Is Tango the Answer when an Author is in Search for Inspiration? by Branka Čubrilo
On May 13th, we
were visited by Branka Čubrilo when she offered some of her mysterious journey as a writer. Today, she’s stopping by Writing in the Modern
Age again. Let's see what she has for us this time. Take it away, Branka!
Is Tango the Answer When an Author Is
In Search for Inspiration?
by Branka Čubrilo
Pirandello's six characters were in
search of an author. I, as an author, was in search of six new characters as I
commenced writing another collection of short stories populated by characters
from various walks of life and different geographical locations. But lately, my
characters went in search of my own past that played intensely in my trilogy
written in 2000, and in my memory, playing along in tunes with the notes and
the rhythm of Flamenco.
In the year 2000, I immersed myself
in writing a trilogy called ‘Spanish Stories’, where two central characters
were a father and son, Garcia de Veres, the owners of the Academia de Baile
de Flamenco. Their lives were charged with strong emotions, many mysteries
and misfortunes. The life of the younger de Veres was particularly turbulent,
disturbed, for he had numerous talents, thus murky rivers were coursing through
his veins; he regularly caused upheaval and scandal, exhibiting his art despite
being a loner; a man who searched for solitude and the deeper meaning of art
and life within himself. Simply, his destiny played out in his life as if it
was already written for him whilst he tried through his art to free himself
from the chains of his so-called fate. Secrets are unveiled slowly and
mysteriously when he meets Annamaria Monte, a beautiful but bored woman, who
wasn’t in favor of receiving any other gift from life apart from her physical
beauty, which made it harder for her to enjoy life in its plainness. However
with a stroke of ironic luck, she was rewarded with yet another gift – a cold
heart and an insecurity which gave the feeling of unease when someone found
themselves in her company.
The first volume of the trilogy, Little
Lies – Big Lies, led me to obtain a scholarship, hence I found myself in
the picturesque Cadíz in the heart of Andalucía, being enrolled in the famous Academia
de Baile de Flamenco, where I met incredible talents, temperamental
characters, warmhearted women and capricious, strong-willed men. There were a
variety of characters – enough to write more than one trilogy, an endless
source of emotion and zest for life or for dramatic death.
I would often look back with
nostalgia, for those months spent in Andalucía were condensed moments of pure
emotions, for with Andalucían people, everything is charged with strong emotion: art,
writing, singing, dancing, friendship, food, motherhood and particularly –
love. A fertile soil for an artist of any kind!
Since that time, I have published
several more novels and lately a collection of short stories, The Lonely Poet and Other Stories, and I
thought that I have finished my ‘love affair’ with Flamenco, or with dance.
Those beautiful memories I have glued in my photo album, where I go to once a
year to remember those extraordinary people who left an everlasting mark on my
life and the life of my daughter, and to relive those memories for a moment.
As a novelist I am always in search
of inspiration – knowingly or unknowingly. I am looking at the world through
the lens of what would serve my story best. More often than not, I don’t think
that a particular situation or person is what I am searching for, but I do
download it into the file of my mind keeping it for future references.
Sometimes, just one sentence would do to get the engine started, to fuel my
imagination and memory, and it sets me off on a long, unpredictable journey. I
have the ability to recall conversations to the last letter, and access my
vivid dreams where extended, more elaborate stories, are hidden and kept filed.
Created by Bedneyimages - Freepik.com
A year ago, whilst looking for any
kind of challenge, I stumbled upon Tango seemingly accidentally. I can say – It
is hard work! Not that I am afraid of hard work, for the sake of a good
story I have always worked hard, researched thoroughly, but Tango did not grab
me at once, the way Flamenco did almost two decades ago. Passion in Tango grows
slowly. I started and gave up. I gave up because for several months ‘nothing
happened’, I did not learn enough, and I always compared teachers with my old
Andalucían friend Angelita, who spent hours with me and my daughter to teach us
as much as she could in those months when we were her students and eventually
became close friends. There was Angelita’s fantastic friend and aid, the
breath-takingly beautiful Andalucían woman Elly, who spent hours helping to
‘perfect’ our still clumsy steps. They were warm, temperamental, spontaneous,
and above all in love with dance, having this rare ability to ignite their
passion into students’ hearts. We ate delicious local food with them, we went
to Flamenco Fiestas, we shared stories, emotions, secrets and great laughter.
