Get the big news as it happens – straight to your email.
In the “Reading” column, Dnevnik publishes an excerpt from “The Whisper of the Bees”, authored by Sofia Segovia, provided by “Lemur” Publishing House
Once upon a time there was a family saga of Mexican landowners and a boy surrounded by bees. With these elements, Sofia Segovia creates an intriguing story in which she writes with great love about the value of the earth and the unexpected ways in which human destinies often intertwine.
“The Whisper of the Bees” by Sofia Segovia takes us to the Mexican village of Linares in the 1920s.
One day the old family nanny gets lost in the hills. When they find her, she is holding two bundles: in one she carries an abandoned baby and in the other a honeycomb. The baby found by nana Reha remains with the Morales family.
Simonopio arrives covered in a living diaper by the bees that will accompany him throughout his life and help him change the history of the family that took him in, as well as of the entire region. Before that, he must face his fears and overcome the enemy and threats that stalk him.
Against the background of the Mexican Revolution, the Spanish flu and the clashes between those who clamor for foreign land and those who protect their property at the cost of everything, Sofia Segovia tells us a touching story about devotion to family and brotherly love, but also about betrayal and meanness that can end it all.
“The Whisper of the Bees” smells of lavender, homemade recipes, orange blossoms and honey.
Sofia Segovia was born in Monterrey, Mexico in 1965. She is a writer and screenwriter. She studied journalism at the University of Monterrey and published her first novel, Noche de Huracán, in 2010. In 2015, the novel El murmullo de las abejas (“The Whisper of the Bees”) was published, earning her the title “literary discovery of the year” and enters the ranking of the best-selling books in Mexico. Today, she lives in Monterey with her husband, children, and three pets, and says that without this happy noise, she would not be able to concentrate to write.
About Whisper of the Bees says: This novel is a work of fiction inspired by the true story of a village in the citrus region of northern Mexico. There is no greater freedom than writing a fictional story, even when it is inspired by historical fact, as mine is. The key word here is “inspiration”. I have not sought to adhere verbatim to the historical data: I have sought to be true only to my imagination.
I’m very grateful for all the stories that my ancestors shared with me – shared with my generation – because if I’ve learned anything in this adventure called writing, it’s that stories are made from stories. The real and the imaginary.
Excerpt from “The Whisper of the Bees” by Sofia Segovia
Blue child, white child
On that October morning, the baby’s cry mingled with the sound of the fresh breeze blowing through the trees, the song of birds and the farewell of the nocturnal insects. The noise floated up through the underbrush of the hill, but diminished within a few yards of its source, as if prevented by a witch’s spell from coming out to seek a human ear.
For years there would be talk of how Don Teodosio, on his way to work at the neighboring hacienda, must have passed the poor abandoned baby without hearing a peep, and how Lupita, the Morales washerwoman, had crossed the bridge that led to La Petaca , in search of a love potion, not noticing anything out of the ordinary. If I had heard it, I would have at least picked it up because, as horrible as it may seem, I don’t know who would leave a newborn to die alone – she told later, to anyone who wanted to listen.
That was the mystery. Which woman in the vicinity had recently unwisely displayed her pregnancy? Who did this unfortunate baby belong to? In the village, news of such intemperances spread faster than smallpox, so if one knew, they all knew.
However, it turned out that in this case no one knows anything.
There were any number of theories, but the one that most appealed to the collective imagination was that the baby belonged to one of the witches of La Petaca. They, as they all knew, freely gave their carnal services, and if any such deformed and strange infant happened to be born to them—a punishment from the Most High or from the devil, who knows—they would throw it under the bridge, leaving it to God’s mercy
No one knew how many hours the abandoned baby had been standing under the bridge, barefoot and hungry. How it had survived out in the open without bleeding from the untied umbilical cord or being eaten by rats, raptors, bears or cougars, which abounded in these hills, was beyond anyone’s understanding.
And everyone wondered how old nana Rekha had found him, covered in a living blanket of bees.
Rekha had chosen to spend the rest of eternity in the same place, outdoors, under one of the sheds that served as storage in the hacienda La Amistad. It was a simple structure and was windowless, like other service rooms erected behind the main house so as not to be seen by visitors to the Morales home. The only thing that distinguished this shed from the others was the removable roof, which allowed the old woman to remain outdoors both winter and summer. It was pure coincidence that the projecting roof was there at all. Rekha had not chosen this place to protect herself from the elements, but for the view that opened up from there and for the wind that, passing through the ridge maze, came down to her, just for her.
Many years had passed since the old woman had chosen this shelter, so that, with the exception of Rekha herself, there were none left alive who could tell of the day her rocking-chair appeared at that shed, or who they remember the moment the nurse had taken him forever.
