July 2019. Winter. Argentina. Eduardo Sacheri decides to get in his car and take a trip to Patagonia. Only, Taking notes and recording the environment, he thinks and builds the characters in The General Workings of the World, his new novel. And it travels, not only 4,500 kilometers in a week, but also a path marked by introspection and the memories of his own life. A kind of emotional push.
Located at the top of the sales ranking several days before its launch and with almost 600 pages, the novel allows the winner of the 2016 Alfaguara Novel Prize to return to his first loves: football and literature.
“I had not traveled this path for a long time. Since Papers in the wind, ten years ago. I have the question of what place football will occupy in the future of my life. So I liked coming back because I don’t know if I’m going to have other occasions to come back existentially ”, he says. Sacheri in dialogue with Clarion via Zoom.
Professor Sacheri. The writer teaches classes in a secondary school. Photo Fernando of the Order
In the form of a travel tale, The general workings of the world tells the story of Federico Benítez, 50, and his teenage sons. A last-minute call alters the planned trip to the Iguazu Falls to undertake another to Patagonia.
Motivated by an urgent gratitude and with the disgusted youth, This self-absorbed and clumsy man reveals a hidden story: that of the first Interdivisional Football Tournament of the Arturo Del Manso National Normal Superior College. Y how football functioned as a laboratory of life and also, a bridge to get closer to your children. Nobody returns the same as they left.
-Are memory and experience meeting places between parents and children?
-They can be. Communicating with others requires an effort of empathy and patience to find ways and ways. Not every evocation leads to the encounter or the exercise of memory. I think it requires taking into account who you have on the other side and what There will be ways that he will understand you and ways that he will not. They are precepts that one necessarily has to take into account for that communication to materialize.
– Could football and literature also become meeting places?
-It is possible because they are games. And the game itself is a meeting zone, because it is a flexible zone, with imprecise limits and freedom. The flexible places within us are the ones that facilitate the meeting the most.
-In the book there is a line in which Federico Benítez evokes the Malvinas War and the transition to democracy in 1983. Why did he make that choice?
– I like to mix an autobiographical dose with a fiction dose. I like that mixture. Those 15-year-old boys in ’83, in a huge school in Greater Buenos Aires, are the autobiographical part. I was 15 years old in 1983 and I was in my third year at a huge school in Greater Buenos Aires. But, in addition, it seems to me that it was an exceptionally fertile moment to think, not only about the world of adolescents, but about the world of adults.
-It was interesting to see a society that tried to tune in with what was coming, with the future and let go of a very heavy past. But that transition was not simple or easy to make, contrary to what Argentine society will want to remember later, the transition to democracy as a simple happy road, without any bumps. The hindrance of the dictatorship was present in the minute actions of each person. The adults at school were full of it and we were too. At that time I was interested in seeing precisely how plagued by minimal authoritarianisms, rigidities, and confusions that transition path had. The democratic transition was not – it is my memory – a happy passage of illuminated advertising. No. It was something else much more difficult and it seems to me that it is natural that it was that way.
-What role did soccer play at that time? How was it related to politics?
-In a passage from the novel, Federico comments that they hear a little song at school: “The military dictatorship is going to end, it’s going to end” and one of the characters refers to the fact that he heard that song on the soccer field. Independent – I mention Independent for obvious personal reasons. I remember that the fields were one of the first places in which the military dictatorship began to be discussed, because in the anonymity and massiveness of the rostrum, things could be sung against the military government.
“The democratic transition was not a happy passage of bright advertising. No. It was something else much more difficult “
-What was armed on the court …
-I remember going to the field a lot and that, in the years 82 or 83, there were frequent confrontations between the fans and the Police, understanding it as the present governmental authority. It was not the Army, it was not the Armed Forces but the Police. I remember the very tense attitude that existed between the fans, who one could understand as an incarnation of civil society, and the Police, who embodied governmental authority, in some way. As a 14 or 15-year-old kid, the first place where I saw the authority of the military regime being challenged was on the soccer fields.
– And in his adolescence?
-It was also very important to make a place for me. Not a leadership site or a gloss site but at least a low acceptance site. In a huge school defend yourself by playing soccer It allowed you to have a minimum of acceptance, which was what most of us were looking for. Not to be left in the coldest of solitudes, with that almost all of us were satisfied. Well, of course there were also leaders. I was not, nor did I intend to go so far. Soccer was a refuge to avoid the elements, so for me it certainly fulfilled that role.
-What position did he play in?
