Opening Lines: Riff No.1

by caroline on May 31, 2011

Opening Lines: Riff No.1,  May 2011
“To Pass Back Through The Heart”-PART I.

Recordar: to remember, from the Latin re-cordis,
to pass back through the heart.”
Eduardo Galeano, The Book of Embraces, 1991
(translated from the Spanish by Cedric Belfrage with Mark Schafer)

This first posting, on a blog that is intended to draw inspiration from the opening line of a favourite book, will not be about an opening line at all. As an epigraph, this quote precedes even the title page. It stands alone, offering us a hint, an invitation to pause and look again, before entering The Book of Embraces. (

One aspect of this epigraph could not be reproduced here. This is the miniature pen and ink drawing the author has chosen to place above the quotation. Galeano’s drawings (he was first of all a political caricaturist in his native Uruguay), are an essential component in the short compositions that comprise the whole of the The Book of Embraces.  In the company of Galeano’s enigmatic illustrations, I have often found myself peering into these compositions, searching out the layers of possibility with the awe of a small child who believes in magic.

The illustration that accompanies this epigraph is Galeano’s whimsical rendering of a small, perfectly round train track, reminiscent of a child’s train set. Traveling around the track is a steam engine pulling its coal tender, and a passenger car. I showed the image to an interested friend the other day, and she responded with ‘what about the boat?’. Ah yes, the boat, a two masted schooner, sailing along the circular track in the opposite direction. Incongruous. Foreboding.  Just a joke?

The same image appears in a later passage entitled Forgetting. Here, however, the circular track is broken into pieces, fragmented. No journey will proceed.  For Galeano, this is the fragmentation of our collective memory, of our individual memory,  the willful amnesia he holds responsible for making us numb to our shared humanity, and to our fate.

“Why does one write” Galeano asks at one point, “if not to put one’s pieces together?”  And indeed, in The Book of Embraces, Galeano weaves his characteristic playfulness and humour into a collage of reflections on art, the origin of the world, our histories, our follies; the culture of terror; dreams; the human voice; celebrations of  love, friendship, courage, laughter. We travel with him as a guide, our sharp-eyed witness, constantly in motion, our provocateur, our advocate for a human recovery that eludes us.  And still we close the book with a sense of his embrace,  loving and hopeful.

(to be continued….this first post was too long, so it has become two.
Watch for Opening Lines #1, Part II of  “to pass back through the heart”
a journey by train through the heart of my own childhood landscape, the Canadian Prairies, where another collective memory, symbolized by collapsing wheat pool grain elevators, is sinking into oblivion).


Can’t wait to read your new novel!

by Patricia on 03/24/2011 at 2:20 am. #

Hope you check back soon, Pat, soon I’ll start posting chapters of my first novel Unlit Spaces.

by caroline on 05/24/2011 at 2:27 pm. #

am awaiting your blog with great interest, especially given the inspiring quotation from Galeano.

by Sue on 05/16/2011 at 1:28 am. #

Thank you Sue. I’m working on that Galeano quote. He is challenging and inspiring. We’ll see what shows up on May 31!

by caroline on 05/24/2011 at 2:28 pm. #

Brava! Brava! I am all ears, translated to eyes, and can’t wait!

by Gail Starr on 05/19/2011 at 9:40 pm. #

thanks Gail, I’m really looking forward to your participation in this!

by caroline on 05/24/2011 at 2:05 pm. #

We look forward to reading your thoughts Carol.
Nice picture by the way.

by Ron Benzie on 05/20/2011 at 4:41 am. #

thanks Ron, hope you’ll check back May 31!

by caroline on 05/24/2011 at 2:07 pm. #

Love the website. I really enjoy the quotes from your writing.

by Susan on 05/21/2011 at 1:10 am. #

Thanks Susi, hope you check back often.

by caroline on 05/24/2011 at 2:03 pm. #

Hi Caroline.

Really enjoyed looking over your website and will enjoy looking for your blog.

