Fantasy Readings – An Art-Child

on Ni tonto ni holgazán [Neither foolish nor lazy]

An adaptation of a story by Alberto Greco

with Illustrations by María Wernicke

By Adriana Fernández

to explain with the words of this world

that a ship set sail from me and took me with her. 

Alejandra Pizarnik, Árbol de Diana [Diana’s Tree] (1962)

If not the words of this world, what is there? What is left? The narrator of Greco’s story begins by saying that sometimes he thinks other kinds of dictionaries must be written, with other words, different from those that appear in the ones we are familiar with: other dictionaries where the words that brush up against each other are not simply the ones that appear in alphabetical order.

It is not the words of this world that reach our narrator, nor the main character of the story, Claudio, who is not enamored with the professions of this world. Like Melville’s marvelous character Bartleby, Claudio responds with disdain when adults ask him what he wants to be when he grows up, what he wants to study, what he would like to do.




He responds.

And his parents rend their garments. They wonder what will become of their son and, of course, behind their concern lurks that secret and somewhat selfish question, what will become of them when they grow old, if their son does not want to be or do anything. He will be a fool or a slacker, they answer in embarrassment.

But it turns out that Claudio does things differently from everyone else in this world. Claudio contemplates, he approaches things until he sees something different, until he even makes them talk. Thus, the plants tell him their stories, their metamorphoses.

And, as in every story, there comes a moment when something is missing, when something happens. Claudio’s father’s health weakens. Claudio will have to work in his place, because the only cure for his illness lies in the hands of a screaming witch, and she does not want to give the cure to anyone, such is her selfishness.

Claudio resigns himself to the fate his neighbours proclaim to him, but he announces he will go in search of the wonderful and healing waters the witch possesses, and that he will return with the cure.

Restrained and without fanfare, he goes to where the witch and her son live and asks her for the cure for his father. She refuses. Or rather, she asks him what he has to give her in return. Claudio tells her that he has stories.

The stories he tells the witch and her son are full of the words from another world, from other dictionaries. They are stories of other personal fortunes with which he can pay her. They also have the effect of a cure.

The story ends with a positive outcome, full of good health for Claudio’s father and of new words for dictionaries that will never exist.

From the outside, the words of this world are, without a doubt, those of madness; yet they are also those of poetry, of literature. And beyond the professions that exist in this world, there is that of the artist, who, neither foolish nor lazy, changes and affects his surroundings.

This story is to be read in company. By boys and girls, by adults who are close to them. And adults should read it while accompanied by little ones. It is that, sometimes, a story should not be read alone. The wonderful illustrations of María Wernicke add subtle shapes to the characters and their environment. Wernicke, like Claudio, is restrained.

Adriana Fernández (Buenos Aires, 1970) graduated from the Instituto Nacional del Profesorado “Joaquín V. González” as a teacher in Spanish, Literature and Latin. She has taught at the Universidad Nacional de General Sarmiento (UNGS), the Universidad Nacional de Lomas de Zamora and the Universidad de Buenos Aires. She is the publishing manager of Grupo Planeta in Argentina.

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