-Archer. That is why the part of Federico as an archer, more gifted for sacrifice than talent. I felt very identified with him in that. The goalkeeper position is a position of pure tension and responsibility. The relationship between effort and gratification within the positions of a soccer team where it is most unbalanced is in that position. If you are an archer and everything goes well, you go unnoticed and your moments of happiness are too few and have to do with the risk that your team took, not with the conquests, not with the glory, but with the fires that you avoided and nothing else. For that position, I have enormous affection and great empathy for goalkeepers in general. Even today I look mostly at the archers and I can’t help but put myself in their shoes.
“Beyond it is heresy to contradict Diego, I believe that goalkeepers are part of football, they are absolutely necessary”
-Maradona made negative comments about the archers many times and this last summer we learned through a chat from Giannina Maradona that until one day he had not been able to sleep because the grandson had been put in the arc. Why did you decide to put the main character in that position?
– Beyond that it constitutes a heresy to contradict Diego, I believe that goalkeepers are part of football, they are absolutely necessary. Of course, perhaps the goalkeeper’s talents are not those associated with football in the first instance, but I allow myself a very humble discrepancy with the greatest. What are you going to do, you cannot always agree. We all have a heresy. This is mine.
-Does football explain the general functioning of the world?
-If we accept that it is a tiny, temporary and fleeting explanation, yes. But what I say, I say about every game. A group of guys playing hide and seek too. I say: not just sports. But, of course, how I grew up playing soccer, the game that I know how to use to explain the world is soccer. If I had grown up in Harlem, it would probably be basketball.
-It also involves Eugenia, another character, in the soccer team and places a teacher as technical director. How do you see the soccer scene and women today?
-I am very happy that something as beautiful as football – and I am not saying it from the aesthetic point of view, I mean it from the emotional, the group, the playful – is open to girls in Argentina. I clarify “in Argentina” because in other parts of the world girls have played soccer for decades and decades. I think there is still a way to go thinking about the most professional football and, as a spectator, when you watch football you want to see a superlative technical level. With professional women’s football I think there is still a way to go. Surely the girls who see them and play since they were little will have a display, a technical skill that will make Argentine women’s football a show that we all like. It is not a criticism, but a “hopefully soon”.
The arrival to the public. Eduardo Sacheri with a reader in 2019.
-Professor Muzopapa changes the life of Federico and that team. How do you think that, as a teacher, you could make an impression on your high school students today?
-My intention every year is to build knowledge from affection. And in what I just told you, there are two concepts: affection, let’s get along, let’s have fun, let’s record the specificity of each person, that this is appreciation, and the other concept is knowledge. I mean: I’m a history teacher, you have to learn history. So hopefully when my students finish the year they have with me they will have a pleasant learning experience. But learning. I believe that I am demanding, that I require an effort from my students. It seems to me that students learn from what they see you do, not from what they hear you say. If they see you interested, hard-working, attentive, punctual, that is probably reflected in them doing the same.
– Who were the people who changed your life?
-In high school I had a couple of teachers who were the kind of teacher that you say: “I want to have your class.” When you are at school, you don’t say “Oops, my life is changing.” But you say “ah, Aguirre the one from Literature is coming”. And you say: “How lucky that Aguirre, the one from Literature, is coming.” Or comes Pardo, the one from Civic Education. Not only teachers: I feel that my father and mother each in their own way … My fifth-year girlfriend, who is my wife, also transformed my life; We have been together for 35 years, we undoubtedly changed our lives, because our life would have been different if we had not met and stayed together.
-What is the most important thing that football taught you?
-To lose and save the forms when you have to lose. It’s not that you don’t mind losing, I think losing is the most excruciating experience that life foots us. Learn how, as the Spanish say, not to lose your papers. Losing with a certain dose of chivalry. And I’m not talking about football, when you have to lose professionally, when you have to lose politically, when you have to lose at work, when you have to lose affectively, this tolerating the enormous frustration that it generates seems to me that it is much easier to learn it by playing and then try to transfer that learning to the areas that are much more important in your life.
Eduardo Sacheri Basic
- Eduardo Sacheri was born in Buenos Aires in 1967. He studied History at the University of Luján, where he obtained a Bachelor’s degree.
- Currently, he works as a high school history teacher, screenwriter and writer.
- His novel The question of their eyes (2005) was made into a film by Juan José Campanella as The Secret in Their Eyes and won the Oscar for best foreign film in 2010.
- Papers in the wind (2011) also had its film adaptation and Aráoz and the truth (2008), its theatrical version.
- In 2016, he won the Alfaguara Prize for The night of the Power Plant, brought to the big screen as The odyssey of the giles, Directed by Sebastián Borensztein.
- His novel How much i loved you remained at the top of the sales ranking since its publication in 2019.
- His work was translated into more than twenty languages.