“Finally there I was, alone. Lightly leaning my forehead against the plane window. As if I didn’t want to forget anything. Straining my eyes to see, I could see my brothers on the terrace of the Aeroparque. “They had gone to witness the takeoff to make sure the plane left with me on board.” This is how “Jirones de mi vida: de Espartaco a Montoneros” begins, the memoirs of the plastic artist Nora Patrich that were presented at the Buenos Aires Press Union. On November 29 she performs in Bella Vista, at 8 pm at the Bók Cultural House.
Beginning with his exile in 1977, Patrich makes a retrospective journey composed of memorial sketches about Argentine revolutionary militancy. In “Jirones de mi vida” the recent history of the country is illuminated by the personal and emotional approach that the author gives it.
“The memory is not mine. It is everyone’s memory and it is everyone’s story. This is what I remember, how I experienced certain events that belong to everyone. It is not a story that belongs to me,” said Patrich about the book that articulates personal memories, works by the author, home records and historical archive, along with texts by Gabriela Sosti and Pablo Llonto.
–You said that in a way you felt “liberated” for having published this book. How did you start this project?
–It has several beginnings. When Horacio Machi, my partner, is killed, the first thing I do is buy a newspaper. In that diary I began to write things for the boys because I was afraid that they would not know who his father had been. So, I started writing things that I felt or that happened to me with all this about death, about murder. Later, another thing that happened to me is that every time I found out something that had to do with me or Horacio I would write it down on a piece of paper and put it in a box. That was another way of compiling the story. While exiled in Canada, I began to write about the disappeared. They were funny anecdotes that had happened to me with some colleagues, because I also wanted to recover that aspect of our lives. Not everything was sadness, torture, deaths and disappearances. Several years later, a colleague tells me: Roberto Baschetti is writing a book about militant stories and I think you should be in it. That prompted me to write other stories. Finally, my children and grandchildren constantly told me that I had to write down what had happened to me. During the pandemic I started doing it.
–From the Ezeiza Massacre to the Montoneros Counteroffensive, in Jirones de mi vida you cover, from your experience, a series of milestones in recent Argentine history that are sometimes very much discussed. How do you get along with the treatment these events received?
–Sometimes I find things that make me noise. There I write down my position on the side of the page. In those cases I always understood that that person had lived it in those ways and I had lived it in another way. That is why my book is not autobiographical, but rather memoirs. I tried to make a kind of mix of memoirs and scrapbooks. Everything I tell is backed up in some way and the book is full of photos and files. But what I narrate is part of my memories. With Roberto Baschetti, here at home, we have a very large, very important archive. He is a historian who has one of the most important archives on Peronism. So he had that available to me as well. During the pandemic, I also consulted with colleagues with whom he remembered having experienced different events and they, in general, remembered it in the same way. It was a very interesting reconstruction process for me.
–At various points in your memoirs you refer to the difficulty of explaining, of putting into words, certain experiences. Is this something that deepens with the passage of time?
–These are facts that are difficult to explain if they were not experienced. For example, at one point I referred to the use of cyanide pills. That was something that tormented me because I imagined the day I was going to have to explain it to my children. I never hid or denied anything from them. I always took responsibility for everything I did and what we did. So, obviously, I was going to have to explain that to them, because it was something we did. Furthermore, Horacio had even put it in his mouth. How do you explain to them that someone did something like that but that didn’t mean they loved you less, but on the contrary? These are things that are difficult to explain and that are understood today.
–Did you think about your children when you wrote your memoirs?
–Many times yes. In my children, my grandchildren, my sister-in-law, Horacio’s sister who is very critical. That always helped me demand more from myself, because I have people around me who are very critical, very tough. It seems good to me, because if one does it one must seek excellence. But I didn’t just write thinking about my family. I also thought about future generations. That is why I dedicate the last chapter to all children, to different types of children. Because I think I tried to write it in easy language that’s actually how I speak. If you had to bitch, you bitch. I use my common way of speaking because I don’t know how to write any other way, because I don’t know how to express myself any other way. And also because for me it is important that future generations, the younger ones, understand it. Otherwise, why do we write or do everything we do?
–In one of the prologues, Sandra Russo highlights your voice, which narrates the story with a “background of perennial, unshakable joy.” Was it a conscious position on your story?
–No, I think I am like that. In the most terrible moments I get more humor. There are people who don’t understand it, but I was like that all my life. I remember when my dad passed away. My three brothers and I were walking in the cemetery dying of laughter. Everyone was looking at us. The reality is that you remembered my dad and you couldn’t not laugh. He made jokes with us all the time, he was a very funny guy. I don’t know if my humor comes from there. I have a very particular humor and I have become accustomed to facing the most difficult moments that way.
–Art is present throughout the book in the form of poems, paintings and songs. However, in the narrative of your life it begins to appear after exile. Because?
–I had not thought of it. I started in the world of the arts when I was very young. My old man had an art gallery and I collaborated, helped. I discovered Spartacus when I was eleven. When I turned fifteen I asked for a painting as a gift. During my militant times, which began in the seventies, I had to give up everything. That’s what it has to do with that. Somehow art disappears in my life, but the plastic, not the poetry. We, my generation, read a lot of poetry. We fed a lot on poetry and songs to keep us going. It was what gave us strength. Later in exile too, in those moments of sadness. Poetry or music was what helped me. Many of my paintings that I painted in exile, in Canada, were done listening to Teresa Parodi. I did all of them listening to our music and all of them, crying. When I returned, and after the tumor that was removed from my brain, I could no longer cry. Something happened.
–Your memories are also a story of displacement. How do you connect with the territory?
–I was always very much into living in Argentina. I always wanted that, since I was very little. My parents would leave, they would take us to other places, and I would score all the time. My mom took me shopping, she bought me a dress, and I said: yes, but it would have been prettier if it was made in Argentina. Things like that, she drove her crazy. I remember when we lived in Los Angeles and before going to school I would climb on a rock at the bottom of the garden and sing the National Anthem. I boycotted them anyway. I always felt very, very Argentine. However, with my parents I lived in 24 houses and later, alone, I lived in 26. There are things that repeat themselves even if you don’t want them to. My grandmother came here in exile, although the exiles of that time did not refer to themselves as exiles. When I was on the plane, I began to realize that my grandmother had gone into exile from Russia. Stories sometimes repeat themselves not necessarily for the same cause, the same reason.
–On November 29 you are going to present your book in Bella Vista, why there?
–I live in Bella Vista, in the San Miguel District. The area changed a lot. I live nine blocks from Campo de Mayo and twelve blocks from the Military Hospital, where I have a mural that was vandalized during the Macri government. Well, here I have a lot of neighbors who are Peronists, friends who get together every Saturday to have lunch and share ideas. So I decided that I was not going to make them go to the Capital, but rather I would do it where I live. Then I’m going to continue spinning. On December 1st I will be in La Matanza and then I will go to Rosario, a very important city for me because, although it was there where Horacio was killed, I was also very happy. For me that is important: to recover the happiness that one lived in different places. Because that death was the product of a lot of beautiful things that we were doing. That’s why they sent him.