The best books were born from an uncontrollable desire to tell stories and immortalize ideas. “My horse was called Alegre” is one of them. Designed in an unpretentious way, to record family memories, daydreams and poems, this work by Sonia Paim became the beautiful story of a life. At 78 years old, the author debuts in literature with a work full of personality, humor and emotion.
My horse was called Alegre brings together light and deep reflections, which have no order to begin with, as if they were a mosaic of texts and poems. Among the topics covered are the origin of expressions incorporated into family vocabulary, memories of loved ones, travel reports and scenes from the past, the story of a 52-year marriage, among other varied narratives.
In the text that gives the book its name, Sonia tells stories about her grandmother Dady and great-grandmother Emília. These matriarchs created expressions that, decades later, were still used by the family. One of them was when Emília tried to tell her memories of the farm where she grew up. After starting the sentence four times without getting attention, she punched the table and shouted: “my horse was called Alegre!” The expression would remain eternal in the family and would be used by all subsequent generations whenever someone wanted to be heard.
In another account, Sonia Paim reveals her literary influences, such as Cecília Meirelles, Vinícius de Moraes, Machado de Assis, Carlos Drummond de Andrade, Fernando Sabino, Lygia Fagundes Telles, Raquel de Queiroz and Gabriel Garcia Márquez. The text “Read, read, read” is an important incentive to literature and knowledge of the classics.
The affection poured into the work is evident in the review by his son Fábio Paim, in the preface by his daughter Mitzi Paim Sandri and in the illustrations by granddaughter Mariana Almeida Sandri. In My horse was called Joyful, the reader will find love, family, smiles and tears. He will find life.
How did you get the inspiration to write “My horse was called Alegre”? What were the motivations that led you to record your memories and daydreams?
Each particularly touching fact or eventual reflections on some subjects led me to record what I thought about them. No intention of publishing a book. I wanted to keep these memories. I wanted to put my feelings into written words, which is my best form of communication. It was almost a necessity, which is still alive.
The book is described as a mosaic of texts and poems. Could you explain how this format contributes to the narrative and what it represents for you?
This mosaic represents the mixture of important events, of boiling feelings in different phases and occasions. No life is linear. Neither is mine. Mosaic is the perfect word to describe my narrative. It represents my life and my concepts.
What are the most prominent themes covered in your work? Is there a specific theme that stands out for its depth or relevance to the author?
Family experiences are highlighted. I have noticed that even those who did not know, for example, my mother, my great-grandmother or my husband have been moved by the stories that involve them. Other themes that have been attracting favorable comments are those linked to travel and reflections on relationships.
The expression “my horse was called Alegre” is presented as a milestone in the family. How was this specific moment significant and how is it covered in the book?
Especially significant was the curiosity aroused by the title. Only by reading the first chronicle will you understand the reason for the title. I want to be heard by the reader. To this day we use the expression – “my horse was called Alegre” – used for the first time by my great-grandmother so that the family would listen to her story. From then on, the phrase was inserted into common expressions in our family environment, so strong was the scene in which a sweet woman acted with great energy. I decided to use this phrase as the title, to escape the commonplace and to arouse curiosity. Everything indicates that I achieved my objective.
In addition to family memories, what other personal stories or memorable passages are explored in the book? Is there any travel story or episode from the past that stands out in the narrative?
My Parisian adventure with a friend (“Paris and surroundings”) and the places I still want to visit or repeat (“To visit before I die”) have been encouraging trips. Reading too; I notice in the comments the desire to read that the chronicle on the topic (“Read, read, read”) awakens. And, common denominator: my text has attracted attention for its lightness and good humor. Almost all readers who sent comments said they laughed a lot when reading “I’ve already found someone” and “Laughing is really good”.
What literary influences are mentioned in the book? How did these authors influence your writing and how are they presented in the text “Read, read, read”?
I mention the authors who have enchanted me throughout the different stages of life. Monteiro Lobato was an important part of my childhood and that of my children. Machado de Assis left me awestruck by the wonder of his constructions. Who knows, maybe I can get more readers in the world with this chronicle? I confess that I made a serious mistake by omitting a writer who influences me to this day: Martha Medeiros, who speaks for us. I eagerly open your Sunday chronicles. If there is a new book (I don’t think I can resist), I intend to redeem myself.
How was the family’s affection reflected in the creation of this book? Could you talk a little about the role of your family members in producing and supporting this literary project?
I had the habit of, from time to time, sending a new chronicle to my children and to a dear friend, Flávio, who wrote the back cover. Another friend, Edmundo Carvalho, also a writer, even without reading my work, encouraged publication. Everyone reacted positively to the idea of making public what was only on the computer. When I decided to do it, the encouragement was total. My son, who works with words, was tireless and patient in his revision. My youngest granddaughter, who studies Design at New York University, was willing to illustrate each text, which she did enthusiastically and accepted all my suggestions. My daughter, who says that “when she grows up” she wants to write like me, made her writing debut with the book’s preface. Without them, “My horse was called Alegre” would not have happened.
What is the central message or main objective that you want to convey to readers through “My horse was called Jolly”?
The central message is the importance of love – in family, friends, in male-female relationships. Also the need to observe what happens to us, from the small to the big events, and take advantage of each element that life offers us. I dare say that some parts can even function as self-help.
How would you describe the emotional tone of the book? Does it convey more joy, nostalgia, reflection or a combination of different emotions?
The readers themselves and their messages after reading the book have defined my texts as: light, good-humored, exciting. Simplicity is another characteristic. I didn’t make a book of complex texts. Many readers who know me well – relatives, friends, former work colleagues – said the same thing: that while reading they seemed to see me talking to them, with the usual intimacy and vibrancy.
What can readers expect to find when they delve into the pages of “My Horse Was Named Jolly”? What are the main elements that make this work a unique and meaningful read?
I can say that many readers see themselves in one character or another. Identification with situations experienced – and recorded – by me rescues situations experienced and not recorded by them. Many regret not having access to their own memories or not being able to systematize some feelings because they did not consider putting them on paper. I pretentiously claim that I speak for myself and for them. And I hope too – who knows? – give more encouragement to some readers, leading them to reflect on topics covered, such as: fulfilling “living alone” in a joyful and enriching way, being aware of the beauties that surround us, of the good moments experienced and sometimes not even noticed. And, above all, value life and love.
Follow Sonia Paim on Instagram