Biography of Silo – Preview and Au Secours!

I owe a great debt to my dear friend Fernando A.

I had forgotten completely, but I was supposed to write Silo’s biography. Actually I weaseled out of it 10 years ago – then Fer reminded me the other day. So thanks to Fernando, I’m back at it. I’d already done some work on it, and luckily much of that is adaptable – here’s a sample of two chapters – the Introduction and Chapter One: The City.

On the other hand, I still have quite a bit of research to do, especially about the last 20 years of Silo’s life. So I want to invite anyone who knew him to share with me any information or reflection you wish from that period. Please email me at wingedlion@gmail.com – we can agree on the easiest possible way (email, skype, phone, chat…) – and I will be forever grateful.

Below is my slightly comical confession about why and how I weaseled out, and why it had to be that way…

He quedado en deuda con mi querido amigo Fernando A.

Me había olvidado totalmente que había emprendido la tarea de escribir la biografía de Silo. En realidad, eludí la responsabilidad por 10 años – hasta que Fer me hizo acordar el otro día.

Así que he re-emprendido el proyecto, gracias a Fernando. Todavía me falta información – así que quiero empezar por invitar a quien conocía a Silo a compartir conmigo cualquier información o reflexión acerca de los últimos veinte años de su vida. (Podemos hablar por skype o teléfono, o chat, o puedes escribir algo – lo que resulte más fácil para ti. Envíame un mail al wingedlion@gmail.com y podemos decidir… )

También quiero compartir mi confesión un poco cómica de cómo y porqué eludí la responsabilidad, y porque debía ser así… (a continuación, desafortunadamente solamente en inglés)  

Why and how I weaseled out:

Getting into this biography thing was my own doing. In 2003, a year or so after Silo’s Message was launched, it occurred to me that I could write the story of Silo’s life – something that might be an important contribution to letting people know about him and his work, especially in English-speaking countries where he was little known.

I wrote Silo and asked – and much to my surprise and delight, he wrote back, saying yes, “it would be a good idea if someone put all that twisted history in order.” But, he told me, I will not help you, and you may not bother my family.

That was fine – there were plenty of other people to talk to. I traveled to Argentina and interviewed dozens of his friends; I read interviews, news clippings, his own works, and anything else I could dig up that seemed relevant. Slowly the story began to come together…

It was not long, however, before I began to get discouraged. This was a lot of work! And “twisted history” was no exaggeration. It was really hard to put together anything like a “factual” narrative, because so many of the stories people told me were contradictory, and some sounded like they must be tall tales. And besides, biographies are so dry…

Then I came up with a clever solution. I would write not a biography, but a biographical novel! In fact, that might be even better. After all, more people read novels than dry old biographies. And besides I had always wanted to be a novelist, to write compelling poetic fiction and receive the accolades people with such artistic gifts deserve.

In May 2004, at the first annual gathering of Silo’s Message at Punta de Vacas, I chased Silo down the hallway at the hotel after the event and cornered him. He listened patiently while I explained my difficulties with the biography and told him I had decided to writing a novel instead. I asked if I should use a different name than Silo. All he said was, “I believe that would be best.” Without another word, he turned around and left.

Well – fine. I was disappointed at his lack of enthusiasm, but at least he didn’t say no…

That was ten years ago. By the time I saw Fernando a few weeks ago at our monthly gathering at Red Bluff Park of Study and Reflection, I was still grinding away at the novel, by now a 300+ page tome with no end in sight.  

We were sitting around after dinner at Mary’s house when Fernando asked me what ever happened to the biography. I told him about the novel, and he said, “Oh yes, now I remember… But you really should write the biography. It’s an important work, and I don’t know of anyone else who is doing it. Silo expected you to do it, and everyone understood that you were going to!”

“Oh… but…” I began – and then recognition went off like a light bulb in a cartoon, and my feeble objections shriveled under the glare of the simple truth. “OK. I’ll do it,” I said.

So I’m back at it, writing a biography of Silo. And it’s fine, even the ten years “wasted” on the novel. It took me that long to get over tooting my own horn, something I had to get out of my system before I would ever have the patience to write a real biography.

In fact, now that that’s over with, it’s an enormous privilege, and a relief, to just put down the way everything happened, up front and straightforward: the story of Silo’s life and work. And I’ve made some progress. Click here for a preview of the first chapter – feedback welcome.

Peace, Force and Joy for everyone!

About Trudi Lee Richards

Author, poet, Spanish-English translator; Activist, community builder; Member of the international Community of Silo's Message (www.silosmessage.net) and its local Healdsburg and Red Bluff communities (www.RedBluffPark.org) Mother of five grown kids/stepkids and four step grandkids Graduate of Stanford University Lives in Healdsburg, California
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