Second lecture at the Banff Centre for the Arts at Banff, Canada
Hace varios años al culminar mi estancia en el Centro para las Artes en Banff pronuncié la siguiente conferencia ante un auditorio de artistas de varias nacionalidades. La reproduzco tal como la escribí y pronuncié, sin traducción alguna, conocedor del erudito público lector de este blog.
                                           By Marco Tulio Aguilera
There was, there is, there will be this famous literary raven called "Nevermore", which has been following me since I started walking along the trails that surround Banff. The idea that everything I live is already past, makes me at the same time unhappy and happy. All the faces I see, for sure I will never see again, because even if I come back to this 'paradise encountered' for artists called Banff Centre for the Arts, they will never more be the same. I will be someone else: more aged, more calm (I suppose), less eager to drink, and eat and meet nice people, and imagine the many things I usually write.
            As some of you may know I came here to write, to finish writing, a big novel ambitiously called The Book of Life. This big novel, as a whole is formed by four books, maybe five. The first one is already published and is called Goodbeast or The Nights of Venture. The next two novels are ready, thanks to the Centre for the Arts. The second novel is called Beautiful Life and the third, The Little Violin Teacher. They deal with the theme I have always pursued, which is, the relations between women and men in the mainstream of life. I, as narrator, follow the steps of an artist, a male artist named Ventura, obsessed by three goals: the accomplishment of a work of art, the mastery of violín interpretation, and his need for understanding and loving women.
            Pulled by these three different cords, Ventura falls into a crisis. None of the three goals are attained, and he leads a life of exceses. Nevertheless he lives intensely, he knows biblically and unconventionally several women who allow him the experience of differing levels of involvement ranging from plain physical relations to something similar to love. Three women have a main role in Ventura's adventures: Barbara, a divorced woman about 40 years old, who is an authentic goddess of love and lust in a small city of Mexico called Xalapa; Trilce, her daughter, a 14 year old child gifted with the violin, and Carmina Ximena, the Princess of Huamantla, a humble but sophisticated psychology student.
            Here we have the elements of a dark comedy, of a quest in which Ventura struggles within the depths of depression, solitude, the pursuit of fame, glory, vanity, the search for beauty and satisfaction. All these elements mingle to create a fictional world full of what could be called as The Book of Life, but ends up being just the book of a solitary writer with great aspirations and very few achievements.
            There is something false about the life of this writer. The sense of sin is always present. Also the idea that life could be more than that vacuous pursuit. In the third novel, The Little Violin Teacher, an idea is taken to an extreme: the need to overcome rules is incarnated in a very tense relation between Ventura and the daughter of his past lover, Bárbara Blaskowitz. As a means to seduce the young girl, Trilce, the writer is taking violin lessons from her. He supposes he is in love with her and ends up sleeping with Trilce in a pitiful scene that practically ends the relation, not only with Trilce, but with her mother too.
            The fourth novel, which I worked on in Banff, is, or is meant to be, a tour de force. It portrays an authentic love story with all the components human feeling can possibly bear. Ventura meets another young woman and engages in a passionate relationship, which makes him forget all his other goals and relations. This young woman, Flor de María (something like Maryflower) is almost illiterate, but so beautiful and full of grace, so funny, witty and naive, that Ventura falls into an abyss. The relationship begins in a rather simple and natural way when Ventura invites her to the movies, and she doesn't watch the screen, but, instead, stares at him. This goes on until Ventura falls into a kiss, which is accepted enthusiastically by Flor de María. From that moment on, this artist will have no peace, no violin playing, no novel writing, no office work. Day after day, night after night Flor de María takes possession of Ventura. Not a step can Ventura venture, without having his loving Flor by him. This is a novel about the mysterious relationships that exist between love, sex and transcendence. It's also a novel about the struggle against selfishness by a male and the voracious love of a woman. Vanburgh said: "Once a woman has given her heart you can never get rid of the rest of her." Men, on the contrary, seldom commit to other than themselves. Rudyard Kipling had a very acute observation about the power of women: "A woman's guess is much more accurate than man's certainty".
