaving elements of what she needs to say into several stories to reach her mother? Is the mother playing the same game? Are they hitting each other where it hurts?
It was always my intention to provide a framework with signs and directions, but I find it crucial to leave the reader enough space and probability to expand their imagination and reach their own conclusions, contradictory or not. Fiction should never be a prison.
Thank you so very much, Victoria, for letting me in and being an invaluable reader.
“Femme nue” by Mikhail Vasilievich Nesterov (1862-1942)