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September 15, 2014
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Quino opens BA Book Fair with witty banter

Quino (centre) talks with Cristina Mucci and Carlos Ulanovsky before the opening of the Book Fair.
By Lorenzo Miquel
Herald Staff

Celebrated creator of Mafalda received with standing ovation at La Rural

Standing ovations usually mark an ending — in this case, they were just the beginning of a brief, yet kindhearted — interview to the world-famous creator of Mafalda, conducted by Carlos Ulanovsky and Cristina Mucci in the opening event of this year’s edition of the Buenos Aires International Book Fair.

BA City Culture Minister Hernán Lombardi, national Education Minister Jorge Sileoni, President of Fundación El Libro Gustavo Canevaro and national Cultural Industries director Rodolfo Amaury addressed the audience before cartoonist Quino’s highly-anticipated interview. “It is an honour to open the Fair. I’ll surely be respected from now on,” he told the audience.

The world owes a big debt to Quino’s uncle Joaquín, “thanks to him I inherited this passion for drawing … When I was three years old my parents used to call uncle Joaquín to entertain my brothers and me. There was no TV at that time, so uncle Joaquín started drawing; and that opened in me a world I had not yet dreamt of,” the cartoonist told his audience at La Rural yesterday.

Surprisingly enough, Quino never mastered the drawing aspect of his most famous character, because he was always “very clumsy”. Despite this, he has “a lot of love for Mafalda, for all that she’s given me – all the joy she gave me”.

Ernesto Sabato once said about Quino that he “touches the most profound themes of the human soul.” Quino agrees, but he is also surprised that certain things he talked about in the past “30 years later seem to have been drawn in this very same day… The world always repeats the same mistakes, it’s incredible.” Power has always been a recurring aspect on Quino’s work, for him “power is present in places you can’t imagine… Restaurants, for instance, are a political example of what happens in society because people go there wanting to eat, and you have to undergo the will of the maître, the chef, whether they have something or not, things that are awful… and, worst of all, you have to pay!”

Nowadays, Quino feels like an illiterate in this digital world. Since he gave up drawing 41 years ago, his days now consist of “wasting time in a regrettable manner”. In spite of that — whenever he’s not receiving an accolade — he goes to the cinema and still enjoys occasional concerts.

However, Quino’s work now lives through the younger talents that grew up reading him. Acclaimed illustrator Liniers — present at the opening last night — is one of them and he told the Herald that “Quino’s influence was gigantic in my work. Not only as an illustrator but as a person. I learned to read by reading Mafalda.” Liniers described Quino’s style as “a violent — yet honourable — satire. Quino is like a tender writer who kicks you right in you ankles.” Finally, he added that “there’s works that make you smarter, others make you a better person. Quino’s works are in the latter.”

Near the end of the interview, Quino offered — in his usual affectionate and tender manner — a few words of wisdom: “You should see a lot of art, read a lot of books and visit every museum you can.” When asked about any last words to give closure to the interview, he just replied with his usual wit: “After spending 60 years thinking about what to say, I no longer want to!” At this point — as well as several others — the packed auditorium burst into laughter.

In one of his comic strips, Mafalda’s little brother draws in each and every one of his house’s walls; “Look at all that comes out of the pencil”, he says to his baffled audience. With the same enthusiasm he had as a youngster, Quino sustained four decades of drawing refusing to be a part of the passive adult world he mocked. According to Mafalda’s mother “Those who don’t take their soup never grow up”.

And that’s exactly why Mafalda despises soup, that sort of inverse fountain of youth. She rejects the underlying determinism of growing up: settling down — abiding to the rusted shackles of conformism. Now, more than 50 years later, we can say she managed to do it. Mafalda and Quino never took their soup — and we should all be grateful for that.

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