Three literary reflections on sexual abuse

Two personal testimonies and a fiction that x-rays a –no, the– real fact share the expression of the monstrosity and vileness that man and good literary manners can achieve.

Thomas Osborne
Thomas Osborne
26 November 2022 Saturday 02:44
9 Reads
Three literary reflections on sexual abuse

Two personal testimonies and a fiction that x-rays a –no, the– real fact share the expression of the monstrosity and vileness that man and good literary manners can achieve. Alejandro Palomas (Barcelona, ​​1967) and Miguel Ángel Oeste (Málaga, 1973) were children abused by their environment. Palomas was raped at the age of eight by a priest from the school where he studied. Oestes, by his father. The trauma has marked their lives, their relationships and their character. Writing is helping them to process those aberrations that there is no way to bury (“childhood breaks through all the traps we set for it”, writes the man from Malaga).

Cristina Araújo Gámir (Madrid, 1980) brilliantly debuts in the novel in Mira a esa chica, Tusquets Award winner. The group rape of an eighteen-year-old girl, which inevitably leads us to the horror of La Manada and other similar cases, appears on these pages as if it were an expert report, broken down and captured from all angles. The story is told in the second person –there are chapters narrated in the third person, transcripts of conversations with the lawyer, WhatsApp messages…–, which creates a confidential atmosphere. The structure of the book is solid, without cracks.

It shares with Normal People, by Sally Rooney, and with Their Children After Them, by Nicolas Mathieu, the ability to immerse ourselves in a world that rings true, really, a certain adolescent universe that works with its own codes. The exposition of the facts is not contaminated by prejudices or positions. Here everything is told, whether or not it helps to sympathize or empathize with the victim: the behaviors, the truths and lies, the media exposure and the networks, the language, the cruelty of the harassment and the mockery, also the compassion and the clumsy way to repair. It turns out a sociological study.

What Alejandro Palomas, 2018 Nadal Award winner, does in Esto no se dice is to open up and broaden the plane from his terrible experience in childhood to the present, in which he has turned to protecting minors who are victims of pedophilia for part of some members of the clergy (he even met with the president of the Government).

Let no one wonder about the opportunism or not of this book, for reasons beyond leaving a record with all the letters of things that happen and that cannot happen again. Reading these pages is a descent into hell. It is overwhelming to see the sore oozing and not knowing how to place the soothing cloths. As the story of a life of physical and mental pain progresses – don't they go hand in hand? – we discover the literary world of Palomas and his characters (his endearing mother, the sisters, his dog Rulfo…). And we intuit that in those volumes writing was a way of handling reality (“healthy literature”).

The abuse in childhood was added to harassment and violence -also from the father- that have led him to an existence clinging to the float of maternal love, therapy, reading and writing essential to live.

Miguel Ángel Oeste has been opening doors and windows cautiously and sometimes with resistance (“writing opens doors that one would not dare to open”). When he was little he did the same thing when he entered the house to get into his room and padlock it. He had to contain the attacks of an abusive, violent and abusive father.

This volume is the transcription of an investigation –reminiscent of Galder Reguera's in Libro de familia-. An intimate, personal and painful exploration that leads him to talk with family, friends and acquaintances to contextualize those horrors – the scene in the room, the one in the restaurant, the one in Acacias, the one in the bathroom. Rage, resentment, fear and kill are words that are repeated. They are the right words, as are the sentences. There are no boasts or flourishes.

The plot – can the story of this life be called that? – permeates us like a trickle, which responds to that of writing. The author began this work in 2009, when his father was still alive although he had not been related to him for years and his mother had just drowned in her own vomit. In 2017, with the book already advanced, his father died.

Literature can treat any subject, but not in any way. You have to know how to handle the language, the foundations of the narrative and the rhythm. These authors have done it with pain. You do not emerge unscathed from these readings.