            I have being saying for several years that the only hope for this world is for it to be ruled by women. They are more honest, more artistic in the way of feeling, more adept at finding hidden meanings, more loving. This world, ruled by men, is a pragmatic, decafeinated, unloving place. Women understand the world better because they rise and fall each month and know the alternation of bodily seasons. Men go straight as a line. They eat, then read the newspaper. They make love, then go to sleep. Women would go on enjoying the moment as it deserves.
     The novel I have just written is a novel about violence, about love in it's deepest sense, about eroticism's failures and splendors. It wouldn't be honest to say that this work is a masterpiece of originality. The idea of a big novel in several volumes following a cast of characters, most of them women, was developed by Marcel Proust in A la recherche du temps perdus. Also by Lawrence Durrell in The Alexandria Quartet, and by Henry Miller in The Rose Crucifixion. AlI I can say is that there is in this novel great optimism, a firm belief in life, love and the possibility of happiness on earth. The quest for love and fulfillment is the basis of this project. In a certain way this is The Book of Life I am reading and living, and this book was written by God. Not by me. Most of the stories have some relation to my existence, to the women I have met and the goals I have pursued. I have tried to explain myself to myself, to understand my eager abundance of excitement, and to be absolutely sincere.
     As has been said, a single person can have, in certain incomprehensible ways, the universe within him and herself, including planets, stars, beginnings and ends of new, flowing waters, mountains and wild roses, corruption, heavens, hells, sickness and health, sin and virtue, and also, please never forget, immense void space. As a person, the universe is full of galaxies, tiny and huge stars, and vast void space. Scientists have discovered that the percentage of void in an atom is millions of times larger than the percentage of matter. They have also discovered that the percentage of void in an atom is as great as the  percentage of void space in the Universe. Imagine in a human life that most of this life is void; that is to say, it lacks sense. Let's make a little experiment to prove that: let's try to remember the few really significant moments of our lives. Probably most of us would have to confess that love has had something to do with those moments. So probably the clue of this puzzle of life resides in love.
            As love, art is a place where meaning resides. Where real, profound meaning, relates to what we are as human beings. The survival of art is the survival of humankind. The battle of life today  inclines towards productivity, toward lack of sensitivity, and consumption. People work as donkeys to buy their spiritual empoverishment. Love and art are two of the main weapons against this death force.
            What I've tried to accomplish with this big bunch of pages called The Book of Life, is to humbly understand, to dramatize, to create a novel of the universe. No more, no less is what should be a work of art. My friend, the Mexican orchestra composer and conductor, Sergio Cardenas, in the midst of conversation over beer, raised this question: What do you, Marco, believe is in the very bottom of the human soul? I answered as plainly as I could, finding that it was a rather simple question: In the very bottom of the human soul lies the aspiration to be God. Not to be gods, but to be God. We have the choice of answering to that need, trying to be God, living as intensely as we can, trying to understand as much of the universe as we can, or we can plainly rest in the conviction that we are nothing but void advancing toward nothingness. That's the challenge God has put in front of us, and that is what God meant when God said that he made us in his image.
            Finally, on behalf of my Mexican compadres in this visit to this paradise of artists, on behalf of the composers Sergio Cárdenas and Rodrigo Sigal, I say thank you and farewell. I will always remember this place, hoping to return, keeping my links with Carol Holmes, Jill Swartz and Erin Michie, heads of the Leighton Studios for Artists, who have been always kind, as kind as humans beings can be. Farewell biking along the trails, farewell watching the Bow River growing, farewell playing basquetball with Rodrigo at five o'clock in the afternoon 40 days out of 43, farewell to ten pounds of overweight, farewell to philosophical conversations with Sergio Cardenas, farewell to my admiration for Canadian women and my indiscrete questions. Canada will be for me, from now on, not a vast and unknown territory in the world, but a big significant country in the map of my life.
            And finally again to this literary raven called "Nevermore" which has been following me along the trails of this Canadian Rockies. I can peacefully answer, without sadness, that he cannot molest me. His harrassment has been in vain, for I will keep this day in my heart, and hopefully, in a special place of my literature.
                                   Banff, June the fourth, 1997

Marco Tulio Aguilera