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Entrevista Rayada


Manuel Peña Muñoz 

Striped Interview

He is a researcher and disseminator of beautiful stories from remote places and times. He has written about 30 books, many of them awarded and in this note he shares something of his past and present in contact with literature. Mooo!


“Telling another version of the stories avoids falling into the recitation”


He is an adult sitting in front of his computer screen. But surrounded by the colors of hundreds of books, puppets and a handy music box that makes sounds when you turn the crank, he looks like a child. His name is Manuel Peña Muñoz and he fondly remembers the first person who told him stories at his home in Valparaíso, where books were conspicuous by their absence. 


"It was my Spanish grandmother, Ignacia Josefa, she taught me to recite: 'Blessed Saint Mónica, mother of Saint Augustine, I commend my soul to God, for I am going to sleep.'

But this Spanish teacher, doctor in Hispanic philology, researcher and disseminator of stories from remote countries and from all times, long ago put aside the phrases by heart. Now he prefers to narrate and rewrite, over and over again, creating his own versions without changing the backbone of classic stories.


"Telling another version of the stories -he says- avoids falling into the recitation". That seems to be the path he chose and that he teaches his students in the workshops he teaches in Chile and in Spanish-speaking countries.


In a conversation with Vaca Rayada, he tells details of his last two works. "Fairy Tales" (Casa Contada), an essay on the transformation of the ancestral tale to reach the author's tale, and "Tales by the stove" (SM), stories of oral tradition illustrated by Patricia González. There he chose and compiled popular stories that he claims to have previously "tried" as exquisite dishes.


"They are not stories searched on the Internet, copied and pasted. They are traditional tales specially chosen because I like them a lot: they are by Perrault, the Grimm brothers, Andersen or Wilde, I adapted all of them," he says, referring to his versions of Puss in Boots, Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, The Tin Soldier or the Selfish Giant.


 "But in addition -he adds- there are unknown stories like 'The old man and the tiger', from Japan although it is of Mongolian origin and that I had to have translated for later versioning and there is another like 'The pot cracked', from India';  narratives and ancestral and universal fables that can dialogue with contemporary life". 


After this statement, he is asked and he acknowledges agreeing with Italo Calvino when he says that "the classics are those books that never finish saying what they have to say."

“Before, girls dreamed of being princesses and marrying a rich husband, if he was a better prince, they wanted him to clothe them. classics with irony and humor in 'Tales in verse for perverse children' or as Gabriela Mistral did with the Latin American versions of several classic female characters like Cinderella: there are some 500 versions of her, each story is accompanied by the culture of its time", concludes.


In any case, this narrator is not content to cover old tales. In times of technologies that are renewed every  minute without giving a break, he teaches counting with kamishibai in his workshops. It is a small theater in which history is shown on paper and which was already used in Japan in the 12th century.


To Peña Muñoz the resource does not seem strange. He assures that craftsmanship catches "the attention of children and adults alike", even the most technologically advanced, and thus demonstrates that beautiful and simple things can be used to count.  



the first classics

In a constant game between the present and the past, like the stories themselves, Peña Muñoz also remembers his father who told him the Fable of the Milkmaid (with a moral against ambition) and those of Aesop and his aunt, Estrella Lorenzo, who He also told him great stories and years later he became a character in  his novel "Mágico sur".

But the one he does not forget is a friend of his father, Lázaro, whom he called "uncle" and who was on board the "Reina del Mar" as a waiter. The ship sailed through the Pacific ports and when it arrived in Valparaíso, Lázaro always gave him books that he brought from Santander (Spain).


"They were my first classics and with some drawings and that is why Spanish culture was very strong in my childhood and training," he says when analyzing that heritage as a legacy. "Then I also read 'The Chilean Reader,' the book that a teacher made me buy who I don't remember ever reading to us in class," he points out, suggesting that he didn't inherit his taste for reading from there._cc781905-5cde-3194 -bb3b-136bad5cf58d_


Although he does rescue the "Hispano-American Syllabary", like the book with which he learned to read. And he still especially rescues the drawings on each of those pages.

"The book was illustrated by the Chilean Coré, who was the nickname of Mario Silva Ossa." He points to data data as an indelible mark, like classic tales.

Peña Muñoz is invited to play a traditional game like pingpong. 

He is told: "A book?" and replies: "All of Andersen". 

"A character?" answers "The Ugly Duckling".

"A narrator or narrator?", points to the Argentine Graciela Cabal.

"A book you regret losing?" It says: "one of 'A History of Universal Children's Literature'."

The game is paused and he is asked if losing a book makes him prefer not to lend them.

He laughs. 

He confesses that "in reality" he prefers to give them away.

"It's that if I lend them and they don't return them to me, I get anguished," he admits.

In 2016 Peña Muñoz received a medal for his four decades of work in children's and young people's literature awarded by IBBY  Chile (International Organization for Children's and Young People's Books).

Among his narrative works are "The child of the passage", "María Carlota and Millaqueo" and "An angel blew in my ear". 

He also wrote  "History of Chilean Children's Literature" and "History of Latin American Children's Literature". 

He takes these last two books out of his library in the middle of the conversation with Vaca Rayada and shows them on the screen. He is passionate. 

Elige otros.

Son adaptaciones de Gabriela Mistral sobre Caperucita, Blanca Nieves, La Cenicienta y La Bella Durmiente, que él rescató hace unos años y publicó editorial Amanuta. 

Los cuatro libros fueron premiados en la Feria Internacional del Libro Infantil de Bolonia (Italia). Los hojea y comparte también con la pantalla mientras hace la salvedad de que las editoras de esos textos "hicieron un trabajo pausado e impecable". Así da a entender que la edición también es parte importante de las nuevas versiones.

Saca un libro más. 

Expose the lid. It reads: "Do not stitch without thread." Explain that it is about proverbs and popular sayings. It is also edited by Amanuta and awarded in Bologna. "The drawings are embroidered," she explains as she proudly shares Maureen Chadwick's drawings. 

This adult who was born 71 years ago in a house without books looks happy. Now he is surrounded by them, he reads them, writes them, narrates them. And he also has toys, like a child. 






#I like reading

#children's literature




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