Today, almost everyone believed that she never left this place, and assumed that because of her age, which no one could accurately determine, her bones no longer supported her and her muscles no longer obeyed her. For as soon as the sun came up, she could be seen swaying slightly, sitting in her rocking chair, pushed more by the wind than by her own feet. Then, after dark, no one noticed her disappearance, because by that time everyone was already resting.
The long years spent in the chair had made the villagers forget Rekha’s story and her humanity: the old woman had become part of the landscape and had taken root in the land on which she rocked. Her flesh had turned to wood and her skin to a hard, dark, striated bark.
When someone passed by, he did not greet her, as one does not greet a dying old tree. Crossing the short road from the village to the hacienda, some children, desirous of verifying the legend, would examine her from afar, but seldom was he brave enough to come nearer to ascertain that it was really a living woman, and not for a wooden figure. The children quickly realized that there was life in that bark, when, without even opening her eyes, the old woman gave the daring adventurer a good blow with her cane.
Rekha did not accept being the subject of anyone’s curiosity; he preferred to pretend he was made of wood. She preferred to be ignored. Because of her age, and with all that her eyes had seen, her ears had heard, her mouth had spoken, her skin had felt, and her heart had suffered, she felt that she had had enough to make anyone tremble. She couldn’t explain why she was still alive, or what she was waiting for to go, when she was no longer of any use, that her body had withered away. Therefore she preferred not to see and not be seen, not to hear and not speak, and also to feel as little as possible.
Although he did not yet fully master this state of the senses.
Rekha tolerated the presence of several people around her; among them was the other nanny, Paula, who was also long past her prime. She also suffered the child Francisco, for once, when she still allowed herself to feel, she had loved him violently, but it was difficult to endure his wife Beatrice and his children. The woman because she didn’t want to let a new person into her life, and the children because she found them unbearable.
No one needed her, and there was nothing she wanted to offer people, as old age had slowly released her from her duties as a servant. He hadn’t been involved in the maintenance of the house for years, so he became attached to his swing. At the same time, so much so that it was barely noticeable where the tree of one began and where the tree of the other ended.
Before dawn, Rekha crept from her room to the saivant, where her rocking chair awaited her under the overhanging roof. As soon as she sat in it, she closed her eyes so that she could not see and stopped her ears so that she could not hear. Paula brought her breakfast, lunch, and dinner, which the old woman hardly tried, because now her flesh did not need much food. She rose from her seat very late, only when, behind her lowered eyelids, the flashes of fireflies reminded her of the night, and when she began to feel on her seat the jostles and pinches of the wooden swing, which tired long before her of this constant proximity.
Sometimes, on her way back to bed, Rekha would open her eyes. But she didn’t need to do that to see. Then she would lie inside on the covers, feeling no cold, for her skin did not let even that through. But he wasn’t sleeping. The need for sleep was something her body had abandoned. Whether this was due to the fact that in her life she had slept when she should have slept, or whether she was refusing to drift off so as not to fall into her eternal sleep, she had no idea. He hadn’t thought about it in a long time. After a few hours spent in the softness of the bed, she began to feel the nudges and pinches of the bed, with which it reminded her that it was time to visit her faithful friend – the swing.
Nana Rekha did not know for sure how many years she had lived in this world. She didn’t know how she was born, or her full name – if by any chance someone had bothered to give her one. Although she was supposed to have one, she did not remember her childhood, nor her parents, if she had ever had them, and if anyone had told her that she had been born of the earth as hard as a walnut tree, she would have believe She didn’t even remember the face of the man who made her that brat, but she did remember seeing his back as he walked away to abandon her in that straw and mud hut, abandoning her to her fate in an unknown world .
In any case, she had not forgotten the strong movements in her belly, the twitching in her breasts and the yellowish sweet fluid swelling from them even before the birth of the only son she had ever had. She could not judge with certainty whether she remembered the face of this child, for it was not out of the question that her imagination was playing tricks on her by collecting the features of all the babies, white and black, that she had nursed in her youth.
She clearly remembered the day she first entered Linares, half dead from hunger and cold. She could still feel the baby in her arms, which she had held tightly to her chest to protect him from the chilly air of that January. She had never come down from the mountain before, so it was only natural that she had never seen so many houses in one place. She had not walked down a street, crossed a square, nor had she ever sat on a public bench, but that was exactly what she did when her knees buckled with exhaustion.
He knew it was imperative to ask for help, though he had no idea how. But Rekha was not worried about herself, but about the baby she had been carrying in her arms for two days now. For him she would ask for help because he would neither nurse nor cry.
This alone made her come down to the village, which she sometimes watched from afar, from her hut in the mountains…