The Boy Inside The Letter / El Niño en la Letra

Pablo Helguera


Book, 15.2 x 22.8 cm, 273 p (EN) / 292 p (ES), language: English / Spanish, publisher: Jorge Pinto Books Inc, ISBN: 9780979557637 (EN) / 978-1934978054, 1934978051 (ES).
Materials: ink, paper

Collection: Collection M HKA, Antwerp (Inv. no. B 2024/823).

Literary synopsis

“Adolescence prepares us for adulthood, but nothing truly prepares us for adolescence”, says the protagonist of The Boy Inside the Letter. This autobiographical work written in the style of a Künstlerroman —a novel of artistic education— provides a rare glimpse into the mind of a 21st century artist during his art school years. The novel departs from the author’s actual personal diaries written at the time when he was 17 to 21 years old, serving as a day-by-day account of the most important transition of his life, relocating from one country to another, growing from adolescence into adulthood, and looking for the ideal love, while at the same time attempting to navigate the difficult road toward becoming a contemporary artist. In this narration outlining a multiple journey that includes Mexico City, Chicago, and Barcelona, we join the frustrations and desires of a young artist who eagerly awaits to find his ideal interlocutor, his artistic voice, and to make sense of the vast and daunting world plagued by the devils of adolescence, wishing for a better time, hoping, like any other young person, to find someone to understand his ordeal.

Relation of the novel to the artist’s practice

“The best way, in my mind, to present this complex period was to show some of the actual artworks and writings that I produced at that time. Artists often do not show their student or early work, due to understandable concerns as to its raw character and yet-to-be developed technique and ideas. But I felt it would be helpful to lift the curtain in this case, in order to showcase the complex web of ideals, infatuations, dilemmas and uncertainties that are somewhat true of every adolescence, and which perhaps acquire a heightened quality in the experiences of an immigrant teenager who is trying to become an artist.”

- Pablo Helguera

Everything in Between / The Boy Inside the Letter (2007) is a site-specific project made for the Queens Museum exhibition “Generation 1.5”. The project consists in two components: one, a multi-media installation showcasing diaries and artworks made between the ages of 17 to 21 (1988-1992), which cover a crucial transition from Mexico to the U.S. as well as art school years in Chicago and Barcelona. A recording narrates, in twenty sections, several of these entries. The second component of the project is the novel The Boy Inside the Letter, which incorporates some of these diary entries, and written in the style of the Künstlerroman (or novel of artistic education).

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