Impressions from Montage Week – By Humberto Franco, CM ES
By Humberto Franco
Two years is a long time. Specially when you’re missing gatherings with Europe’s finest literary professionals. Month after month, we met every first Tuesday with a coffee mug in our hands and our laptop’s camera on. “How’s things over there?” was everyone’s favorite line. At the end of each meeting, right before saying our goodbyes, you could tell there was a thought on everybody’s mind: “Will we finally get to meet in person this year?”. Luckily, fair winds were on our way.
From May 9th to 12th, a most unique gathering was hosted by Escuela de Escritores in Madrid. After a long time hoping for this pandemic to give way, the participants of CELA’s second edition got to meet, at last. No less than 150 literary professionals, between writers, translators, publishers and mentors were able to pack their bags and reunite in the heart of the Spanish Penninsula. “It’s so great to finally meet”, you could hear around Escuela de Escritores, walking next to people shaking hands and probably keeping to themselves that odd feeling of greeting face to face and not on a screen.
What better scenario could one hope for? What better ambience for all of CELA’s participants and staff to put their hearts and minds on their common projects?
Starting at early morning, Escuela de Escritores would be teeming with writers and translators attending all sorts of workshops related to their literary skills as well as others, such as moderating events and conducting interviews, abilities that will come useful on their literary tours around Europe. A most uplifting sight. Literature serving as a conduit for union, friendship and talent.
Lunchbreaks were just as important, one might add. A quick break for nurturing the body and catching up with participants and staff. “A Dutch writer, a Portuguese translator and an Italian publisher are grabbing a bite together. And then one says...”, I heard once, during one of these breaks. And along with the laughs of what could be the beginning for a joke, came the most welcomed feeling of being amongst friends.
Another essential part of Montage Week were the theater rehearsals with stage director Javier Montero. If you were quiet enough and promised to behave, this most committed artist would welcome you into the hall and allow you to sit for a sneak peek at what the writers and translators were up to. “That was quite good, but let’s trying again, please. This time, try to bring your voice out from the depths of your chest. Breath with your lungs, not your stomach”. Needless to say all participants performed well beyond their expectations. Mind you, reading out loud while acting on stage is not an easy task. While all this was happening at Teatro Luchana and Escuela de Escritores, the CELA staff, consisting of project and community managers, as well as the directors of the partner institutions, were also busy conducting meetings on how to improve the conditions set by today’s literary palestra. Writers, translators, publishers and the gaps between them. The opportunities and challenges brought by modern technology and its global reach. The uniqueness of each country’s literary environment and the ways to enhance the community created by the CELA project. It was impossible not to leave the room thrilled by the looks of what’s coming ahead: a strong and shared will for the purpose of unity thru literature.
If two years was a long time to be apart, a whole week was as fleeting as a sigh. And that’s what comes, as we said earlier, with being in such excellent company. Artists and friends, friends and artists. After Montage Week, the halls of Escuela de Escritores were left silent. But not empty.