Alonso Sánchez Baute narrates the relationship and loss of his dog Humilda – Music and Books – Culture

They say that many dogs choose their masters. something like this happened to him to the writer Alonso Sánchez Baute with his dog -inseparable companion for 14 years- and who inspires, precisely, his new book ‘The look of Humilda’.

“When Humilda appeared, I didn’t want dogs. What interested me least was establishing commitments, because I lived in a single rumba”, says the author. Just a few years earlier, he had published his successful novel ‘To hell with the damned spring’, about the hectic Bogotá gay night, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a reissue.

Hence, Sánchez walks through these days of double literary celebration. It is curious, but just as the protagonist of her first book is ‘Assesinata’, a ‘drag queen’, the name of her dog is also inspired by those characters that light up the nights of the ‘queer’ rumba. “From the moment that Humilda appeared,” he says, “I’ve always thought it’s a ‘drag queen’ name.” She adds that although she has had pets since she was a child—she got a companion oncilla at the age of 9—she was not exactly what she was looking for back in 2007.

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The book is edited by Seix Barral.

But life is capricious and is responsible for imposing its rules of the game. It was April and Sánchez and his partner at the time went to visit some friends, whose dog Pancha had given birth a few weeks earlier. Suddenly, when they approached to meet the four puppies, one of them got rid of the mother’s breast and began to crawl, staggering, towards the shoes of the author and his partner. “From one moment to another he stared at us intently.”

Hence the title, because without a doubt, that look that later accompanied him for more than a decade was the encrypted language that Sánchez and his beloved Humilda always used.

“In fact, the book brings photographs of the different ways of looking at Humilda, which was how we both communicated. And in that way too, Humilda chose us. My partner asked my friend for a gift. I expected the owner to say ‘no’, but deep down she did. And of course we ended up taking it home”, recalls the author.

in two voices

The book is an interesting narrative exercise, in which as Sánchez recounts his intense relationship with Humilda, the dog also appears in her own voice, in several chapters. But also, the narrative is an opportunity for dog lovers to immerse themselves in what evolution has been and company of this animal, throughout the history of mankind.

For this, the author carried out a long investigation, for many months, which led him to books and scientific studies, which he even reviews at the end of the book, with the aim of championing a bibliography on the subject.

“The book is structured in two voices. One of the narrator, who could be me or who could be another person, because like my other books, in this one there is memory and fiction. Humilda’s voice is a very short and concrete voice; and it was the way she saw the world and she saw me. She has a very pretty voice,” Sánchez explains.

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“If Coloncho saw me right now, he would say that I have the calm and sweet look of the female of a wild mammal that has just given birth, the insinuated smile, the tongue licking her cubs. It is the first image that comes to mind when I think of someone grateful to life. And, wow, I do have reasons to do so. I enjoyed being alive, I was loved, I was free and I am still me.says Humilda in one of the sections of the book, from the dimension where she is.

Sánchez notes that it was like a noise that appeared to him as he progressed in writing, asking him to be part of this project. “At first I had a hard time getting a dog to talk, but she kept coming up with her stories. It was a voice that was speaking to me and that told me: ‘I want to appear in these stories’”.

To this is added the essay, which was also a genre in which Sánchez wanted to navigate. Especially speaking, for example, from the self-domestication of the wolf -ancestor of the dog-, 30 thousand years ago, to this global phenomenon today of “humanizing” dogs, with which the writer does not agree.

The author also of ‘Deliver us from good’ explains that the book began to take shape in two moments. First, a few years ago when he had the idea of ​​creating a blog in which he gave Humilda a voice. “In one of those articles that she published -she remembers-, he said that she was born to be a writer”.

Later, whenever he went for a walk with the dog or they were together in the apartment, Sánchez She began to describe in a small notebook what each of Humilda’s looks meant.

“It was not an experiment nor did I want to write a thesis. It was a hobby thing, a distraction from my work writing another project. And over time I understood that the look coincided with what she was trying to tell me, which established a greater bond, ”she explains.

Then he found, in a research on animal evolution, that dogs, unlike other animals, find their greatest reference in their master.

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“The dog is the only animal that establishes its owner as its ‘alpha’. It doesn’t happen like with other animals. The dog does not have its ‘alpha’ in another dog because they do not live in a pack, although they can be in a group. For them, their owner is their leader of the pack. So that constant gaze of the animal is exactly that of a lion cub following his mother or a duck following his mother. That is also established in this relationship. And that link is found in the upbringing and trust of the relationship,” says Sánchez.

Alonso Sanchez Baute

Humilda also participates with her voice in the book.

Photo:

courtesy of the author

Catharsis of a duel

But although ‘Humilda’s gaze’ is a narrative approach to the relationship between dogs and their master, the book It is also an exercise in catharsis of the duel that Sánchez Baute experienced, after the departure of his partner, on April 3 of last year.

He is grateful, yes, not only for the 14 years of company, but especially for those two years of confinement, during the pandemic, which became the greatest farewell gift.

“I do not understand the pandemic if it is not next to it. The first degree quartering did not imply a major change in my routine since I live and work alone. But fortunately I had Humilda, with whom I could go for a walk with her as many times as I wanted. I was able to talk to her a lot and hug her,” he says.

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In fact, Sánchez dedicates a special chapter to the grieving process. He says that he had been preparing for that moment for many years, as he usually does to many people.

“Indeed I think the death of an animal is devastating. Although not in all cases. That is proportional to the joy that pet gave us in life”, comments the author.

This stage allows you to reflect on the feelings that can arise in people with the loss of their pet, which can also be related to guilt. Sánchez, who considers himself privileged not to have yet lost a close loved one, ventures to think that the sadness of the loss of the pet is usually projected to situations that were pending with loved ones.

“After Humilda left, I found more meaning in death. I think that this mourning has to do with the fact that at the time of the death of the animal one does not think of guilt or resentment, which do tend to happen when a loved one dies”, she comments.

And he links this journey to another that goes back to the times of Heraclitus or even to the origins of the Judeo-Christian religion, when it was established that animals did not have a soul and, as such, they were considered inferior beings.

“Fortunately, all that is changing and we are already moving towards animal self-awareness. In the last fifty years, what has been discussed the most is the ‘speciesism theory’, which goes against the idea that the human being is superior, even to nature. That is why this relationship that we have been establishing with animals is more respectful”, he notes.

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For now, Sánchez enjoys, as Humilda herself says in the book, her “freedom”. It is understandable, because in any case, a pet limits life in some way. However, he knows that one day soon he will decide to adopt another dog.

“I already have his name (but he doesn’t reveal it). The other time he was walking with my brother, I ended up buying a necklace and another chain. And he asked me: ‘what for?’ ‘Well, when I have another dog,’ I replied. And there they are stored. There is that hope or illusion that I am going to have it again”, he concludes.

birthday literary son

Alonso Sanchez Baute

Commemorative edition of ‘To hell with the damn spring’.

To commemorate the 20 years of ‘To hell with the damn spring’ – National Novel Award in 2002-, Sánchez Baute will speak this Wednesday, at 6:30 pm, in the library of the Bogotá Modern Gym, with Alejandro Gaviria, regarding the celebration of LGBTIQ+ pride week around the world.

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In this novel, the author brings to life ‘Assesinata’, a ‘drag queen’, who will take the reader by the hand through the darkest and deepest corners of Bogota’s gay rumba, and also through the soul and feelings of those who make part of this community.

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