Inside the Actors Studio with moderator James Lipton is a TV program I always enjoyed watching. Now-a-days though, dated YouTube re-runs are all I can see.
Mr. Lipton always asked the same simple questions, but the content never seemed repetative because his non-aggressive style relaxed his guests to the point that they’d reveal more about themselves than they’d planned on. Oh yes, surprising responses came from those benign prompts. I especially liked it when he’d ask:
If you could have dinner with anyone alive or dead, who would you choose?
Who would you pick if asked this question? There are many people from my personal life, as well as famous figures, who I would l-o-v-e to dine with. And last week in Mexico City, Jorge and I had the great pleasure of sharing lunch with one of the people who’d be near the top of my list, none other than, Elena Poniatowska.
Born in Paris, Ms. Poniatowska left France when World War II began. Her Mexican-born mother and her father, an officer in the French army (who in fact was descended from the royal Polish family) decided that their children should be taken to safety with the maternal family. At the time, no one imagined that the ten year old émigré would become – a voice for the oppressed in Latin America – especially women.
In 1954, at age 18, Elena began working for the Mexican newspaper, Excelsior. Since then, she has published more than fifty literary works in her name, as well as thousands of editorial pieces. Her most famous book, La Noche de Tlatelolco (published in English as Massacre in Mexico) is about the 1968 student protests and killings. Her reporting of political dissention and retaliatory government cruelty made her a hero to all activists and critical thinkers in the country.
Known as Elenita to her millions of fans, she is the fourth woman to be awarded the Cervantes Prize, the most prestigious honor for Spanish language literature. It is given every year on April 23rd, the death date of author, Miguel de Cervantes (author of Don Quixote) for whom the prize is named.
“The silence of the poor is a silence representing centuries’ worth of being forgotten and pushed back to the edges of society,” said the author when she accepted the 2014 Cervantes in Madrid. In the same speech, she paid homage to Gabriel García Marquez She said that his novel – One Hundred Years of Solitude – inspired Latin Americans to raise their voices.
The Spanish jury lauded Elena’s “firm commitment to contemporary history” and described the author as “one of the most powerful voices in Spanish-language literature.”
At her home, everything is “Elenisima”. The house is inviting, and small like her. Flowers of every hue grow all over – in the garden, on windowsills – and perched on a tiered stand under a skylight in the dining room. Books – especially the ones on the end tables next to the comfy yellow couch – lay open, not carefully shelved.
Read more tomorrow…