Literature in pandemic times: part I

One of the global effects that the pandemic has had is that we can recognize the many other challenges that our societies face up close and personal. Increasingly, empathy and resilience have become tools of social coexistence in very high demand. But how do we exercise them in chaotic environments plagued by individualism?

Approach through literature

There are no pills to enter into the experience of the other and feel it from there perspective, nor formulas to come out stronger and more enthusiastic after adversity. But perhaps, the transporting capacity of reading does allow us to be with others and begin to feel a little that the gap is, when not imagined, illusory.

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Marshiari Medina is a translator, writer, and editor. Currently, her two digital projects, Teresa Magazine, and Karkinos Magazine, give voice to a new generation of writers in Mexico, Peru, Colombia, Chile, Japan, among other places. It is inevitable to note that both projects use literature as an excuse to bring diverse communities together around common interests.

Marshiari is, as an editor, an excellent example of how to move from hierarchy to horizontality, of how to foster talent in others and reduce the filters of legitimacy that have sickened so many cultural fields. As a woman, she is an example of how to fight for a life without getting lost in the drama of adversity.

Teresa Magazine

Beatriz Paz: What is your relationship in life with storytelling? Do you own, from others?

Marshiari Medina: I grew up with three grandparents who had the gift of oral narration. Each in their own way told me their adventures and daily experiences, all impregnated with truly hallucinatory imagery, a mixture of, let’s say, magical surrealism and wonderful realism. That permeated a lot in me, I loved to listen to them and go into worlds that I did not know through the narration of my grandparents. Then, guided by that familiar narrative nature, I also wanted to participate in that syncretism of beliefs, occurrences, and wonderful absurdities, so for me, literature was always constituted together with the playfulness. The truth is that for a long time I was not aware of the meaning or transcendence of the act, it happened recently when I began to write stories for publications in a formal sense.

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I believe that one makes communion with others through words. One cannot produce literature without reading the other, so my own literary acts are a symbiosis with the creation of the other through reading and dialogue, through preferences and creative obsessions. Every prefiguration that becomes literature emanates from a dialogic act. As a derivation of this, I add that opening spaces where others can publish their stories is part of my own constant need to tell them.

Beatriz Paz: Teresa Magazine defines itself as a post-liberal-anarcho-communist magazine. What do these positions mean to you and how do you harmonize them with space as capitalized as the Internet?

Marshiari Medina: Thank you very much for the space provided to talk about Teresa Magazine. I feel very excited to be able to give voice to this project, which has only been active for a short time and has made its own way. Indeed, we call ourselves a post-liberal-anarcho-communist magazine. When I decided to found the magazine I wanted to create a space that was totally inclusive. These ideas related to emblematic weltanschauungen emerged as a little phenomenological joke. Historically and philosophically they are conflicting concepts. So, this little “joke”, points to the appropriation of a space where the language is a playful exploration par excellence, a place of meaningless “ideologies”, which ironically rescue the diversity of creative expressions. So, at the beginning, we asked ourselves some questions: What was going to be our orientation? What kind of texts and contents was going to be published? What sections were going to integrate the magazine? All those questions were wandering around in our minds, and the only thing we knew was that we wanted to build a literary aleph, created from all kinds of tones and styles.

A two-headed monster

On the other hand, the Internet is one of the most profitable tools for large companies. Every click on the most recognized search engines is an extra penny to their pockets.

The worldwide web is a two-headed monster. On the one hand, its multifaceted look is integrated into one of the most successful business models in the world, and on the other hand, it offers the opportunity to open spaces that allow us to converge and generate ideas in a common ground.

In the case of art and literature, in general, the Internet has allowed the dissemination of knowledge and content with a speed and ease never seen before.

That’s why she decided to create a non-profit platform. To get rid (her idea) of the capitalist chains, and to rebel as much as possible. Obviously, one cannot escape from such dynamics, but it is also true that fetishism is the best weapon to criticize fetishism, as Marx said.

The time invested in Teresa Magazine does not monetize, but it does help to connect young writers in a dynamic of learning and support in order to promote their literary proposals.

