“Because if Humboldt brought his curiosity and the lucidity of his spirit to America, he brought back the spell of distant kingdoms and the reverberation of its jungles. All the dreamers read it and, then, it was more contagious than an epidemic”, reads a fragment on page 208 of the most recent book by William Ospina “I will put my ear to the stone until I speak”, with Penguin Random House Editorial, where the writer reveals the most human, sensitive and romantic part of Alexander von Humboldt, botanist, zoologist, geologist and one of the pioneers in the scientific study of the influence and transformation of climate in different regions of the world.
Ospina, winner of the 2009 Rómulo Gallegos Award, spent five years scrutinizing the journey of the physicist, who undertook a five-year crusade across the American continent, a courageous path that profoundly marked the aesthetics of painting and writing in the 19th century.
“I will put my ear to the stone until I speak” will be presented at the International Book Fair in Bogotá.
THE NEW CENTURY: What led you to write about Humboldt’s travels?
WILLIAM OSPINA: “Because it was very important in the 19th century, but I have seen that as time has progressed, the advances that Humboldt made as a scientist are more and more felt. A man from the Age of Enlightenment, but he was also a romantic, an adventurer, a great discoverer, a great traveler, a great lover of nature, someone who reveals to us the mysteries and miracles of the natural world and who reminds us of that at this time we need a lot to turn our eyes towards there. It seems to me that he is a great example because he taught us that it is not enough to lock yourself in a place to know the world, that you have to go through it, know it, not only with your mind, but with your whole body ”.
THE NEW CENTURY: On this journey to rediscover the physicist, what did you find?
WILLIAM OSPINA: “I have been making this book for 20 years, but in the last five I have dedicated myself strongly to finding all the information that was needed to be able to write each letter and capture what Humboldt really did for the planet. The book was an effort that I made to compile some moments of Humboldt’s journey through America for five years, between 1799 and 1804. During that time he traveled through a part of Venezuela, the Orinoco, Cuba and accidentally entered New Granada; he was there for 9 months and then continued his course to Ecuador, Peru and Mexico. It was a journey that influenced the representation of painting and writing in the 19th century. We have not become fully aware of the importance that this journey through our countries had for modernity”.
THE NEW CENTURY: A lot has been written about physics, how is your book different from the rest?
WILLIAM OSPINA: “It is true, there is a lot of information about him, there are entire volumes in the libraries, there are even 30 volumes of his travels and the regions of the new world that he visited. In addition, much has been written about him from geography, geology, astronomy, ecology, but it is not the same to write about his journey in detail, because of the profound influence he exerted on American independence.
EL NUEVO SIGLO: How did you summarize Humboldt’s entire adventure in America in 358 pages?
WILLIAM OSPINA: “I don’t try to do a summary, I wanted to show some moments of that trip, try to accompany him on the journey. Also make an effort to allow the reader to experience Humboldt’s moments and adventures, as well as his experiences. So it’s just an effort to figure out that story, because it’s impossible to summarize everything he did, but it’s not a science book either, it’s a fact-based fictional book that accompanies some of the most intense moments of that story. adventure”.
EL NUEVO SIGLO: Within your research, were you able to look a little more at the personality of the physicist?
WILLIAM OSPINA: “There was a lot of intensity in Humboldt’s trip and there were two very particular things about his character: He was a man with a lot of knowledge and an extraordinary, amazing physical resistance. He had a boldness and an ability to adapt because it was a very difficult time and there was He had done all this journey on foot, with a large number of instruments that allowed him to discover the world that he was discovering. So, I could see that he had a really exciting personality and it was a wonderful thing as a writer to look at everything he lived through and know that the world he was traveling through was so new, a world full of wonders, of nature, of botany, so different from the world European. He was fascinated with indigenous peoples and their wisdom, in addition, he lived through very dangerous moments, but he also made every moment of his trip memorable because of the amount of discoveries he made and the way he described the places he was visiting.” .
THE NEW CENTURY: Do you think that the new generations of literature give it the space and importance that Humboldt deserves?
WILLIAM OSPINA: was a character highly regarded as a scientist, as a naturalist, explorer, geographer and botanist. Also, we have been able to see him as the last man who saw the planet intact before the terrible depredation that is taking place today against nature began. He greatly influenced art in the romantic era in the 19th century and today, of course, we also see him as a pioneer because of the way he looked at the world and an example of what a return of humanity to a type of relationship could be. new with nature, because obviously we are endangering it, because we have turned it into a warehouse of resources and we are poisoning it in an accelerated way”.
EL NUEVO SIGLO: Talking a little more about your career, what do you enjoy writing the most, sorrows, novels, essays…?
WILLIAM OSPINA: “I write all genres with the passion that identifies me as a writer. They are all necessary to me, because they are different ways of approaching the facts, the others. But the most important thing is the resonance of the language, I believe that poetry is the way and when it comes to reflecting on or exposing a subject, the most appropriate thing is the essay, but when it comes to following the impulse of a character or an adventure it is necessary the narrative. So, that depends on each theme and with each one of them printed the importance and value it deserves”.
EL NUEVO SIGLO: The book will be presented at FILBo. What are your expectations about it?
WILLIAM OSPINA: “It has already begun to be distributed in bookstores and we are going to officially present it on Sunday, April 30, within the framework of the International Book Fair. Then I intend to start a kind of tour in the footsteps of Humboldt. I will go to the places where he was: Cartagena, Turbaco, Mompox, Honda, La Sabana, Ibagué, Quindío, Popayán, but I also want to go to other cities in the country, to the towns to share with the readers and, furthermore, that is a magnificent experience, because for a writer to feel how the readers see is gratifying; Seeing how they are amazed by the literary exercise is valuable”.