The keys to "Elena Sabe", the "little frequented" novel for which Claudia Piñeiro can now win the Booker Prize

The keys to “Elena Sabe”, the “little frequented” novel for which Claudia Piñeiro can now win the Booker Prize

“Elena knows”, the novel by Claudia Piñeiro

Even though I had been writing for a while, in 2007 Claudia Pineiro She was, to almost everyone, the author of The Thursday Widows. With this novel, published in 2005, which described the life of a country, Menemism, its fall, the Argentinian author won the Clarín Novela prize and quickly became the owner of a cocktail that is difficult to obtain: the one that combines the critical applause and massive reading.

However, with the novel that followed The widows… Pineiro it wasn’t to give readers more than they already liked. The novel that followed was called Ellen knows, and it was a dark, hard and bitter story. It is this novel, precisely, for which she is now nominated for the International Booker Prize, an important English prize for works that come from another language. “It’s a book that is better received today than when it was written in 2007,” The author has now told Infobae.

this difficult book Piñeiro dedicated it to his mother, who died a year earlier. “Because she would have understood,” he said then. Because the mother, she said, was sick and laughed at her illness. “There are situations in this bond that are understood when something has happened to you,” he said then.

Claudia Pineiro

Claudia Pineiro

this difficult book Pineiro he dedicated it to his mother, who had died a year earlier.

the protagonist of Ellen knows she is also a mother and she is also sick: she has Parkinson’s disease which barely allows her to walk, barely allows her to lift her head. So, however, while the effect of a pill that allows you to move a little hard, he goes from Burzaco -be careful, that’s where Piñeiro comes from- to Belgrano to try to find answers to the death of his daughter .

Rita, the daughter, appeared hanging from the church steeple. They say it was suicide; Elena doesn’t think so. She knows her daughter wouldn’t go near a church on a rainy day and that day, well, there was lightning of all colors.

Does anyone want to hurt him? For Elena, from the prepaid employee to the priest, everyone is suspicious.

The novel recounts an event from the past. Twenty years ago, Rita found another woman, Isabel, throwing up on the doorstep of the local abortionist’s house. He stopped her entrance, brought her back to her husband. Does this have a link? Elena travels to talk to Isabel, the woman Piñeiro chose to talk about how you can’t want to be a mother even with the means, even with a serious partner and no problems in sight. “I was looking for a character who had no excuses to be able to talk about desire”, he said then.

Several years later, Piñeiro will become one of the voices of the fight for the legalization of abortion in Argentina. “You MPs who vote against are going to have to look at a granddaughter tomorrow and tell her that you voted for a woman to have an embryo in her body and that girl’s eyes will convey the horror to you”he said in an address to Congress.

And advanced: “Language constructs reality and they try to steal a word from us. Every time someone says they’re against the law because they’re with life, they’re excluding us all. We are also for life, don’t let them steal a word from us”.

But Ellen knows -the novel that this grand prize can bring her- is not an allegation in favor of abortion, although it tells how a woman can not want or know how to be a mother. Ellen knows It is a reflection on the links, on how one cannot love the mother, or not love the daughter and have good reasons to do so. How to attend to someone with a worsening illness one day and the next can generate not-so-noble feelings. “A portrait of pain,” he says Pineiro when the novel was fresh. It was also about that.

A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since 2007 and today Pineiro is a fundamental voice, through her books but also through her screenplays – she is co-author of The kingdom, the Netflix series that exploded in 2021. Of the nomination, surely many will return to Ellen knowsmaybe one of the books Pineiro which received the least attention at the time.

It’s worth it. A lot.

Elena knows where to find Isabel, but not how to get there. Where she herself took her twenty years ago, following Rita. If luck is on your side, if Isabel hasn’t moved, if she’s not dead like her daughter, you’ll find her there, in an old house in Belgrano, with a heavy wooden door and iron fittings. in bronze, right next to some doctors’ surgeries. . She can’t remember the name of the street, if she only remembered the question her daughter asked her at the time, have you ever heard of a street called Soldier of Independence, Mom?, then she would know. Soon he will know, because he remembers that it is a block or two from the avenue that runs along Buenos Aires from the Retiro to General Paz, near a small square and a railroad. They didn’t see the train, but they heard it leaving and Rita asked, which branch is it?, but Isabel didn’t answer, because she was crying.


But Rita is gone, someone killed her even though everyone says otherwise, Elena knows that, and despite respecting her memory, she cannot afford such a maneuver to perform the ritual for her deceased daughter. It was on this sidewalk that Rita met Isabel, she thinks, the woman she picks up that morning, for the first time tells one thing to another, then she walks hard, calmly, as if that checkerboard that her daughter had cursed so many times made sense. . When the second block ends, he hesitates. If she continues straight, she will only have three blocks to go until she reaches the window where she would have to say a round trip to Plaza, but that path would lead her past the door of the bank where they pay pensions, so it would be likely that she would meet someone, that someone would want to offer her their condolences, that would keep her longer than necessary, and then she would definitely miss the ten o’clock train .

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *