FunCulturalThus was born "A woman of 4 in conduct"

Thus was born "A woman of 4 in conduct"

As the sesquicentennial of the Colombian Academy of the Language was celebrated this Monday, May 10, one of its corresponding members, Jorge Emilio Sierra Montoya, published on Amazon his book “Three Great Academics of the Language”, which brings together his biographies of Jaime Posada , Jaime Sanín and José Consuegra. We publish a fragment of the work, exclusive to El Espectador , in which Jaime Sanín Echeverri revealed details about the origin of his most famous novel.

“You’re going to end up like Eduardo Santos or Laureano Gómez,” his wife Noemí warned every time he, Jaime Sanín Echeverri, showed him one of his columns from the newspaper El Colombiano , alluding to the fact that he would never be the author of books to continue like this, as public employee in the tax administration in Medellín, writing only newspaper articles!

“You have to publish a book,” was the daily chant, received with a certain indifference or disdain for the aforementioned.

Fortunately in those days, around 1948, the director of a local magazine organized a simple but heartfelt tribute to two of his dearest friends, respectable intellectuals of the region: Manuel Mejía Vallejo -who had just published his first novel: “La tierra it was us ”- and Carlos Castro Saavedra -author of his acclaimed first book of verses:“ Fusiles y luceros -, who were joined by another prestigious writer of the new generation.

Challenge between friends

The three met to celebrate, after the warm tribute, at El café sin radio, the only café in Medellín that, as its name indicates, did not have the characteristic radio service, with popular music, of said businesses, which is why there he could converse calmly. The intellectuals, of course, were regular visitors to the premises, both because of their customary bohemian style and because they held lively gatherings around a table, where they pontificated on the divine and the human.

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When the beers went to their heads – Jaime recalled, laughing – the aforementioned director of the magazine and promoter of the tribute, which was of a recognized communist tendency, made fun of him because Sanín, unlike Mejía Vallejo and Castro Saavedra, did not have a single book of his to show.

The same complaint from my wife, he thought immediately, far from rejoicing at the coincidence.

To add insult to injury, the other members of the audience sympathized with the mockery, as if it were a challenge: they were challenging him to write a book!

Gentlemen’s agreement

“Stop fooling around,” answered Sanín, who declared, accepting the challenge: “In a month, if I feel like it, I’ll write a novel like Manuel’s or a collection of poems like Carlos’s.”

The host, without thinking twice, got up from his seat and shouted, at the top of his voice, so that everyone could hear him: “You have to take the rod!” Then he took a coin, after imposing the rule that with a stamp it would be a novel and with a face a collection of poems, and he threw it with force upwards, hitting the ceiling of the cafe.

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As soon as the coin fell “on seal”, there was nothing more to discuss. “In a month I will have the novel for you,” Jaime promised his colleagues, who celebrated his decision with joy, although surely doubting that such a difficult alcoholic promise would be fulfilled.

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“And what is the novel going to be about?” They then asked him, to put him back in trouble. As the waitress approached at that moment, a beautiful and well-presented woman despite her humble condition, she answered them, to give them the scoop: “She will be the protagonist!”

Then, after ten at night, they said goodbye. “I have to write the novel to cover their mouths,” he repeated to himself as the public van in which he was traveling was heading home, where Noemi was waiting for him to receive the good news that he would finally fulfill his dream of writing a book, unlike Santos and Laureano.

Writer’s vocation

They were things of destiny or divine providence. Who knows. The truth is that, when he got home, his wife was reading a book: “The Writer’s Vocation , whose Argentine author, Hugo Wast, was in fashion.

The title of the work suited him like a glove. And since they both had the habit of reading together before falling asleep, Jaime took the book, separated with his hands the pages that were still stuck due to editing errors, and prepared to continue reading aloud, without even imagining that some sentences seemed written for him and, therefore, to be able to fulfill the covenant sealed with his friends.

A medium-talented author – Wast pointed out – can produce 180 pages in three months, that is, a book, just by writing two pages a day, but if he perseveres, in six months it will be 360, “which is a great book”, and If you maintain that discipline, in a year it will have about 700 pages, the size of a novel that Americans take on their vacations to the beach to entertain themselves and rest in the blazing sun.

It was a decisive blow. He understood, ipso facto , that the proposed task was not impossible. And he followed the advice to the letter: he wrote two and more pages, because on the first night there were several hours of feverish work until, in the blink of an eye, he had ready the opening chapter of “A 4-in-a-row woman. conduct ”, a name that did not appear until later.

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In the middle of the term

He had the advantage of writing fast, almost as fluently as he thought, and in his night work hours, he filled more and more pages of the novel that was completed in the record time of fifteen days, half the time agreed in El café sin radio.

“It’s that you get excited when the story takes hold and breaks through with all its characters,” he said to describe his creative experience, when inspiration takes flight.

Due to the haste, he accepted that he could have incurred problems of novel structure and even writing, for which he quoted, making a pun, the last sentence of Cervantes in Don Quixote, as an epigraph, which more than justified it: “Yes it is not well written, it is true ”.

Once the work was written, on long strips of paper that became illegible, it was just missing to find the editor, who would soon discover.

Looking for an editor

Saúl Aguirre – ”Alberto’s brother” – was director of the Departmental Printing Office of Antioquia. And he was his poet friend, fortunately. And he had so much confidence in him that he gave him his monstrosity by asking for a budget for the edition of the book, his first novel that would consecrate him in the history of Colombian literature.

Saúl laughed as soon as he saw that the text was in draft, uncorrected. However, he responded to the tacit request of Jaime, who, as soon as he knew the cost of the edition: a thousand pesos, at the rate of one peso per copy! He said, resigned, that he did not have the money.

“But I’m going to get it anyway!” He added, leaving the book to print.

“La Quebrada de Santa Elena , the work was called at the beginning. This is how he alluded to the stream that ran down to Medellín, the same one that was born crystalline and became cloudy in the city, as happened to its central character, the beautiful and tragic peasant woman in his love story.

The title of the novel

That name was not the definitive one, you know. The change occurred again by mere chance: Jaime, in the company of several friends, was enjoying a pleasant social gathering at the home of a Mrs. Eastman -daughter of Don Tomás Eastman-, spinster by more details, very nice, who delighted of his guests, usually important people from the political and cultural life of the city.

“In Medellín,” said the lady, the center of the gathering, “life for a woman like me is uncomfortable. Because if I go to the cinema alone, they say that I am in a plan of conquest, and if I am accompanied, that I am going to get married or have relationships with my companion ”. And he concluded, with regret and irony: “Anyway, everyone thinks I am a 4-year-old woman in conduct.”

There is the title! Jaime thought, aware that the expression was a great fit for his novel, which came to light at a Book Fair, where he was fortunate enough to sell out, in its entirety, the thousand copies that Saúl Aguirre printed to the races.

The dairy cow

The other editions ran the same fate -15 in total! – which gave him enough money to go to see the sea in Cartagena with his wife Noemi, have his own house north of Bogotá and form the only capital he had until the end of his days.

His book was like the dairy cow of an intellectual career marked by economic hardship.

* Corresponding member of the Colombian Academy of Language