The eccentric characters in ‘Los mares de la Luna’, the stories of Juan Fernando Merino

The book of stories entitled Los mares de la luna (Editorial Planeta, 2020) by Juan Fernando Merino is the work of a great translator and writer of short distances. A lunar cartography compiled after many years of traveling, reading, writing and rewriting.

In Elkin Restrepo’s prologue, the title is explained by the craters left on the moon, formerly compared to the sea. Craters that we all have in our body-moon, our lives-moon. They are traces of pain traced by an ironic, humorous pen, not at all defeatist.

Los mares de la luna appears twenty-five years after his first book of short stories, Las visitas ajenas, a long enough time to measure how far, for good, life has made his literature and him another kind of writer. A unique writer in a country with so many authors obsessed with looking alike and playing the card of being the same. And that now he delights us with this series of unforgettable stories.

Elkin Restrepo calls the author “eccentric” with an “eccentric” work.

Merino is the owner of a clear and particular sense of reality, which we could call eccentric, oblivious to all pedantry, and which gives a separate, very significant value to his stories. To the beautiful stories of him.

By eccentric we can understand that it is off center, that it is looking for another center. I think of the verses of Roberto Juarroz: “At the center of the party is the void. But in the center of the void there is another party.

The seas of the moon - Juan Fernando Merino

‘The seas of the moon’ (2020) brings together 12 stories, each one with the name of one of the supposed oceans, seas, lakes and swamps that ancient astrologers thought existed in lunar geography.

Photo: Special for Gazette

In Juan Fernando Merino’s story entitled “Sea of ​​Waves”, the center of the party is neither more nor less than the so-called “capital of the world”, New York, where the god Money makes a vacuum. Separate the useless from the useful, the profitable art of street art. But in the center of that emptiness is another party. It is the meeting of musicians who decide to put together a band, and when putting together let’s think of “avant-garde” in its original military sense. They are musicians-soldiers of life who are going to cross New York revitalizing it with their notes and poetry. This until the wind divides them like beach sand.

It is therefore the story of some eccentrics who, at least for a while, find their own center. A sad and beautiful center, chaotic but experimental, both serious and playful, where characters with different histories, sensibilities, ages, languages ​​and countries come together. It is with the variety and richness of humanity that “Sea of ​​Waves” and the other stories in this brilliant book are addressed. The party of the peripheral, the marginal, the superstitious finds a center in the short stories of Juan Fernando Merino in an ephemeral way in narrative terms: since a large part of his characters, such as bands of musicians or beggars on vacation, end up disintegrating. More than citizens of a city, they are citizens of the sea that disappear with the waves. But the ephemeral nature of these eccentricities ends up becoming eternal through the author’s modernist writing, in the sense that modernity is nothing more than the sum of the words: fashion (the ephemeral) + eternity.

Juan Fernando Merino’s writing draws from a great Greco-Latin culture, which allows him to give a center to so much eccentricity. We cannot help but think of Homer, the great blind aeda, as well as the narrator of the story “Sea of ​​waves”. His name is Ithamar, which breaking it down we see the word “sea” and the word “ita”, which could make us think of Ithaca, as the Greco-Latin center, the land of the story.

Rodrigo’s neighbor was known as Ithamar el Ciego, a violinist of Jewish origin born in Argentina to Russian and Ukrainian grandparents, with a slight Creole mix, as adept at interpreting a Klezmer melody as a classical piece, a tango or a Mississippi blues .

This narrator is the one who takes the passage through the world of marginal musicians to eternity. We can see the typical sacrificial figure of Greco-Latin carnival works in that the characters end up knowing misfortune and even tragedy, but, in exchange for this, they go down in history. In other words, they pay a high price for being immortalized. In the story of Juan Fernando Merino, the last member of the band, the man who calls himself “legally blind”, is the one who can tell the story of the musicians. Someone to be wary of, because we don’t know if he is completely blind or if he is kidding us. In any case, Ithamar reveals a classic theme: the difficulty of telling the true story, the most truthful. The narrator himself is an eccentric, brash and sarcastic who with artifice and airs of Mediterranean culture gives a central value to the decentered, to the marginality.

In the center of Juan Fernando Merino’s stories there is a periphery that is nourished by polysemy, from the Greco-Latin past, from the mixture of the high and the low typical of the carnivalesque genre, all to find its own center. Its own party to which I invite the largest number of readers to participate.

The eccentric characters in ‘Los mares de la Luna’, the stories of Juan Fernando Merino