I’ve been braggin’ all week to folks that Barb scored tickets to the sold-out Eduardo Galeano reading at Berkeley’s First Congregational Church. Sadly, most people smile nicely at me and ask, “Who’s Eduardo Galeano?”
I would be more indignant except for the fact that up until Barb first introduced me to Galeano’s work a few years back, I didn’t know who Galeano was either. Second confession, I also was not immediately wowed by his work. I read Walking Words and really didn’t get it. Not until I saw Galeano’s Lannan Literary video did I become a fan of his work, speaking voice, politics and process. To date, I’ve seen the video about four times and will probably keep borrowing it from my library when I need some inspiration.
As for last night, you know the reading is going to be off the hook when a lady is outside with a handwritten sign that says I Need One More Ticket. Not only was the event sold-out but book sales where off the chart with a runner coming back every other minute with another stack of pre-signed hardcovers every five minutes. In all the craziness, Barb and I managed to get some great seats in the first row center balcony and were promptly treated to everything we expected: fierce politics, unapologetic humanitarianism, wry delivery and meticulously crafted storytelling.
Galeano described Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone as “the history of the Universe in 600 short stories.” A bold claim from any writer but during his reading Galeano shared tales regarding West African sculptors, the Trojan War, pre-historic cave artists, the French Revolution, the first nations of the Américas, DW Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation,” Hernán Cortés, the Lincoln Brigade, George W. Bush & William McKinley, Ambrose Bierce, Alan Turing, Scheherazade, the Berlin Wall and Che Guevara. Now that might not be the entire universe but he did only read for an hour.
One of my favorite moments was Galeano speaking on how his education came not from universities but from life: “What I know about the art of writing and storytelling I learned from the cafés of Montevideo. This is how I learned to capture the past. How the story that happened centuries or millenia ago is also happening right now, as you are telling it. This I learned in the cafés. My masters were anonymous.”
Very fitting when you take into account that the main protagonist in the stories Galeano read for us were not the historical figures listed above, but the anonymous, the invisible, the disappeared, the forgotten, the jiabro, the fulano, the nobodies, the faces we see but do not engage.
More Eduardo Galeano
• Preview of Mirrors