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The Vatican Games by Alejandra Guibert - Book Tour

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The Vatican Games
by Alejandra Guibert

Vera is born on the day an apocalyptic revenge is unleashed, annihilating half of the world’s population. 
Her birth marks the beginning of a new world order run by powerful gaming corporations.
A warless existence with no poverty has been secured, until this fine balance becomes once more under threat. 
Vera is the female David to beat Goliath and prevent further devastation. 
The future lies in her hands. It’s a game that she needs to win.

Information about the Book
Title: The Vatican Games
Author: Alejandra Guibert
Release Date: 30th January 2020
Genre: YA
Page Count: 242
Publisher: Clink Street Publishing

The sky was in mourning, covered by a blanket of black smoke rising from the millions of corpses. They were too many to bury. Satellite photos showed only a few scattered green or white areas standing out like oases. The incineration of the bodies imposed a universal state of mourning which nobody would ever forget or openly mention again.
Multinationals would at last be able to focus fully on business, they would have free rein to do and undo as they pleased in their new kingdom. Hunger had been eradicated. Not by the philanthropic efforts of the few humanitarians still harbouring a vision for the future of humanity, nor through the generosity of the wealthy. Hunger had been eliminated once and for all. With the death of nearly five billion people.
The stars were rising above the horizon at the moment of her birth. The cosmos surrounded her in silent protection, unbeknown to her. All the planets were present, aligned like a fan, spread out before her eyes, which she half opened in curiosity. Her position, date and time of birth in relation to the cosmos were unique. Coincidence or not, they matched a physical anomaly which put her life in danger from her very first breath.
There she was, at the centre, without having wished it. She had been born.
The doctor visited her mother in the ward where she was recovering. It was not a routine visit. He had received detailed reports of the past few days. He had seen her clinical records and had been called in to give his expert opinion. Straight away he identified the condition. He explained it to her in simple terms.
‘A gap between the left and right hemispheres is normal in any new-born baby. In her case it is larger than usual.’
Encephalitis due to hydrocephaly, water on the brain. It was the first time he had ignored the ethics he always followed with his patients. Honesty above all. What good could come of telling this hopeful young girl the truth when she had barely emerged from hell. The neurologist knew her daughter would not survive but kept it to himself. He advised her to protect the baby’s head as best she could.
The first thing Alina did was register the birth. With her brand new name Vera spent days under observation until she was discharged a week later. It was only a matter of time. They could do nothing further for her and they could not keep her there. The Neurological Hospital was a hive of activity. Time became crucial with each passing hour. Vera had ceased to be a priority. Alina did not hold this against them; on the contrary, she was grateful, though to everyone there, this might have seemed bizarre. Once she had left, Alina felt free from the pressing sense of danger.
She remembered the nurse’s words:
‘Lots of things are happening. You’re better off not knowing. You must rest and look after your baby.’ The instructions were clear.
She started to knit a perfect circle, which she measured meticulously every three or four rows. In the meantime, as a precaution she folded a handkerchief in four and tied it with a ribbon to Vera’s head. Vera undid it in no time, lifting her arm to get rid of the bothersome ribbon. Each time Alina checked on her daughter she would find Vera chewing at the handkerchief by her side with her tender head now bare. Unprotected. She seemed to smile when she managed to get rid of the handkerchief. Her playful challenge did not distract Alina from her task. Eventually she lifted up the knitted cotton skullcap, smooth and perfect; convinced that it would protect her baby girl.
‘Look. Don’t you like it? Don’t take it off, sweetheart.’
She sewed on the ribbon, which Vera strummed like guitar strings and admired the result as though she were an expert in Renaissance headware. This time it took her a little over an hour to remove the handmade helmet tied to her ears.
‘It wasn’t my idea. The doctor told me to do it. Why won’t you leave it alone?’ Alina asked her.
