Why Write

Why Write

A moving meditation on one writer’s encounter with the call to tell stories from lithub.com.

The night of my departure arrived. The miners were my friends and they gave me a goodbye party with lots of drink. We downed chicha (com beer) and singani, a sort of tasty but somehow terrible Bolivian grappa. We were celebrating, singing, telling jokes, each worse than the one before, and all the while I knew that at five or six in the morning, I don’t remember which, the siren would blast, summoning them to work in the mine, and there it would all end. We would say goodbye.

When the moment approached, they surrounded me as if about to accuse me of something. It wasn’t to accuse me of anything, rather to ask, “Now, tell us about the sea.”

I was speechless. The miners were condemned to an early death from silicosis in the bowels of the earth. In those days life expectancy in the shafts was 30 or 35, no more. They would never visit the sea, would die with no chance of laying eyes on it, were fated by poverty to remain in that stricken little town of Llallagua. My duty was to bring the sea to them, and find words capable of soaking them through.

That was my first test as a storyteller, and it convinced me that the pursuit is worth something.

Eduardo Galeano, from “Why I Became a Writer” in Freeman’s: The Future of New Writing (Grove 2017)

Featured Image: Catavi – Tin Waste Mountains, © Marco Antonio 2015
Photo of Eduardo Galeano from Wikipedia