Do you have RSS feeds? I looked for this feature and couldn’t find it.

All the very best,

by Peri Phillips McQuay on 05/21/2011 at 2:23 pm. #

Congratulations on your website! I’m looking forward to checking it out often!

by Erna Ricciuto on 05/22/2011 at 10:03 pm. #

Thanks Erna! I’m having fun with this, and find it stimulating, rather than distracting, for work on my latest novel.

by caroline on 05/24/2011 at 2:02 pm. #

Carol, I was afraid to go to your website because I knew I would be mesmerized and distracted from my work. I was right–it’s great! Do post chapters from your novel soon–I’m looking forward to reading it. Congrats on the site! Barbara

by Barbara Leckie on 05/27/2011 at 12:15 am. #

Thanks Barbara, let me know what you think of the first post on my Opening Lines blog, hot off the press!

by caroline on 06/01/2011 at 8:46 pm. #

Carol, I’ve been led to your website by our wonderful mutual friend Gail, and am so grateful for the gift of your writing! Looking forward eagerly to your blogs and your novel!

by Jane Faris on 05/30/2011 at 1:17 am. #

Carol, I’ve been led to your website by our wonderful mutual friend Gail, and am so grateful for the gift of your writing!

by Jane Faris on 05/30/2011 at 1:23 am. #

Hi Jane, welcome to these pages! My first post on my ‘Opening Lines’ blog is now published. I look forward to all feedback and participation. Thanks for your interest,
Carol, and her pen pal Caroline

by caroline on 06/01/2011 at 8:44 pm. #

I always love shameless self-promotion! Its the best kind to have! I look forward to reading your “thoughts” and things it’s great that you’ve started a blog. xo

by Katherine Velan on 06/01/2011 at 6:15 pm. #

Thanks Kath. Have a look at the first post, just published.
xo back!

by caroline on 06/01/2011 at 8:45 pm. #

You are so eloquent Carol – as are your friends who have commented so far. I can tell you are having fun with your website – continued success and inspiration!

by Ellen Kinley on 06/02/2011 at 12:08 am. #

Ms. Shepard! I’m hooked. Line and sinker. Over and over I’m reading your wonderful “collage of reflections…” which literally jumped off the screen to illuminate “passing back”, and giving me a new insight into my love affair with each favorite author’s voice. I have often tried to finger that “something else” besides choice of words, or turn of phrase. You not only have your own way of speaking your story, you have your own way of polishing your mirror, or stirring your waters! Perhaps its the reflections of everything Galeano ponders, including himself? This comment is but a tiny bit of so many thoughts you and he have launched. I can’t wait for community and your next post! Thank you.

by Gail Starr on 06/02/2011 at 12:27 am. #

Carol, that is one very classy Web site! Congratulations. I wish you every success.

(From the other side of the hollowed-out Bank)

by Randal Marlin on 06/02/2011 at 7:25 pm. #

I now want to read “The Book of Embraces”! Must leave off the Henning Mankell for awhile…. You’ve inspired me,
and I love the website. Thanks, Carol!

by Anne Miller on 06/03/2011 at 1:40 am. #

Congratulations Carol on this blog. I got in tonight and read with interest your quotes and information on Galeano. This is what is so great about your endeavour: I hadn’t heard of him before and now you are inspiring me to read The Book of Embraces. Looking forward to reading your work on “a prairie childhood” as we have that in common.

by Elizabeth Rampton on 06/03/2011 at 2:16 am. #

Great modern way to keep in touch. Better than Facebook (or do you do that too???). Thanks for including me. Galeano is one of my heroes. You do him deep justice.

by Sheila Katz on 06/06/2011 at 1:04 am. #

I think I should start blogging, so I would collect such enthusiastic comments. A ship on a track floating along with unresolved ambiguity toward a train on the same track – perhaps one of them is backing up. Or both. And then the track fragments – or we can no longer see the links between the parts.

by Terry Shepard on 06/07/2011 at 10:47 pm. #