Alina watched her intently. Although she tried to understand what was bothering her daughter, what she wanted most was to persuade the child with her eyes of the danger Vera appeared not to notice. It was practically impossible for her to contemplate that Vera might not understand her words. The way Vera looked at her said the opposite. Or was she the one who could not comprehend what her baby was trying to tell her?
She paced up and down in front of the window, anxiously covering Vera’s head with only her hand for protection over the soft skin. She crossed back and forth from one wall to the other cradling Vera, murmuring anxious maternal nothings. She thought aloud of a way to protect the door, which remained open as if there were some plan that continually put her daughter in danger. Alina whispered questions to her as though Vera could provide the answer. ‘Why don’t you want it? Does it bother you? Is it too tight? Look how soft it is. Vera, tell me. What else can I do? Tell me, sweetheart.’
The window of her room was the only respite for Alina, a few minutes’ truce to distract her from the pressure she would be under once again. The danger which, try as she might, she could not push away. When the intensity of her thoughts exhausted her, having no clear purpose but more as a spontaneous reaction for self-preservation, Alina would stop at the window to distance herself from her thoughts. For hours she would repeat the same cycle. The longer she spent trying to find a solution, the longer her time at the window. These were precious minutes where life outside was so unreal that it became spellbinding. Vera also appreciated a break from her mother’s repetitive mumblings, from her overwhelming concern and her toing and froing like a caged beast. Vera would wave her arms in delight at the visits to the window. The neighbour’s little boy kept throwing his white rubber ball up in the air into a spin. It popped in and out of view as if the boy were on a mission to entertain the baby girl or her mother. Each throw brought forth a squeal of pleasure from Vera. It not only drew a fresh smile on Alina’s face, it also pulled her out from under her cloud of apprehension. Mother and daughter followed the ball’s hypnotic rise and fall for a long while, until it fell to the ground with a thud, shaking Alina out of her stupor. Perhaps Vera might have the answer for her after all. It was what she had unintentionally wished for. When she opened the window wide the boy had already disappeared inside the building.
With the precise shape of her baby’s head in mind, Alina slipped downstairs with renewed determination. When the neighbour opened the door she found Alina there, emotionless like a Madonna. The child clinging to his mother’s skirt eyed the visitor with distrust. Alina asked to see the ball and he hugged it with the same love with which she would cradle Vera in her arms. On taking it into her open hand Alina knew. The boy turned towards his mother in confusion, sensing the worst. The conspiratorial look of both mothers and their nodding heads were unequivocal. Although the neighbour tried to explain to him in the best way she could, the boy refused to give up his ball, let alone allow it to be cut in two. He somehow managed to transform his compulsion to burst into tears into a stern composure. The three looked at each other for a few seconds, floundering in a silence which offered no escape. Having no desire to intervene, Vera merely observed the cobwebs that held together the dilapidated walls of the corridor. The meeting in the doorway had reached an impasse. The silent seconds stretched almost into minutes, until Vera suddenly invaded the adults’ quiet with a squeal of pleasure as though she were seeing the ball in the air. A timely intervention that inspired in Alina a promising idea, which not only would it preserve the integrity of a little boy and his ball, but would endow it with new meaning. The boy looked again at his mother, who opened her eyes wide to give him the assurance he was hoping for. His eyes had a new fire in them, which she had never seen before. The promise of a new ball of his choosing sent a sudden tingle through his body. It was a feeling repeated shortly after, when Alina presented him with the money served on the remaining half of the ball like a platter. In no time at all, the boy had become an accomplice. It was his half ball on top of Vera’s head. A ribbon through two strategically perforated holes at each end tied it down at ear level. A life-saving skull-cap which Vera would no longer be able to pull off.
On their return visit to the hospital a few weeks later, the nurse accompanied them to Neurology. Her footsteps echoed against the walls as she entered the room carrying Vera like the announcement of a portent to the waiting neurologist and surrounding people. Once more she was the centre of attention. Alina removed the helmet she had made with the rubber ball, a dear belonging of the little boy, now uplifted with pride.