They didn’t let you be anything else but a warm person, passionate about life
through their art of Flamenco.
Created by Nikitabuida - Freepik.com
Therefore, my love affair with Tango
started on rocky ground. Several months of instructions, not much involvement
from my teachers, just kind enough directions which were, to me, quite blurry
and to my disobedient feet - too much to follow.
My friend, who was, at that time,
keener to learn Tango than I was, went to Europe for a few months, therefore I
was free to sabotage it, to give up without being called. I continued writing
some stories in anticipation of release of my latest novel, Dethroned, which
took a lot of my time and peace, equally. I needed an outlet after Dethroned,
as it left me dry and exhausted, for this is a very complex and emotionally
charged tale. After any novel has been completed, I always opt for short
stories, for they could be fun, quirky and end whenever I wish. I
don’t have to put up with moodiness and unpredictability of my characters, for
I never get involved with easy or simple ones.
When my friend came back to Sydney,
her first question was “When shall we enroll again?”
“Enroll in what?”
We tried out several Tango schools
in the vicinity and finally, I found a couple that struck a chord with me. They
reminded me of Angelita and Elly. They have that similar sensibility and
warmth, similar passion and love for Tango, for people and for life in general.
I took out my Flamenco frocks, my
high-heel shoes and watched as many films as possible about Tango, and my old
streak of determination blazed: I am going to dance Tango as good as anyone
could. I am going to be a dancer once again! Maybe, just maybe, I shall travel,
just like Sally Potter did, to Argentina to perfect my newly discovered art!
The fire has been lit! And here I am
dancing up a storm with all the wrong steps, stepping on partners toes,
flashing an innocent ‘sorry-smile’ every time I stuff it up (and, oh, it is so
easy to stuff it up!).
My collection of new stories has,
once again, characters with Spanish names and titles, the battles of elegance
and egos; the characters overwhelm me. By all means, they are demanding,
talented, capricious and I am among them – twirling and picking up bits and
pieces in order to fit them into the collage of my collection-in-the making
that demands the right amount of art, reality and surrealism. I am on the right
track; I, as a chronicler of a particular time, can’t sleep after 4 a.m. I'm
hearing a dialogue played in the past, various sounds that wake me up, loud
music that no one hears in my quiet neighborhood – yes, that old song for whose
sake, I do what I do – the song of elegant, elegiac expression of my own soul
wanting to express one form of art in another.
Back to Pirandello: I need another
six characters, so the question is - do I look for them or do they slowly
reveal themselves to me?
Created by Asier_relampagoestudio - Freepik.com
I shall dance and keep a curious eye on the
possibility to where this dance will take me: to which part of the world or which fragile compartment of my inner world, or perhaps, to some old story
which I might dig out from my suppressed remembrance, an old tale which was
forgotten by all the protagonist apart from me. Hence I shall finish by
“What remains is written by poets.”
Fascinating! I took a couples ballroom dancing class a time or two, and I learned the Tango then. Such a riveting dance! Of course, we always love hearing about how the writer's mind works as well. ;)
We certainly look forward to reading your next book! Let us know when it comes out!
A pleasure to have you on Writing in the Modern Age once more, Branka!
Guest Blogger Bio
At the age of eighteen Branka Cubrilo wrote her first novel, I Knew Jane
Eyre, which won the Yugoslavian Young Writers Award in 1982. Soon after
she wrote a sequel called Looking for Jane Eyre. In 1999 Branka
published the book Fiume Corre – Rijeka Tece, a year later Requiem for
Barbara, and in 2001 Little Lies – Big Lies (as a part of a trilogy
called Spanish Stories for which she obtained a scholarship from the
Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to research the cultural
and historical settings of Cadiz in Andalusia). The Lonely Poet and
Other Stories is Branka’s third book published in English by Speaking
Volumes, following her earlier novels The Mosaic of the Broken Soul
(2011) and Fiume – The Lost River (2014). Branka’s latest novel,
Dethroned, will be published with the same publisher in 2017. Branka has
been living in Sydney with her daughter Althea since 1992. Now she
predominantly writes in English and translates her earlier works in
English. Praise for Branka Cubrilo via 5-Star Reviews on Amazon.com.