We used to meet on Fridays. Every Friday. I remember the day he introduce me to George Steiner, with his new, I thought, book, Real Presences. In fact, it was me who asked what book was that on his desk. I am reading it, he said. And I think it has many things in common with you. Take it and read it. Okay, I said. It was the most unpretentious suggestion I ever received. Eighteen months later I met this peculiar character outside the metro near to the university. He used to sell old books exposed on the floor. Bernardo. What a fictional name. Bernardo, the bookman. He told me about his passion for Jorge Amado. He is too romantic for me, I said. I lied. I never read Amado. It was just honest prejudice. He introduce me to José Donoso, Manuel Rojas, Jorge Edwards, folkloric stories, legends, magic. He once gave me a book as gift. Born Guilty. What a title of a book to present. What a occasion. What a place. What a character. Bernardo the bookman gifted me with guilty. I am glad for that until today, and I will always be. Not for the book. But for that to have happened. I can remember the look in his eyes. A look of joy. The look of unpretentiousness. I see his smile. He had this beret on his head. A poorly made grizzled beard. This old and dirty jacket. Dirty hands, he had. I shook then once, the day he gifted me. I spent days think about that gesture. I repeatedly gazed at my hands. I tried not to touch things. And his smile still is in my head. He, a fat gentle man with big fat eyes. His rounded aspect conferred him some grace., some impossibility of existence. We spent unforgettable hours of talking. Useless talks. He was my mentor on Chilean literature. But the only and the most unpretentiously name I’ve ever been gifted with was Real Presences. I was not born guilty. I sought for it. Bernardo didn’t gifted me. I found his guilty, and he gave it to me. He carried me over with it. He is now real. He is now free.


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