Facing the challenges

As publishers we face multiple challenges, not only creating content that has been selected (probably translated), edited, designed, and framed, in this case digitally, but also fighting the battle to be read. What strategies do you use to build readers and contribute to literary culture, not only of production but of appropriation?

Teresa Magazine is a magazine that is emerging with various challenges. From self-financing to managing the space and generating an audience from scratch, to convincee our audience of the importance of literature as an exercise in social appropriation.

They have chosen to have a relaxed tone, where emerging authors are not intimidated by the classic formalities of the big publishers. We present ourselves as a springboard for learning, experimenting, and stumbling.

This lightness generates confidence with their audience. They see us as allies on a ruinous and uneven path. In this sense, we are a “school”, not in the classical sense, but in the original meaning of leisure time: a contemplation dedicated to creative play. This is how this project is being built, placing the magazine as if it were a comrade for the new writers, a playful space to subtract horror from the world by resorting to a miniature copy of it, a literary copy, of course.

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Beatriz Paz: One of the advantages and also the clumsiness of the hyperdensity of contents, in a world of influencers, bloggers, new media, is that anyone with Internet access can create content and share them. Advantage, because we can escape the filters of the traditional cultural production mafias. Clumsiness, because there is a lot to read and constantly bad. How do you deal with this to ensure the reader’s literary quality without falling into snobbery? What is the flow of your selection process?

Marshiari Medina: We believe in literary solidarity and democracy. We feel that we are partners rather than dictators. We read each text carefully and try to suggest, dialogue or simply support the authors in their creative process. Literature is perfectible: a bad text, after good teamwork of the editor and the author, can end up being publishable. We see each story as a unique experience. If he wrote it is because he wanted to leave a part of his being, it is because he felt the need to share that supercalifragilistic world with others.

Their demands for the selection of texts are based on a playful comradeship. You lack accents, you eat, you don’t distinguish between why or what, but they (Teresa Magazine) are there with you, they give you a hand and explain.

Marisha Median had the opportunity to take writing workshops, with great teachers such as Hernán Lavín Cerda, Ignacio Ortiz Monasterio or Beatriz Espejo, who transformed the space of literature into an emotional cocoon, inclusive, free of all evil. She thought of them when creating the magazine, with the aim of making each proposal come out. Each story has to become entrenched bits.

Beatriz Paz: Art and literature can seem like luxuries in a classist society like Mexico’s where, in addition, almost half the population lives in poverty, and reading rates are so low. How can we make them tools for the reconstruction of our social fabric? How can we influence a generation so exposed to violence and the banalization of culture?

Marshiari Medina: I like to think that art and literature are, essentially, like death: there is no class distinction in them. But this is an ontological debate of mine. We all know that we are social products, subject to historical norms. Having said that, those who have the tools to create publications and generate creative spaces have become cloistered in an unequal and exclusive macro-structure. A few have taken over a space that in principle belongs to everyone. Small guilds have been created, enclosed in airtight bubbles, and rejected the community, moving away from the peripheries to proliferate in the world of profit.

Being learning companions

At Teresa Magazine they try to be learning partners because they know that this approach allows young people who saw the fact of publishing in some digital or printed media as something unreachable, full of formalities, etc., to realize that this can become a learning experience. Recently, a boy wrote a message that filled our souls with jokes: “When I see my primary school Spanish teacher, I will be able to ask her with my head held high: Who is the one with the letter “culera” now, bitch?

The system tells you that if you don’t meet the canonical requirements and follow the traditional paradigms, you can’t be this or that.

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There are no alternatives, no way for young people to see opportunities to explore and create. Unfortunately, they are intimidated by structures that tell them how to shape themselves, and if something goes wrong, they are outside the system, excluded from it and become cannon fodder.

That’s why they believe that they must reach out, shake their hands and not cross them off with red, to help them find in art and literature a means to express their concerns, their passions, their suffering. That’s where the pain and the joy are. There are the dead who cry and the songs that make them fall in love.

This is a complicity, not a Hobbesian struggle of all against all, much less a pyramid that rises above the silence of those below. We are all a voice that is formed from little pieces. There we embrace and support each other and say and love each other. That’s what literature is for, that’s what art is for, to get together and be one species.

Translated By: Solkes

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