On narrating the self when history enters life- 327 notebooks

Last week I watched 327 notebooks (part of essay film festival) and it is a feast.  Andrés di Tella makes a film about his friend, who is packing away his office in the states and going back home. We see bookshelves being emptied into cardboard boxes. Life packaged in the beginning of the movie (like how we have all packaged our lives multiple times, now). From within the books emerges the subject of the movie however. The diaries, written in 327 notebooks, in which the friend never missed a day. He needs to read them all, now. The movie project is here then, it is a movie about our friends who pack to leave, and who go through their life.

Of course it happens to be the life of Piglia. Di Tella in the screening says that most probably it wouldn’t matter if the audience knew who Piglia was. I think he is right. The project is a fairytale on the workings of memory, and I think, in these, all lives are equally fantastic (that is, with an element of fantasy in them). The enigma of course is that it is through the very personal act of writing one’s life, one’s shopping lists, that Piglia announces that if it weren’t for writing himself (like all of us do), he might not have written anything at all.

” writing your own life story,  it inevitably turns you into a clown, but I am certain if I hadn’t started writing that afternoon I would have written really nothing else”

It is through that thread that movie works, patiently, amusingly, into weaving the past real and imagined, of people, family, left over histories (quite literally), into a fable about writing. It is -i think – what makes the movie so warm. A writer inhibits his enigma of writing, by walking us through the tricks of the memories, the ridiculousness, haphazardness, and the mundanity of the act of writing. Writing as the rest of us non-writers practice. As this blog does. As etchers on  trees do. As home videos. As news real. As grocery shopping list. As illegible penmanship.

memory comes to us as splinters, flashes, full of light, perfect, unconnected; that’s how it should be written

“splinters, flashes, full of light, perfect, unconnected…that’s how it should be written”

di Tella tells the story with his autobiography, which Piglia’s friends, with found footage. the cutaway from news anchors that wouldn’t air, all the dust of history, which houses all the silences of Guevara’s brother, and the ridiculousness of TV anchors. He goes with Piglia into underground sewages because

“there is nothing worse than being stuck in a hotel room”

Of course there is exile, there is ungrounding, there is earth giving way from beneath, that the self floats unanchored, and a writer writes. He tells the story of his alternative anchor. The one who stayed. What could have been. Of course there is euphoria. Pages of writing. Formal writing. Important writing, falls from the windows of bank. White paper rain. The aesthetic choreography of all revolutions. There is a beautiful sequence with fire crumbling the smoothness of paper.  Lifting the burnt ashes up, before they disappear. Paper rising instead of falling. Perhaps this how we age, through our fire consuming us into lightness?

“one day I will have time. I can not write”

Then he flips a page to new blank one (the horror of all horrors)

There are lots of friends, loves, relationships. There is Enrique Amorim filming his friends, whom we know as famous men (Lorca, Neruda. ..etc). There are Piglia’s friends. There is the director listening to his friend talking about writing himself in and out. Towards the end he nods to him and tells him about history that touches his (their) personal lives and carries them on its waves.

Don’t we know it by now? why does the world demand from us to move on? we are just waiting for the waves, really that threw us away, to write us back or elsewhere.