‘I’m taking Vera to hospital today. She’ll be wearing your ball,’ she had said to the boy as if she were taking her to a party wearing a new dress.
‘Can I come too?’
‘No. I’ll tell you all about it later.’
The neurologist looked solemn as he invited the two doctors by his side to attest to the miracle of Vera’s open crown. Alina’s proximity forced the experts to mumble unintelligibly. She turned from one to the other trying to understand the seriousness of what they were saying. Time and again Alina offered them the rubber cap, fearing for her daughter’s bare head suspended between their fine fingers. Once Vera was back in the neurologist’s arms, he nodded to her mother, who approached, relieved, and put the solid protector back on. It was Vera who once again intervened, this time with a string of gurgles to ease the situation, her apologetic mother giggling her approval. The neurologist passed her from one hand to the other to examine her reflexes. He pulled her little legs, which were receptive to each flexion or extension. Vera responded to the cold thumb on her spine and to the taps of a hammer larger than her diminutive hands on her tiny red knees. The doctors and students in the room were stunned as they saw for themselves just how healthy the baby girl was. Not only was it a miracle that Vera was alive, but also that she remained unaffected by the fluid invading her cranial interstices. It did not seem to alter in the least her reflexes or state of alertness. On the contrary, Vera was enjoying all the fuss at the hands of the three doctors as they passed her between them like modelling clay.
Before the year was up, Vera’s miracle had begun to fade away. When one night she began to pat herself on the rubber shell, Alina knew it was time to take it off. With one hand at either side steadying her head she noted that the valley which had kept both hemispheres apart had completely closed over, sealing the danger. She had succeeded in her task, now she could rest. The half ball, which had survived unscathed, could also rest from Vera’s scratching among the other pieces on Alina’s altar: the vase, the candle, the picture of Saint Genevieve, and the Polaroid photo of Alina, taken by the flour mill’s foreman in the wheat field days before the birth.
When Alina left hospital a week after giving birth, she felt as though years rather than days had gone by since the flour mill and life on the farm. Recent events had unfolded at the speed of dreams or nightmares. The reality of the previous few years had dragged on for her at a leaden pace, which made the present all the more inconceivable. The life she had been so looking forward to was taking on a new shape. She had wanted with all her might to bring up her daughter away from the farm. She had not imagined that the world would suffer a catastrophic transformation so that that which was inexplicable and yet marvellous ended up replacing the adversity of her past. Vera had been born through danger. She had already overcome the most traumatic day in the history of humanity. She was to grow up in ignorance of the miracle of her survival. Vera and her inestimable core: barely covered by a veil of flesh, permeable to the wisdom of the cosmos. She had overcome death before she was born. When her mother began her contractions, the cataclysm which was to take place minutes before Vera was born had just been unleashed.

Author Information

Alejandra Guibert has been writing since a young age and graduated as a literary translator in Buenos Aires. Following graduation, she worked as a freelance translator, mainly for Spanish newspaper El PaĆ­s. Later she joined theatre company Arte Livre for an extensive European tour of three years with the play Olhares de Perfil (Sideways Glance) as co-writer. The play won a Special Fringe First Award in Edinburgh Festival in 1988 and took part in international theatre festivals throughout Europe.
She moved to London in 1989 and produced and directed several documentaries with First Take whilst dedicating time to her writing.
She has written for both theatre and film and her works include both prose and poetry.
In 1999, she specialized in subtitling and worked as a Latin American Spanish subtitler for more than ten years. She was a founder member and ex Chair of SUBTLE, The Subtitlers’ Association.

Since 2008, she has been working solely on her literary work. The speculative novel The Vatican Games is her fourth book of fiction and the first in English.  She has been living and working in Brighton since 2009.

Tour Schedule

Monday 27th January

Tuesday 28th January

Wednesday 29th January

Friday 31st January

Saturday 1st January

Sunday 2nd January

Monday 3rd February

Tuesday 4th February

Wednesday 5th Febuary

Thursday 6th February

Friday 7th February

Sunday 8th February
An Ocean Glimmer

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