Falling in love with a Literary piece, in the form of poetry or fiction, is, to a certain extent, just like loving an actual person. I have fallen in love with many books and texts throughout my life and some of them have managed to find a permanent place in my heart. Sometimes, I find myself remembering a line I read many years ago, savouring it as one savours the memory of one that is dear to us. I can also actually assert with full certainty that I feel deep, and indeed measurable, affection for the authors who penned these pieces of writing that I treasure so much: these memories and sensations that have been imprinted in my heart straight from their books. I can name these authors without hesitation: Oscar Wilde and Virginia Woolf lead the way, with many other titans constantly swapping places across the top ranks: Dickens, Dante, Borges, Eco, and so many more.
The fact that my two favourite writers are British doesn’t cease to fascinate me. When I first met Wilde and Woolf, the possibility of coming to live in London was as remote as imagining that Venezuela, my home, would ever spiral into disaster and collapse at any point during my lifetime. I read them both in Spanish translations when I first encountered them at a young age, then I read them in English when I still couldn’t speak the language properly. Now I read them all over again, from inside their world, discovering unexpected undertones in their lines, realising allusions that would have remained concealed to me if I had never come into close contact with their wonderful culture.
How not to feel affection for these writers? Beyond the fact that I venerate both their prose and their respective leitmotifs, I have grown to perceive them as companions -even accomplices- in this unexpected journey across cultures that took me by surprise ten years ago.
It is not difficult for me to explain why I am so fond of most of my favourite writers. I know that I cherish Dickens for his impossibly perfect prose and for the unexpected twists that invariably make me gasp -and sometimes cry- in surprise at the end of every single novel. In Dante’s case, I’ll be forever grateful to him for showing me the way in which hypocrites and flatterers and crooked politicians will pay for their meanness in the darkest circles of hell, all gracefully illustrated through Dante’s allegorical verse and under the guidance of none other than Virgil, the great Roman poet. Borges, well, I am indebted to him just for introducing me to the puzzling, yet fascinating Aleph, but also for showing me that language is infinite and can open up doors towards fantastic and inconceivable worlds.
Virginia Woolf and Oscar Wilde, however, stand on a place of their own. Yes, I condole Virginia’s anger against the patriarchal world that insisted in confining her irreverent and curious free spirit and I’m perpetually captivated by the intensity with which she loved women and everything feminine. But I love her literary work for reasons that go beyond words. Something about A Room of One’s Own, Mrs. Dalloway and her short stories, resonate deep within me, make my soul crunch in pain and empathy every time I read them. The same thing happens to me when I read Oscar Wilde. Something about his stories for children, particularly The Selfish Giant and The Happy Prince, and above all, De Profundis, the most beautiful love letter ever written, move me to the point of tears, no matter how many times I read them.
There is a distinctive quality in Virginia Woolf and Oscar Wilde’s writing, which I haven’t found, in such outstanding measure, in any other author. Every time I read either of them, I feel that I’m allowed, even if just for a few seconds, an exclusive look into the core of our humanity: that plain and raw common ground that defines us as humans. I see weakness, suffering and vulnerability, accompanied by extraordinary pride, courage and faith. This is how inspired De Profundis has left me after reading it for the fourth or fifth time -I have lost track!-. This is why I love Literature, it just never ceases to inspire!