Small is beautiful

In Hasta ya no ir a child’s fading dreams allow Beatriz García-Huidobro to address her country’s own delusions


Hasta ya no ir
Beatriz García-Huidobro
1996, LOM
91 pages

Reviewed by Georgina Jiménez

IN HASTA YA NO IR (Until I go no more), the first novel for adults written by the Chilean writer Beatriz García-Huidobro, the author packs a big emotional punch with a brief, but sensitively and beautifully written work.

García-Huidobro transports the reader into a semi-ethereal universe where nothing changes and the fates of the characters remain locked in their class and country’s history.

Told as a monologue, it becomes possible for the reader to experience through the eyes of a peasant girl how dreams can slowly and brutally fade. As she begins to grow physically, the girl’s own country is going through a phase in which it, too, is experiencing the loss of a different kind of dream. When her mother dies, and eventually fades into oblivion, the lives of the narrator and the other women in the household, begin to change.

It is interesting that García-Huidobro decided to write of the countryside in a Chile experiencing the Allende years and the aftermath of the Marxist leader’s rise to power, about which there are few fictional accounts. The images of the environment transmitted by this book are of great severity and rigour and most of its characters seem to be slaves to its dust, heat, hard labour and honour code.

The sense of absurdity that characterises the lives of each character in this novel could leave us with feelings similar to those left by a play of Samuel Beckett, whom the writer has described as her inspiration.

Subtlety and freshness

Yet García-Huidobro’s use of language has the subtlety and freshness of the spoken word, which leaves the reader with the impression that he or she has been whispered a secret.

The main character herself, who has neither name nor age, departs from every child’s dreams and aspirations, but is soon to realise that her life will remain like a locked window from which she sees only a glimpse of the outside world and as if through a frosted-glass pane. From the start of this tale we encounter a person who remains ignorant and thus, innocent.

Despite the most terrible events and humiliations she experiences, she is alien to anger, prejudice or even fatalism.

Indeed, the nameless character is a victim of her own feminine condition, a trait in Latin America that brings with it inevitable consequences. By contrast with the resignation in which the main character lives her life, one can distinguish easily alongside her an abusive kind of male, determined enough to remain a man playing the system and capable of selling out his only son.

Although the writer did not intentionally write this novel as a “woman’s work”, she does not mind that Hasta ya no ir may have been labelled as such. For her, the intention was to touch the subject in a way that was not only skin deep.

Beatriz García-Huidobro studied journalism and education and, with Hasta ya no ir, it becomes clear that after years of dedicating her life to educating children and youths she has gained the knowledge needed to create a character like this with such depth and in such an exquisite and accessible way for an adult audience. There is a hint of motherly love for her helpless protagonist, yet the author transmits respect, not pity, towards this individual.

Other works of García-Huidobro include Sombras nada más (Only Shadows, 1999), Tesoros para guardar (Treasures to be Kept), published in 2002, and distributed in various schools around the country with the aim of filling the educational gap and ending the isolation experienced by children in hospital, and Marea (Tide, 2002).

Georgina Jiménez is a freelance Mexican writer